Get excited about tomorrow; don’t stop working on today

04/12/2009 — 2 Comments

If you care about the future of digital magazines, you’ve probably watched the Sports Illustrated demo a dozen times by now. (embedded below just in case you’ve been on the Moon).

The thinking at Time Inc. and elsewhere in the Consortium’s war rooms, seems to be right on the mark. With this and Conde Nast’s bootlegged Wired demo, “civilians” are starting to get excited about digital magazines, maybe even excited enough to shell out for the gadgets that will make this type of magazine publishing possible.

But what are you thinking? I’m caught between “Wow! That’s the magazine industry that I want to work in” and “Yeah right!”

The first part is easy to get. The SI demo looks AMAZING. Stunning multimedia capabilities, awesome design values, comprehensive interactivity and connectivity and the very best of editorial curation with a nice people-powered twist.

The second part might seem cynical, but I think it’s equally easy to get if you already work in digital magazines. No one I know outside of the big consumer houses has access to this level of multimedia, let alone the programming skills to publish like this. And that’s without even considering the fact that the device it’s all happening on doesn’t exist in any commercial sense and probably won’t for an other 12 months .

So here’s what I am thinking.

1. It is truly fantastic that the future can be imagined to be so exciting and it is encouraging that Time et al are throwing their weight behind digital magazines. We really need them to bring the magazine-reading public on board the digital magazine bus.

2.  There is a huge gap between a couple of demos that promise “we’re working on that” and the subscriber and advertising revenues needed to sustain the bright-shiny magazine industry imagined here on YouTube.

It’s important to get excited about what it might be like one, two, three, four, five years out. But for those of us in the trenches everyday we need to keep thinking about how our readers and advertisers see digital magazines now. We need to make our publications work on desktop and laptop screens now. We need to start sell advertising or subscriptions now. If we don’t, we haven’t got a chance of affording the future, no matter how excited everyone gets.

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