On Monday, I was at South by Southwest in Austin, where I attended a panel in which representatives from Wired magazine and Adobe discussed their prototype of a digital-magazine version of Wired. Then on Tuesday, I attended the Future of Publishing Summit in New York, where the Wired prototype was once again the subject of a session.
The NYC digital Wired walkthough was cooler, because we got a demo on a humongous rotating touchscreen:
Wired’s demo is slick indeed: It’s got the beautiful design and typography of the publication’s dead-tree incarnation, but you can swoop through it with your fingertip, watch embedded videos, and (surprise!) interact with fancy ads. But it leaves me with as many questions as answers:
- Aside from the iPad, are there going to be many tablets that are outstanding digital reading devices rather than sad iPad clones?
- Can Wired publisher Condé Nast (or, for that matter, any publisher) produce an e-magazine as slick as this one on a monthly basis, if its goal is to make money rather than lose it?
- What happens to the wealth of original material on Wired.com–good stuff which, in volume, dwarfs the contents of the print magazine?
- How about reader comments and other interactive features?
- Do readers like the idea of a publication that comes out once a month, or is it actually just an artifact of the impossibility of releasing a magazine that evolves continuously, as Web sites do?
- How many people will (A) buy a device optimized for reading magazines, and (B) pay for magazines to read on it–especially when magazine Web sites are deeper, more interactive…and free?
Prototypes like the Wired one can only tell us so much about how magazines might evolve for the digital era. Real people reading real magazines on real devices will tell us a lot more. And with the iPad arriving in a couple of weeks and digital-magazine launches imminent, we shouldn’t have to wait too long for answers. (TIME magazine’s Josh Quittner and Sports Illustrated’s Terry McDonell were at the New York publishing event; both said that true digital versions of their publications are coming along very shortly.)
Of course, as a guy who spent twenty years in the magazine business and who still runs an (itty bitty) media company, I may not be in the best position to judge digital magazines through the eyes of a consumer. What’s your take? Can you see yourself reading them? Paying for them?