Monday, December 04, 2006

Media Convergence: last orders and the bar-code

Media Convergence -- or the idea that all the different media are moving towards a common and ultimately unitary media puddle -- has its adherents and is probably coming back into fashion (it temporarily went out of fashion in about 2000 at the time the web investment bubble popped).

Whether these various media really are going to converge at one omega point on the near horizon (this omega point looks a bit like Gooooooooogle from this perspective), about this theory we can be sceptical, but there surely are some centripetal pressures.

Have you noticed the way quality typography, in newspapers magazines and books, is increasingly emulating web-design? Take this B2B magazine for which we provide a white-label service:

The contents page of The Publican shows clear signs of being a magazine in the age of web design. The extensive use of colour to separate different information blocks, the horizontal contents banner along the top of the page, the use of a thumbnail image to cue a feature, and of course the clickable links -- which in the case of the page numbers in the print design are just numbers but on the web become formal links and allow the magazine to map itself more closely to the topology of the web. There are probably more features in common which an expert typographer would notice. But one could use this evidence of convergence to argue that whilst magazines and the web may be converging, it is unlikely that they will fully converge. Print typography can emulate the web because it is not the same medium. Emulation works better when there are also some differences. There will still be a place for a print magazine in ten years time, and a role for a magazine web site which serves a different purpose (though one of those purposes is to help in the distribution task by serving a record, and a searchable archive, of the print issues).

There are some features of the print page for which the web has no obvious use. For example, the bar-code at the top right. But now that one notices that ..... perhaps there is something useful to which a digital copy of a bar-code should link? It is clearly a catalogue-type datum, with an ISSN. But this could be a hook for other relevant stuff -- maybe ABC or BPA data. Hmmm......

If there are any good suggestions we will buy the proposer another round. There is a thought for a Monday morning.

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