Thursday, October 28, 2010

Will Magazine Reading Be More Social?

Exact Editions is running a public poll to find out how we think that magazines will be read in ten years time. If you haven't yet voted on the issue, please do so.

The sample voting is still small, but I am not surprised that the leading candidate in this race is:

The tablet (something like the iPad)

This is beating 'print on paper delivered via physical distribution'. A bit lower down the list is the option for genuine 'don't knows': ' a device or medium unlike any of the others in this list '.

While I am not surprised that the iPad (or something like it) is the most favoured choice for our most preferred magazine reading medium for 2020, I would have been very much surprised if you had told me 18 months ago that this tablet-type solution would now seem to be the most promising future vehicle for magazines. The iPad is astonishingly successful, but it is only 7 months old. The way that a magazine app should work on the iPad is still very much up for grabs. The way that users will want to use digital magazines is not a settled issue. There is a lot to be done! There are strategic choices to be made!

Exact Editions is running this poll as travaux preparatoires for a round-table forum that we are hosting for movers and shakers in the magazine/technology space in London, on 1 December. One of the key themes for discussion on that day will be 'iPads and other tablets', but another theme, the fifth and last that we have listed for the round-table is 'the social graph'. We are pondering the relevance of the social graph to the shifting technical base of the magazine industry as it goes digital: Few magazines/newspapers have really tapped the social graph (yet). Are Facebook and Twitter the real new frontier for digital publications? Although the social graph and the social context of digital magazines is not yet the top item on most digital magazine executives 'worry list' I cannot help but wonder whether the issue of magazine format and delivery is intimately bound up with the question of how magazines can be most easily integrated into the social graph. If the tablet, an iPad or its equivalent, becomes the primary way in which we interact with our closest, but absent, friends and our wider web acquaintance, then the magazine publishers who are now gearing their publications for tabletisation or iPad delivery will have made a prescient move.

The iPad is a surprisingly social device, more so than a notebook computer or a mobile phone. I do not think that it is just the novelty element in the iPad that makes me much more willing to pass mine around -- much more willing to pass it around than to pass around my mobile phone. The momentary, or episodic, lendability of the iPad may have something to do with its 'touchability' which is itself of social value in a small group, and magazine publishers will be reassured to know that this 'physical lendability' is very limited. Sharing a magazine subscription via the same iPad is feasible for mother and daughter, or husband and wife, but not really practical amongst a wider group of friends.


Carolyn Morgan said...

During my many years of publishing in specialist markets at Emap, one of the most reliably popular sections in print was readers Q&As. When we moved onto the web a few years back, this proved a great engine for traffic, with readers often as expert in answering each others' questions as editorial gurus. So maybe linking tablet mags to the social graph is just the next tech step reflecting a human wish to swap knowledge within a community, and not so revolutionary after all. Carolyn Morgan

Alain Pierrot said...

Tablets, just as magazines & "coffee table books" clearly share, in my view, a fairly local space: ‘domestic’ socializing (i.e. family, visiting friends, perhaps close neighbours).

It would be interesting to study their use with respect to time and synchronicity for social interaction: immersive reading (books) asks for longer spans between interactions, whereas familiar small-talk fares better with shorter, quasi-simultaneous personal experiences interspersed with discussion.