future of magazines

We took some time out of our schedule to pen a little opinion piece for Lane Crawford on the Future of Magazines. Read the article below. itsnicethat_contents

The first issue of It’s Nice That is an eclectic mix of different writers and voices. The magazine is printed on uncoated paper. The list of contributors is displayed on the cover and the pages contain a variety of short entries and simple imagery. It’s not your typical publication, but the first issue sold out quick and fast.

What’s unique about It’s Nice That is that it grew out of a blog by the same name, www.itsnicethat.com, which is visited by some thousands of readers interested in design. While some magazines are struggling to find their way online, others like It’s Nice That are printing their online content. And they are finding success.

It’s no surprise that the state of the magazine industry is in flux. The influence of technology has never been so pervasive. With sales of the iPad reaching 600,000, combined with the popularity of blogs, and services such as print on demand offering inexpensive alternatives to publishing, we have to ask ourselves, what is the future of magazines?

Like most creatives, magazines have been a life-long obsession. I flirted with the idea of starting a magazine but then wondered how it would survive. The reality of creating a publication sinks in when you realize you have to find an audience. But these days, with all the tools and tricks of the internet, you can pretty much reach anyone and everyone.

Will more blogs move into print? I hope so. There are countless other blogs out there that would make a great publication. But would it be the same? Not at all. Bloggers have to consider layouts, formats, paper stock and content. There are no links, no videos and no keywords.

But in a time when everyone is crying out for sustainability and earth-friendly practices, does the move from online to print seem backward? For most designers and writers, we crave the physicality of print. Something published has a life of its own. The ephemeral nature of online leaves us wanting some reassurance that what we have done is worth preserving.

Yet the ephemeral nature is also what defines a magazine. It captures a particular time, a cultural movement, trends and topics of the day. Once an issue is done, the whole cycle begins again, next week, next month or next season.

In the early nineties’ there was a boom in ‘zines. These little publications were the cut & paste, photo-copied and stapled creations that sold for a few dollars and found in coffee shops and book stores like Printed Matter in New York. They expressed the perspectives and ideas of an indie-scene, catering to a small but devoted group of followers. It didn’t matter who was listening. The point was to get it out there, so it could be heard.

Print-on-demand is a relatively new process of allowing designs and writers to self-publish and be heard. With print technology changing from expensive color proofs and films to more affordable digital methods, magazines no longer need a large print run. Websites like www.lulu.com and www.blurb.com can help you print a book or any publication, and connect you to the people who will buy it. Voted one of Time’s 50 best websites, www.issuu.com has hundreds of periodicals available including Adbusters and Pica Pica.

Will more magazines adopt this format? Though print-on-demand has yet to catch on around the world, it’s a great way to test a concept and make it available to markets where you may never find the physical magazine.

And what about all those copies that are left unsold at the end of the month? Wouldn’t it be great if you could order your magazine online and have it printed and sent to you? Perhaps you could even customize it or choose from a few available cover options.

Magazines used to speak to us. They used to tell us what to wear and who we should be. What cars to drive, what holidays to take, what our homes should look like. Now we can talk back to them. We can upload photographs and be a voice in the conversation. We can become their fans. And if that’s not enough we follow them. Sounds like stalking but strangely, this is how we show our love.

There are some publications that have caught this wave early on and have successfully integrated their social media into their communications. The number of fans a magazine has is telling. V Magazine has 42,354. Vogue (www.vogue.com)has 484,523. At the top of the heap, National Geographic is nearing one million fans. One recent post on black holes garnered 343 comments.

Gone are the days of printing fan letters in the front pages. The readers themselves are shaping content and changing the editorial landscape by responding with their clicks. If magazines are a reflection of today’s culture and tastes, then they are closer to us than ever. Their stories are more relevant, driven by a cacophony of social media.

But perhaps one piece of technology could have the greatest influence yet.


The first e-book came to life around the late nineties but it wasn’t until Apple’s recent launch of the iPad have people been wondering what the impact of this invention, and possible applications will be. Could the advent of this device really change the magazine industry?

Viv Mag, labeled as the first all-digital lifestyle magazine, is full of video and animation, leaving it feeling more like a movie than a magazine. The demo iPad issue was co-directed by Cory Strassburger and Ming Hsuing, and left some viewers wondering where the skip intro button was.


But is this a glimpse of where magazines are going? Will we see Vogue someday not as still pictures but as moving ones?

I’m not certain I’m ready to see my magazine come to life on an iPad just yet, but as technologies bring costs down, and people closer together, the reality is that we may be one day looking at a talking cover and an animated masthead, with content driven by tweets and comments. Thumbs up?