No Magazines, No Life (Not Anymore)

Magazines are dead.

I write this first line as someone who loves magazines to death — I used to run a site called The Magaziner, after all — and who looks forward to picking up the latest issue of Monocle each and every month. But they really are dying, aren’t they.

The latest sign for me was the conversion of the iPad edition of Entertainment Weekly from a properly produced iPad edition to something that is nothing more than a PDF. Yet another magazine I can’t read on my iPad anymore (I despise reading magazines this way, constantly zooming in and out on each page).

For me, the arrival of the iPad and of iPad editions of magazines was a godsend while I was living in Tokyo. Finally, a way to read western magazines without having to pay 2-3 times the cover price. Also, I quite liked taking in magazines imagery on a bright screen, and the monthly subscriptions were a great deal. I used to subscribe to a stack of magazines — to a point where it was difficult to get through all of them each month. Until last week, I still only subscribed to two: Wired and Entertainment Weekly.

But this isn’t just about digital editions. Looking at what you see in terms of mainstream magazines on the newsstands, most of them are nothing more than floppy pamphlets — Monocle is of course the exception, and it’s why I buy it (and it’s not exactly mainstream in the sense that there are only a very limited number of shops in Montreal that carry it). I looked at a recent issue of Rolling Stone — a magazine to which I had a physical subscription for years when I was younger, and then subscribed to on iPad until they switched it to a PDF-like edition — and it was barely larger than a comic book. Sure, there are still a lot of beautifully produced magazines on the indie side, but they tend to be high-priced and do not enjoy print runs that can sustain the industry.

Am I just old and cranky? Sure, probably.

When I did a Twitter rant recently about the changes in the iPad edition of Entertainment Weekly, a friend of mine commented that she was surprised I didn’t just read these magazines from their websites. I replied that I still have a love and appreciation for a properly edited and curated “container” (not a sexy way to describe magazines, but you get what I’m saying), but I think she’s right. If I can no longer get proper iPad editions of magazines, and I’m not interested in paying for flimsy physical pamphlets, then that’s probably what I should do.

What about Wired? It still has a great iPad edition after all. But in recent months I’ve found myself skimming more and more in each issue, to a point where I should probably just read the articles that do interest me on the web.

Magazines are dead. To me at least.

On Magazines

I was reading the latest issue of Wired this morning, and with the mention that the title is starting to gear up for its 25th anniversary (in 2018), and with Monocle just last month celebrating its 10th anniversary, it made me realize how loyal I tend to be to magazines I really like.

Not only are these magazines part of my very small pile of regular reads — along with Entertainment Weekly, which celebrated its 25th anniversary a couple of years ago — the other thing that these three titles share is that I’ve been reading all of them since the very first issue. For all of them, there have been very short periods where I may have fallen off for a few issues — mostly because of big changes in my life, like moving to Asia (China, and then Japan) — but it’s still interesting to see how loyal I’ve stayed to these titles.

I say that these are the only three titles I regularly read, and that’s not to say I don’t read any other magazines — I love a lot of indie titles, I still listen religiously to Monocle‘s The Stack podcast about magazine publishing, and would like to be reading titles like Edge and Time regularly, but for the former I can’t find print copies in Montreal and dislike the PDF-like digital edition, and for the latter I don’t want to buy the print edition and also dislike the PDF-like digital edition. In fact, I do most of my magazine reading digitally (I’ve been reading Wired and Entertainment Weekly digitally ever since they launched their iPad editions), and so there’s only Monocle that I read in print — sure, it’s because they don’t offer an iPad-edition, but to be honest, it’s also a beautifully produced paper product that I love holding in my hands.

There’s not real point to this post other than to say, shit, I’ve been reading these magazines for quite a while now.

A New Hope

Yes, I am indeed caught up in the hype leading up to next month’s release of The Force Awakens (I quite enjoyed cover features in both Entertainment Weekly and Wired), and so have decided to re-watch the original trilogy – I may re-watch the prequels as well, but I’m still not sure if that’s a journey I really need to embark on. It still bums me out that I need to watch the “special editions,” as what they add really is terrible, and because it’s mostly CG, they are also the bits that age the movies the most. But despite that, it was indeed very fun watching this again, as it had been a while. During the final battle sequence, I had flashbacks of playing the old Star Wars arcade game as a kid, the one with vector graphics. Good times.

Another Portrait/Landscape Mistake

Wired isn’t the only magazine that needs to be more careful about text that refers to images in a dual mode reading environment. I rather like Entertainment Weekly‘s The Must List app for iPad, and check out their 10 picks every week — I like how you can watch trailers and sample tracks from within the app. But today I spotted another lazy mistake, as the text above refers to a photo on the left, which only works when reading in landscape. Unlike Wired, this is not a case of using text destined for print, so it’s really a matter of having designed for one orientation, and forgetting about the other.