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.

What Do These Colors Mean to You?

Last night I was reading through the latest issue of Rolling Stone — really loved the cover feature on Mad Men, as well as the profile on SNL creator Lorne Michaels — and seeing how they branded the issue’s theme (“Fall Television”) made me wonder just how relevant that particular imagery really is these days. The branding in question is what you see pictured above — it appears with all of the TV-related articles in the issue — and is of course inspired by the TV test patterns of old (pictured below, and technically known as “SMPTE color bars,” as I learned through Wikipedia).

As a retro effect, it works — I certainly remember them — but has anyone under the age of 20 ever seen one? As far as I know — and keep in mind that I’ve been living in Japan for 10+ years — they haven’t been used in at least a decade, and not just because they’re not necessary anymore (in this world of digital sets), but also because we live in a world with 24-hour broadcasts.

I’m just curious as to whether it’s still a good icon or image to use when referring to TV, although I’m the first to admit that I liked how it was used, and I can’t think of anything off-hand that would work better.