Magazines On Something

On Magazines: Monocle

The first issue of Monocle (March 2007).

I’m quite vocal about my love for Monocle. I was truly excited when it first launched in 2007 (being an old-school fan of Tyler Brûlé’s previous title, Wallpaper), and have read every single issue since (well, I missed one issue a couple of years ago). It’s also the only magazine that I continue to read in paper form. I got a subscription to the paper edition of Wired last year, but let it expire as I felt I got absolutely nothing out of that edition over the digital one (that I get anyway through my subscription to Apple News+). Admittedly, for Monocle, reading it as a physical edition is also due to the fact that they’ve stayed away from a digital edition so far (other than putting article archives on their website, accessible if you’re a subscriber), but it’s a beautiful thing that I really enjoy digging into every month, and even though they’ve announced that they’re about to release a proper digital edition (in about two weeks), I plan on sticking with the paper edition (although that just means I’ll have access to the digital edition as well).

Why do I enjoy it so much? It’s a beautiful, thick book-ish piece of physical media that feels good to read. The paper stock feels right (especially compared to the paper thin joke that is the current Wired), and it makes the great layout design shine.

The beautiful Monocle Book of Japan, a love letter to the country.

I’m of course also a fan of what they’ve been doing in the book space, and on top of the few travel books I’ve already grabbed, for my birthday last month I treated myself to their new Monocle Book of Japan (that I loved to bits), as well as The Monocle Guide to Shops, Kiosks and Markets. I would like to eventually pick up all of their big books.

Even though I’ve been reading it for over a decade, it was only last month that I finally got a proper subscription. Price-wise, it came to about the same as getting it at the newsstands each month, but even better is that I finally started getting my issues when they get printed, instead of the month+ wait for the issues to reach our shores on newsstands. If you’re a fan of the magazine, a subscription is really the way to go, and it’s something that they’ve been pushing of late, to deal with the fact that the magazine wasn’t as available as could be due to the global pandemic — I imagine I would have missed out on recent issues if I didn’t have a subscription.

I could go on and on about what how much I love what they do — like the daily email newsletters they send out, the seasonal newspaper series they publish, or even their smart collection of goods (which are admittedly too pricey for my blood) — but I’ll end this rave of a post by simply stating that I’m grateful that it exists.


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.

Meta Personal

2008 and Down

In my continuing archival work on this site, I hit a big milestone last night, in that I finished April 2008, which is pretty much the last time I regularly hit a month with 80+ posts — it only happens again a couple of times in November/December of 2009 for some reason.

I think the reason for the reduction in posts was that it was around the time I started contributing regularly to Wired‘s Game|Life blog, for which I was doing around 5 posts daily.

This means I should hopefully be speeding up as I go through the rest of the archives, getting it all finished in the weeks to come. That won’t be the end of it all though, as there are a few other things I’d like to do, like going through the first few years again to improve tags on posts, and also incorporating my early moblog posts, which used to be done as a separate blog.

Books Games

New Edition of Power-Up


Speaking of Nintendo, this week marks the release of a brand spanking new edition of Chris Kohler’s Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World An Extra Life. I worked for Chris the year I was a contributor to Wired‘s Game|Life (in 2008), and always wanted to read his book, but it’s been long out-of-print. Not only is it finally back in print, but this updated edition includes a new chapter that looks at the life Satoru Iwata (the late Nintendo president).

Debaser Uncategorized

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.

Magazines Technology

Still Can’t Download Wired in Background

Well this is disappointing. One of the things I was most looking forward to with the 4.2 iOS firmware update for iPad was the addition of multitasking, and therefore the ability to download stuff — like gigantic issues of Wired — in the background. Sorry folks, switching to another app after you start the download simply pauses it, waiting for you to return. Come on Wired, fix this. And if you’re wondering, this month’s issue clocks in at 351MB, so we’re on a downward trend in terms of size at least.

Magazines Technology

National Geographic to Team Up with Adobe for Updated iPad Edition

I was reading this piece at WWD on Adobe’s digital magazine initiative and the release of the new iPad edition of Martha Stewart Living (which uses the Adobe platform), and found this bit near the end rather interesting:

Adobe is now moving on to National Geographic.

When I reviewed the current National Geographic iPad app a while back — which is nothing more than a wrapper for its Zinio edition — I mentioned how disappointed I was that a magazine of that stature wouldn’t try to release something a bit more ambitious. Sounds like we’re going to get something along the lines of Wired after all.

Magazines Technology

Wired UK for iPad

We’d been waiting for it for a while, and last week finally marked the release of the first iPad edition of Wired UK. I was especially interested in seeing what the team behind the UK spinoff would come up with in terms of layout and format — just how different or similar to the US edition — using the same Adobe digital tools.

The biggest change is that the magazine has decided to embrace the portrait layout exclusively, using the landscape mode to access any multimedia features (videos, slideshows, etc.)

There are certain exceptions, like the issue’s cover, as well as all of the ads found inside, and that does in fact make sense. Even when in landscape mode, you can flip through the pages and go from media section to media section, and so you still encounter the ads. When you hit articles that don’t have any extra content, you get the message pictured above.

Continuing with a look at some of the changes, you get a much more creative masthead — I really like the use of arrows to indicate the proper “chain of command” — and a “Contributors” page that not only looks good, but is interactive in a way that is fun and works quite well with the color mix used (you touch on a contributor’s photo to have the appropriate text appear in the colored segments).

But the real genius of the magazine is that idea of using the landscape mode to show off the media content, which means that all photos and videos appear in all their full-screen glory (there’s one video that was smaller, that I can remember), instead of as a tiny box which is part of the article layout. What is especially a joy to experience are the 360 degrees images, which are just stunning in full-screen, and something that only an iPad edition of a magazine could offer — twirling around the sets of Aardman Animations’ latest film is so much more satisfying and revealing than a series of photos could ever be.

But even the basic photo slideshows are great to take in, and not only can you flip through the images of the slideshow, but when you are in landscape mode, you’ll also flip through all of the multimedia content associated with an article. Going back to portrait mode brings you back to the article, and more precisely, to the part of the article (the “screen”) that is linked to the media content.

It can get a bit out of hand though, like in the case of the audio clip that accompanies the article below (which happens to be the cover feature of the US edition this month). Having to turn to landscape mode just to then tap a small button to activate a sound file isn’t necessary (in the US iPad edition, the button of the clip is simply included in the article).

This also brings up a problem I’ve had with sound clips in general with Wired, both US and UK — the fact that you can’t continue to navigate while the clip plays. For example, I don’t really want to stare at a “screen” while listening to a music clip, I’d rather like to move on to the next article.

The other thing that I was really interested to find out with the UK edition was just how different the content would be from the US edition — this becomes especially important with the iPad app, since it gives Wired UK a worldwide audience, which means they really need to offer something different than the “mother” edition. From what I saw in this issue, I’d say that the vast majority is new content, enough to justify the purchase — I think only 4-5 articles from the US edition were used.

For those articles that did come from the US edition, it was interesting to see how they were presented differently. Some just had simple layout changes, while others, like the piece below, not only appear with a completely different look, but the context for most of the content is different (like the inclusion of a column by Clive Thompson inside the main feature).

I was also happy to finally get to read Warren‘s regular column in the form that it should be read in — in magazine form, and not on the web. The topic was also certainly apropos for being included in the first iPad edition of the magazine (“Blogging isn’t dying, it’s just that people are bored with and looking for the next thing”).

I briefly mentioned earlier that ads appear in both portrait and landscape modes, but it also needs to be said that not only does there appear to be more ads than in the US edition — I would find myself having to flip through 2-3 ads between articles — but there are also more “Wired Promotion” pieces (i.e. advertorials). I know that in recent years I would see a lot of these in the print edition of Wired US, but so far the iPad edition hasn’t had too many (I believe just one). Here, we get a few of them, like the one below, which to me is just wasted space as I never read them.

And the ads for the most part don’t do much with the medium, but I did quite like the one you see below for The TimesiPad app, which plays a visual trick on the two iPad modes.

In many of my past reviews I’ve often stated how I prefer “screen” flips over scrolling, and Wired UK pretty much sticks with what we’re used to seeing in the US edition, making an exception in two pieces. I can see why they would go that way in their “Big Ideas for 2011” feature, using a blog format similar to the front section of the iPad edition of Esquire — you can tap the sections in the sidebar to move to a new group of “ideas” — but I really don’t like that they have artificially put a space jump in the opening text of each section (as seen below) so that that “opening” screen looks nice and not cut.

They do the same in the article below, which has a fun interface — you touch on each subway stop to read what it’s about — but again they put an artificial space in the text, which just looks odd when you move or scroll the page up.

There are also strange bugs that they need to iron out — and let’s be clear, they do clearly explain in the intro that this is a test issue, and that they hope to get feedback and improve things for the upcoming issues that will start coming out in 2011. One thing I noticed was that when you have your iPad synced with your computer and you access the “File Sharing” section of iTunes, you can see the files that make up the issue — I’m sure this was not intended.

Also, since the release of the issue last week, they’ve been making updates to it, but that I can’t experience because they appear as separate issues (v.1.2, v1.3) inside the app that I need to buy. Surely this is a mistake.

Is it worth buying? I’d say yes, especially if you love the US edition. The price is the same ($4), and they have already announced that they are looking into offering subscription offers. They also promise that upcoming editions will include ways to share pages with others, which is a feature I’d love to see in the US edition as well. Give me the ability to interact with the text (copy/paste, notes, etc.) and I’ll be a pretty happy reader.

I leave you with the opening graphic to the app, which I think is much nicer than any of the ones that have appeared in the US edition.

Magazines Technology

Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite

So we’ve known for a while that Adobe would be releasing the tools they created for use in the Wired and New Yorker iPad apps, and now we finally have a few more details on what to expect. First thing, it’s going to be pricey. There are going to be two editions, Professional and Enterprise, and the latter is “expected” to be $700 per month, and add to that a per-issue fee.

Definitely not the kind of news I wanted to hear, hoping that they were going to be offering tools that would make sense for indie publishers. Let’s first wait and see what the pricing on the Professional edition will be though.

You can read the full press release here for more details on what the suite will have to offer. (via @magculture)