Sunday, 2 January 2011

Some Current Thoughts on iPad vs Paper Magazines

Since getting an iPad last year I've steadfastly avoided buying magazines. 

Previously, I'd spend quite a lot on magazines across a range of topics from tech through music through walking through politics, economics, design, etc. 

The thing is, the iPad is so good for media consumption that I never run out of interesting things to browse, read or share across those topics and many others. What's more, by abstaining from magazine purchase, I have been adding to my cost-justification for purchasing the iPad in the first place (kinda).

That said, I already had subscriptions running for WiReD and New Scientist before I bought the iPad and they're still running. I look forward to their arrival in the mailbox. Out of curiosity, I bought the first US WiReD iPad app, just to check it out, but since then I haven't bothered, as I get the paper one pushed through my door and that, in itself, is a design classic.

Where I've certainly cut back is on music mag purchase... I'd often have a Wire or a Word or a Mojo or an NME or something tucked in my bag. Since the iPad, not a one. I've replaced this with various alternative sources of music news and knowledge, through Twitter, many RSS feeds and great great weekly emails from independent record shops such as Piccadilly Records in Manchester who do an excellent job in curating their ever-changing stock for customers.

However, I was tempted to pick up the latest copy of Mojo the other day, predominantly for the cover-mounted CD. This month it's retread of of Neil Young's Harvest, featuring several of my favourite acts from recent months and years like Phosphorescent, Jane Weaver, Smoke Fairies and Villagers.

Now, the CD is actually worth the investment (£4.50), which is good because these tribute-style CDs can be pretty disposable. This one isn't. I'm listening to the Smoke Fairies doing Alabama right now. However, on flicking though the magazine itself, I realised that there's a quality to the way it communicates with me which would be hard to replicate on the iPad.

Like many people, my first flick through a magazine is often from the back to the front - this is something to do with the way our brain works. This hasn't been considered by iPad magazines yet, I don't believe. After that, I'll take a more leisurely stroll through the pages from front to back investigating the shorter newsy gossipy bits at the front before considering which longer pieces I fancy tackling later over a cup of tea. [a sort of analogue Read It Later function - I stop short of putting fluorescent stickies to mark the pages for easy reference but I have to fight the temptation ;)].

I'll then pick it up and put it down several times over the next few weeks. Once or twice I'll flick through just to read the ads for forthcoming gigs, tours and releases. In fact there's some pleasure in the type of ads carried by these magazines, they're sometimes useful beacons for fun to be had later in the year.

I can't imagine carving out time to browse a standalone ad section in an iPad magazine. Those iPad magazines I do have see me whizzing through the ads as quickly as poss, and quite why I'd want this experience extending through video and added FAQs I've no idea. However, that could be because the quality end of the music mag market has yet to really venture into this space, and there's an element of the advertising that they carry that can be relevant and interesting to me, rather than the aspirational claptrap in, for example, Project, Richard Branson's latest hobby which I only picked up because it's free over Christmas [review: dull, over-choreographed, hard to navigate].

So what have I learned?
  • I love my iPad.
  • I still enjoy some paper magazines.

Quality music magazines preparing tablet versions have some additional challenges to match the romance of their paper equivalents. [I have to say, Zinio may be the simplest and best platform here, as it affords a simple flick through from front to back... the option to deliver cover-mounted content via iTunes might also be worth a thought].

In closing off this ramble I should also mention the great NPR app developed by Bottle Rocket for distributing news, culture and music content via the iPad and iPhone. It really is understated excellence and, whilst it doesn't attempt to emulate a magazine, it has found some nifty methods for building rich content and social tools into the whole delivery experience. Publishers could learn lots here and, to be fair, probably are doing.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Interesting piece and I'm taken with the breadth and volume of stuff you absorb, assuming it does get absorbed. If l have a question it's "When do you find time for just gasping mindlessly out of the window?"

  2. some gets absorbed although sadly my production is in inverse proportion to my consumption. don't do much gasping.