In 2010, it seemed everyone was eager to declare that print was finally dead, even before a proper funeral. The economic recession shed light on the outrageous cost of production (printing the New York Times costs twice as much as sending every subscriber a free Kindle) and led to threats of pay walls as solutions to covet content. Meanwhile, both the industry and icons of web journalism speculated about whether or not the iPad would be able to save our favorite magazines from vanishing entirely. And all this because of the Internet, where you don’t just look for news but the news is able to find you with the aid of real-time social sharing tools courtesy of powerful social networks. Curator Lauren Cornell focuses on the implications of these shifting flows of data in her new exhibit Free at the New Museum in New York. In a statement about the exhibit, Cornell comments on the power behind our growing digital culture "The internet is not just a medium, but also a territory populated and fought over by individuals, corporations, and governments; a communications tool; and a cultural catalyst."
So instead of fearing such a powerful cultural catalyst, long-time print publishers must embrace and harness it. In order to stake a claim in this growing digital territory, magazines will have to re-imagine their identity and disrupt their current content and advertising model to appeal to new hyper-social audiences thirsting for interactive media.
frog teamed up with Vanity Fair Italy, the leading weekly magazine for Conde Nast Italy and the bestselling weekly magazine in Italy, to do exactly that by revamping their digital presence via their website. The new design offers innovative ways to browse the articles with horizontal scrolling slides that create different media format mash-ups. Bloggers are prominently featured and the audience has the opportunity to interact with writers and editors. There are also new ways of delivering new advertising formats, which boost the website as a prime source of income. The website is fully integrated with social networks, primarily facebook and Twitter, to allow the content to be easily shared and integrated across platforms. Another innovative feature is the customizable section VanityMe, a channel that allows registered users to create their own page, save their favorite articles and share them easily with their communities.
Vanity Fair Italy isn’t the only magazine harnessing the transmedia magic of having a print and digital offering. A recent New York Times article on The Atlantic Monthly, the intellectual journal that has enjoyed a 153 year old print run, explained how the magazine had to liken themselves to a Silicon Valley start-up in order to save their printed piece as well as carve a new digital identity. The magazine opened up its doors to younger journalists and brought expert bloggers on board to garner their loyal fan following. According to the article, one major “coup” for The Atlantic revival was bringing on Andrew Sullivan from Time.com, as his Daily Dish blog accounts for a quarter of TheAtlantic.com’s site visitors, which reached 4.8 million this October. This is quite the shift from the old ways of thinking of blogging as a second-class form of journalism; this required The Atlantic to embrace the loss of control that comes with real-time posting on the web and giving individual writers and bloggers free reign over an evolving project. But, relinquishing control to the wild web seemed to pay off: The Atlantic expects to turn a profit of $1.8 million this year, making it the first time in a decade that the publication didn’t lose money. Magazines are embracing these transmedia formats in a myriad of ways: GOOD magazine practiced this type of loss of control by opening its editorial planning to its social communities and crowd-sourcing articles and even whole issue themes from their audience. WIRED magazine threw its weight behind their famed iPad app that featured their Pixar issue, selling 24,000 apps in a single day. The Economist uses its power as a cultural facilitator with a wealth of connections by setting up a series of conferences around the world to draw in new audiences and establish their brand beyond the digital and print realms.
These new digital strategies don’t mean axing the print publications; those clutching their tangible magazines shouldn’t be considered luddites but rather, cultural curators. The redesign of the Vanity Fair Italy website still recalls the iconic style of the magazine but extends the content further. In order for magazines like Vanity Fair to thrive, the print and digital mediums must inform each other in a co-dependent and symbiotic relationship. The brand that Vanity Fair has built with its print magazine will strengthen its presence online, while the print form is still a valuable piece to the content puzzle, serving as unique offering, an artifact that holds meaningful value.
As frog's Content and Community manager, Kristina Loring curates, writes, and edits the design mind platform. When she's not spreading frog's ideas across the Internet and the city, you can find her raving about digital activism, the power to humanize tech, and community-led innovation.