Friday, May 29, 2009

Magazine craft comes to the web

One of the things that distinguishes magazines as a media form from, say, newspapers is the practice and application of what has come to be know as "craft". There is a reason why so many magazines are so pleasing to pick up, look at, read and admire, and that reason likes in a combination of craft elements – the interplay of paper, space, type, illustrations and, of course, top notch content.

Web designers (very important to magazines right now) have also developed a range of craft skills to make their pages look great, and maintain usability, but there has long been a problem with specifying fonts: browsers display differently and individual computers may not be loaded with a particular typeface.

Now American company Small Batch Inc claims to have come up with a solution – basically, fonts in the cloud via an application called Typekit.

Reaction to this news has garnered 225 responses (so far) over a very short period, so it's rung some bells in the design community. Many of the comments are along "Wow, fantastic, can't wait" lines but there are also some nuanced and interesting points debated.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Image of Jesus in Jar of Marmite

That's what it said on the newspaper placard. Sorry to dip into newspapers again but I think this could be important for the following reasons:

1) A new field of study
I think I may have stumbled upon a new field of study for journalism professors – the humble placard (I know there's a proper technical term for them and I'll look it up in a minute). The words used and what they convey about the newspaper and its understanding of its readers could yield a rich seam of research.

2) Slow news day
If the best that a paper (in this case the moribund South Wales Post, Cardiff's dying evening) can come up with is a jar of Marmite in which a 36-year-old mum thinks she can spot the delineation of Our Saviour (great guy, shame about his Dad), then not much has happened in the preceding hours. Here's the story – it was the splash online when I checked.

3) Plagiarism
When I Googled the term "Jesus face" one of the links led me to this story on the Daily Mail's website: Look familiar? You can check the times of posting for yourselves.

4) The internet is killing journalism
Who is going to pay 40p (or whatever) to check out this story when a Google search (other search engines are available) will bring up a lot of "Jesus face" stories: aubergines, cushions, cinnamon buns, potatoes, Kitkat bars– you know the drill.

5) But most of all, journalists are killing journalism
Viz, all of the above.

Just found this story via Nieman Journalism Lab: love the phrase "Big Iron" to describe press corporations.

Read Dan's comment(s) below and then feast your eyes on this story about a very tired fish.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rewarding failure in print publishing

I know this blog is about magazines, not newspapers, but this short article by Robert Picard about management failure in newspaper companies is so well worth reading – and so applicable to magazine publishing companies – that I have to recommend it here.

Sample quote:
The bonus debacle is yet another indication that the bankruptcies were created in the board rooms and corporate offices, not by the economic downturn. Poor corporate and management decisions are their root problem.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 22, 2009

Magazine apps on iPhone

A little snippet from a bigger piece by Steve Outing on the American Editor & Publisher site. He's discussing ways to get people to pay for digital content:
Yet another model is to sell a custom news phone app rather than give it away. USA Today, for instance, offers a free downloadable news app for the iPhone, which offers a superior reading interface than USA Today's mobile Web site, and access to content is free using the app. Meanwhile, People Magazine has its own iPhone app called "People Celebrity News Tracker," but charges $1.99 for you to download it. Content is updated regularly with "instant" celebrity news and alerts from, including lots of photos. There's no monthly fee for the content on the People app, which is supported by advertising, but the one-time extra $1.99 purchase price can create another nice revenue stream, especially for a publisher with a large audience.
As you can tell from the first three words, he looks at various scenarios, including using Amazon and Paypal. Worth reading.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Newsweek, design and fonts

Good piece by magCulture's Jeremy Leslie on Newsweek's redesign.

Since typography is an important element of the redesign and critique, you might like to read it in conjunction with this slideshow of the history of fonts.

Labels: , ,

The media, sources, access and advertising

My sermon today considers two (former) magazine journalists and editors, Danny Kelly (NME, Q, Football365, etc) and John Lloyd (FT Magazine). But first ...

One side issue raised by the Westminster expenses furore is whether journalists get too cosy with their sources. I cannot believe that lobby correspondents and political editors did not have a good idea of what was going on before the data-whistle was blown but one reason why the storm has had such an impact is because it came out of a clear blue sky. On the other hand, I suppose it is possible that the Telegraph's reporters were able to do such a swift and thorough job because they did know where to look for the bodies (or rather, whose accounts to look at – after they had rubbished the Labour hierarchy, of course).

Naturally, stories have to be substantiated ("stood up") and perhaps it was the lack of hard evidence that prevented journalists from writing these stories before.

Or perhaps it was because every journalist, and especially those who have developed a speciality, fears losing access to good contacts. This can happen at an individual level, ("I'm not talking to you"), a corporate level (for example, Sir Alex Feguson not talking to the BBC) or a PR level (the subject is withdrawn behind a fortress of spin and obfuscation). Whichever, it means the same – no interviews, no quotes, no stories and your competitors getting an advantage.

This does not just happen in politics, of course – celebrity, showbiz, music, film, business (see yesterday's post on this topic) and sport are fields in which "access" is key. It was the latter that concerned Danny Kelly last night during his show on TalkSport radio. Within a wider discussion of whether football fans had the right to access/question/comment on players and managers, Kelly and his sidekick Stan Collymore (a man who has, with some reason, been hounded by the media at certain points in his career) discussed the issue of journalists and press conferences with veteran manager Bobby Gould.

Gould, who clearly knows how to answer a question, made some very perceptive points about the way journalists create a single narrative (ie they collectively decide what "the story" is) and follow that through. Anyone taking a different line is likely to be carpeted by their editor if rivals all go for the same angle. This leads to very uniform reporting and almost certainly allows a media-savvy manager to manipulate the coverage.

At the same time, Kelly pointed out how soft most questioning is, attributing this to a fear of losing access and/or not wanting to lose the "friendship" or "respect" of the person being questioned. No wonder, was his opinion, that fans want better information.

There is another aspect of this for small, specialised magazines such as the one I used to publish. Very often the sources you go to for the best stories are also the same people who run the businesses that your title depends on. We all know there should be a firewall between advertising and editorial and we all also know that without the ads our readers won't be getting any magazine at all. Tricky but not insuperable if carefully managed.

Where does John Lloyd fit into this? Well, back when he was editor of the FT's magazine he wrote a book called What The Media Are Doing To Our Politics. The main thesis of this book was that
Journalists and broadcasters have become self-serving, power-crazed hypocrites who exaggerate, sensationalise and distort almost every aspect of the news they supposedly 'report'. And their prime target is the honourable profession of politician, those selfless individuals whose only thought is to serve their country. (Taken from Frank Kane's Observer review)
Nowadays Lloyd runs the Reuters Institute For the Study of Journalism, at Oxford University, a body that has become well known for ... for ... Perhaps for not quite living up to expectations. I'd like to know how he views our politics in the light of our media's latest attack. (But then I can ask him directly in a few weeks because he is an external examiner at the place where I work.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A must read about business journalism

Thanks to Charles Arthur for leading me to this – a piece by Dean Starkman, former business reporter, that castigates business reporting and then comes in for a good kicking by Mother Jones's commenters.

The bigger point is how easy it is for specialised journalists (of any speciality) to get too close to the interests of their sources and forget about the interests of their readers.

However, Starkman captures something very important when he says, "Increasingly, business coverage has addressed its audience as investors rather than citizens, a subtle but powerful shift in perspective that has led to some curious choices." In the UK this is exactly what the Thatcher government did with the sell-offs of British Gas, BAA, etc. Enough people could buy enough small numbers of shares to feel that they were somehow really connected to all this stuff that was going on in the City of London and Wall Street. Share prices suddenly mattered to individuals who previously would have had no reason to be concerned, just as the expansion of house ownership (not necessarily a bad thing in itself, of course) hitched us all up to the chariot of perpetual property inflation.

This is part of the bigger picture of how the context for journalism and what journalists do has changed. It was not one of the political lobby who blew open the Westminster expenses scams, it was probably someone in the fees office who was put down once too often by a snotty MP and who has wreaked the best revenge possible – getting a good shilling from the Telegraph and bringing down his tormentors. (This is, naurally, pure speculation but it's a good story don't you think?)

Labels: , , , ,

Magazines may suffer from newspaper paywalls

Good post from Peter Kirwan of Press Gazette on the potential revenue generated from newspaper paywalls (based on some actual numbers and calculations!) and the possibility that this might, somehow, damage magazines.

Kirwan's thesis that the success of paywalls will depend on providing niche content that appeals to specific groups/communities of interest is undoubtedly correct; his observation that many magazine publishers can't or won't engage properly with the digital platform is also correct; but will gigantic beasts such as newspapers really be able to cover the full spectrum of magazine interests? That's probably not right. However, the big beasts of B2B might need to pull their fingers out. On the other hand Reed Business Information, surely the biggest beast in this field, is already well engaged with digital.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TalkSport + Sport?

Now this could be interesting. UTV, the owner of TalkSport radio, is in discussions to buy Sport, the free magazine distributed in London and elsewhere until its publishers ran out of money on April 3, according to MediaGuardian today.

Why is it interesting? Because just about a year ago TalkSport launched its own online magazine (see and has promoted it relentlessly on air ever since. It's still there, it's still free and clearly UTV think it's an area worth investing in.

As long as they don't bring back Kelvin Mackenzie to edit it ... (actually I just typed Mackenzine, which has possibilities).

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, May 01, 2009

Print mags for Teens live on

You thought that teenagers didn't read print magazines any more? Well at least one school librarian would beg to differ with you, in this article from the School Library Journal.

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

More blogs about MagBlog.

View blog reactions