From Craig Mod, an essay entitled Subcompact Publishing
Business skeuomorphism happens when we take business decisions explicitly tied to one medium, and bring them to another medium — no questions asked. Business skeuomorphism is rampant in the publishing industry.
So why do so many of our digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because it’s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. To not design twice. To not test twice (or, at all).
I propose Subcompact Publishing tools and editorial ethos begin (but not end) with the following qualities:
- Small issue sizes (3-7 articles / issue)
- Small file sizes
- Digital-aware subscription prices
- Fluid publishing schedule
- Scroll (don’t paginate)
- Clear navigation
- HTML(ish) based
- Touching the open web
Navigation should be consistent and effortless. Subcompact Publishing applications don’t require complex how-to pages or tutorials. You shouldn’t have to hire a famous actor to show readers how to use the app with his nose. Much like a printed magazine or book, the interaction should be intuitive, effortless, and grounding. The user should never feel lost.
The clarity of The Magazine is exciting. It’s doubly exciting because it’s precisely the sort of app at which incumbent publishers balk. This is expected. Again, from Christensen:
Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use.
We are the new customers: The new readers, the new writers, the new publishers. The Magazine is indeed cheaper, simpler, smaller, and more convenient than most other publishing apps.
Two things not mentioned that are worth pointing out:
1. Arment is able to pay professional print rates for articles published by The Magazine by charging only $2 a month, with zero ads, and still turn a profit. That is incredible. It shows the enormous cost savings possible by creating a reading product without photographers, layout artists, graphic designers, salesmen, printers, shippers, and vendors.
2. The Magazine favours short-form, blog post-esque writing. Craig Mod thinks this is the future of reading on handheld devices because attention spans are shorter. However, services like Longreads
, and Arts & Letters Daily
demonstrate huge demand for more in-depth pieces. It's not clear that companies like The Magazine are able to invest in a writer for several months so that he or she can do in-depth research, investigative journalism, or extended fiction pieces. Legacy publishing companies hold a distinct advantage there and should be trying to exploit it to the maximum.