B&PM tries very hard to deliver the "print" experience in a digital format, with familiar tasks such as "turning" pages. They also know when to break the boundaries of print, such as incorporating audio into some of the content. For those reasons (and more), the magazine is a success. But it causes me to wonder -- to what end?
The magazine-reading experience is isolated: I can't read a magazine while driving myself to the office, for instance. It's also unlinked: I can't get directly to the article/story/quote I'm most interested in. Finally, it's an interferer: It throws kinks in my normal information flow when I try find data contained therein.
So with that in mind, what's so special about the magazine-reading experience that would give you the desire to replicated it in a digital environment? Other than a lending a sense of familiarity to the act, not much.
My advice to content producers of all media: your content wants to be freed. Let it break outside of the confines placed upon it by conventional distribution means. If you wish to distribute your magazine content in both a print and digital form --great! But don't let the digital form be dictated by the physical. Sure, you should create a digitally-viewable copy very much like B&P have done. But why stop there? Here are five ideas on how to make your digital content more useful to me:
- Create an RSS feed for all stories. And don't wait to update the RSS feed until the assembled magazine is released. Gah! That's pointless! Instead, release each article as soon as it is approved. Go ahead and stick your advertising elements inside of the stories; we're OK with that. (But watch the auto-playing audio/video content, OK? It may not work in our feed readers anyhow..)
Post stories to your website as they are completed. The print-version (or digital lookalike) will drive readers back to your website. What's the point of that trip if the content is the same? Likewise, use your website to sell your print version to the millions of people who prefer you to package up the relevant content and sent it to them on a regular basis. Oh, and be sure and send those stories out on your RSS feed as soon as they are posted.
Notify readers (email or RSS) when keywords in your stories are triggered. Hey, if you don't do it, I'm just going to use Technorati to get what I need. Facilitate this behavior, and you get some incredible information on what I and a few thousand of my closest friends are really hoping to find inside of your content.
Get as many town criers as you can! Get a Twitter account. Update on Jaiku. Tell your Myspace friends. Give me the option to get email updates. You need to recognize that there are many new competitors for attention that come onto the scene every day, so stay sharp and make sure I never forget about you.
Encourage social media behavior. At a minimum, allow for commenting on each of your stories. Make sure they are one-click Diggable. 'Email to a friend' is fine, but how about facilitating posting in other places where all of someone's friends can read it?
And in reality, this applies to lots of different types of digitized content. How will you adapt your content in this brave new world? How would you rather consume your content once it's made available in digital form? What new technologies will burst upon the scene as smart folks start considering those questions and more?