“Building magazine architectures for the iPad era” – Anthony Noguera at News On The Move II

News on the move logoLast week I went to News On The Move II, an afternoon event organised by Press Gazette and hosted by Google. I’ve already published my notes on Benedict Evans rounding up the current state of the tablet universe. Here is what I made of Anthony Noguera’s turn on stage…

“Building magazine architectures for the iPad era” – Anthony Noguera

Anthony Noguera is a former editor of Arena, and was involved in the launch of Project magazine, one of the first experiments with the magazine form on the iPad device. Admitting it seemed “quaint” looking back on it now — and remember this is only 3 years ago — he talked about what he had wanted to achieve. He’d wanted to do something with the “architecture” of a magazine, saying that magazines that “look like websites” aren’t a comfortable read. The first edition had Jeff Bridges on the cover, and by getting him to hold the same pose for ten seconds, they produced an effect whereby what looked like a magazine cover suddenly transformed into a video, and then back again.

Project magazine cover

A still from the Project magazine cover video

It was, he said, a real jaw-dropping wow moment “when we took it round”, although I couldn’t help wonder whether he meant when they took it round to other industry execs, or when they took it round and showed it to the audience.

I think one of my favourite presentations of recent years, which has really stuck with me, was the design team of The Times’ early Eureka iPad app talking about how difficult it was to resist the requests and requirements of everyone in the editorial team to have everything spin around, just because it was on the iPad, regardless of whether anyone would actually want to spin the thing around.

Anthony Noguera was passionate and uncompromising about digital being the future of the magazine business, and said he simply can’t understand the lack of enthusiasm for digital amongst some mainstream publishers and editors. Digital means, he said, “more people consuming more content in more places at more times” and that should be incredibly exciting as a content producer. But people in the trade find it hard to make the leap, he said. He also said some stuff about the iPad being “an erotic machine”, and that journalists should be excited that people will be “stroking their content”, but we’ll draw a discrete veil over that train of thought…

He had a huge disdain for PDF page-turners, one I have to say I share. Actually, there is a guy on one of the trains I regularly commute on who has the PDF edition of one of national tabloids, and he spends most of the journey pinching-and-zooming rather than reading. I often feel moved to give him the money to buy the print edition instead, it looks like such an uncomfortable reading experience. “If I’m on an iPad or a tablet,” Noguera said, “I want content suited to that format. Why would you not use what this machine can do to the fullest extent?”

Subhajit Banerjee, mobile editor for the Guardian, asked about the tension between designing magazines and designing for the “live” experience, and Anthony Noguera outlined some interesting ideas they’d had that the technology wasn’t capable of doing yet. He’d been interested in a magazine that gradually built up during the course of the month with additional content, and embedding things like live sport events into a magazine.

One final point that drew my attention was Anthony Noguera’s view on advertising in digital magazines. He said he found it “depressing and annoying” how poor they were. This was, he said, because they are still given away by most publishers as an afterthought — “buy a print ad and we’ll throw in a free iPad app ad, and for an extra £400 it can include a video clip.” No wonder, he said, there is precious little innovation in the field.

Next…

I was only able to see three of the sessions at News On The Move II, and next up I’ll have my notes on a panel discussing “How to make journalism work on tablet computers” which featured a couple of people I’ve worked with in the past and present…

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