I’ve always loved technology, and I especially love the recent focus on mobile phones, tablets, and truly great personal computers. These interests also increasingly include other fields, such as photography, publishing, and music, affected heavily by technology.
This is what The Magazine is about.
Many publications focus on reviews and comparisons, or bring you as much news as quickly as possible. The Magazine will not serve those roles. Instead, it takes a measured approach to the big picture: rather than telling readers everything that happens in technology, The Magazine delivers meaningful editorial and big-picture articles.
The Magazine also goes beyond technology. My podcast is mostly about software development, but whenever we talk about non-development topics such as coffee or cars, we get strong feedback from listeners who love it and want more. We realized that it shouldn’t be a podcast about development — it should be a podcast for developers and people who love topics that appeal to geeks like us.
The Magazine is similar: rather than be limited to technology, its topics appeal to people who love technology.
If that sounds like you, start your free trial and browse as much as you’d like.
The Magazine will publish four articles every two weeks. In the future, it may publish more.
Technology has a surplus of great writing happening almost completely on blogs. The Magazine doesn’t seek to replace that community, but to supplement it as another creative and professional outlet.
But this creates a conflict: many writers don’t want to lock up great articles in other publications forever. So The Magazine operates under liberal author terms: authors retain ownership of their writing, and they may republish it on their own sites just one month after it appears here.
And not every article needs to be exclusive to The Magazine. Great articles shouldn’t be excluded simply because they were published on the author’s blog first. We can also address a problem that every blog author has: making use of back-catalogs beyond the trickle of search-engine traffic. Occasionally, The Magazine will include timeless articles from authors’ archives.
The modern magazine
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to question why anyone in their right mind would launch a new magazine in 2012.
In this great A.V. Club interview, Louis C.K. was recalling how he refused to integrate radio-station promotion into his first self-run comedy tour solely because that was how such tours were traditionally promoted:
I said to [my agent], “Let’s do none of it.” … “Let’s find out if this is a huge mistake. Let’s find out. I’m willing to sacrifice my first theater tour and have the places empty and identify that it’s because I wouldn’t let the radio people participate. But we also might find out that it didn’t make a difference and that I never have to do it.”
And he found out that it didn’t matter: his tour succeeded without any of the radio promotion. (The rest of the interview is great and worth reading.)
His lesson applies to nearly every endeavor. Usually, things are done the way they’re done for good reasons. But sometimes, they’re only done that way because nobody has questioned it recently.
The parallels to the magazine industry are obvious. But I don’t consider The Magazine to be a member of “the magazine industry” any more than blogs are members of “the publishing industry”. Those terms evoke the old and established, while this is the new and experimental.
“Magazine” also evokes the legacy technology of printed paper, and the massive overhead that comes with it. The Magazine will probably never have a paper edition, but making a truly modern magazine goes far beyond just omitting paper.
Many iPad magazines are carrying unnecessary and expensive baggage from their print days. Some born-digital magazines even took on print baggage simply because they thought they needed it.
I’m starting this with a staff of one. I can develop the app, procure and edit the articles, and write occasional articles myself. There’s no venture capital funding, no corporate backer, and very little starting capital. My biggest fixed cost is the up-front design and development of the app, and my biggest recurring cost is paying writers. If it doesn’t turn a profit within two months — just four issues — I’ll shut it down.
Partially from these constraints, and partially in the spirit of Louis C.K.’s anecdote, The Magazine’s articles won’t be laid out separately for portrait and landscape orientations. Articles won’t have custom designs at all. You won’t see any infographics, slideshows, or interactive panoramas. These multimedia features can all be valuable, and they have their places in other publications, but not here.
Instead of the traditional labor-intensive magazine layout and expensive multimedia production, The Magazine’s article format is similar to Instapaper’s: one clean, adjustable, reader-friendly template with HTML, occasional images, and some small conveniences. It loads quickly, integrates well with sharing and system conventions (including text selection and VoiceOver), occupies minimal storage space, and shows the utmost respect for your time and attention.
The Magazine is leaving behind a lot of what magazines “need”. And many magazines really do need them. But I don’t think this does.
All of this is a bit crazy, and it’s not guaranteed to succeed. But I bet it will.