That Strange Light you’re seeing is the future of magazines

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Derek Powazek’s Strange Light
is a 40-page magazine that features
stunning photography from
the Great Australian Dust Storm of 2009.
The dust storm occurred two days ago.

“Strange light fell over Australia on 23 September 2009. An unexpected dust storm blanketed New South Wales and Queensland, turning everything an eerie shade of amber. At its peak, the storm swept up 140,000 tons of soil per hour. In spite of the worst dust storm in 70 years, intrepid photographers ventured outside to document what was happening to their homes, neighborhoods, and country. This is what they saw.”

Long time readers of this blog know that one of the recurring heros who appears here is Derek Powazek. This 2008 post links back to some of his accomplishments I’ve written about, including the rise and fall of JPG Magazine and his role in helping HP Labs create MagCloud, a platform that enables the creation and distribution of magazines that utilize on-demand printing.

Strange Light is a 40-page magazine that Derek just published (in this case, I mean “just” as in “sometime during the night, U.S. time”) using MagCloud.

So, to recap: The dust storm occurred on Wednesday. Photographers — professional and amateur — headed out into the storm and, with no organizing or pre-event planning, captured “a day in the life of a dust storm.” As people with digital tools in their hands are wont to do, photographers and observers began to upload what they were seeing and experiencing and capturing to the web. With the speed and finesse of someone who has an up-close-and-personal understanding of the “community” aspects of photo sharing (trust me on that one) and who helped to innovate much of the processes of web-based “social-media” collaborative magazine publishing, Derek put together a magazine — and has given us just one more glimpse into the potential of the magazine format.

I spend a lot of time pointing out that arguments over the future of magazines are rarely about the magazine format — they nearly always are about some business model related to circulation, advertising or cost-structure.

Derek continues to prove the magazine format — and print — can be a new media platform, if one gets their head out of (or into) the dust clouds.