It’s the words and photos, not bells and whistles, that make reading-media work

By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007.

If I had time, I’d write a post that would reflect on what Patricio Robles says here and what Khoi Vinh said here.

Short version (and, with apologies, some inside baseball): Condé Nast’s most successful magazine iPad app is the New Yorker — which eschews all the bells and whistles the company jammed into its other magazine apps. Add to that, the news that Facebook acqhired Mike Matas by purchasing his iPad publishing app, Push Pop Press (unless it was Al Gore they were acqhiring) and somewhere in there, there’s a wanna-be trend story bubbling up about magazine publishers discovering that iPad publishing may not be all about bells and whistles, but may be about good writing and the ability for readers to read it.

Who knew?

That was a rhetorical question. I know the answer: the 12 readers of this blog knew. (And the thousands who read Khoi’s.)

Starting with the first time I saw something called an iPad magazine app, I’ve been saying over and over and way-over, that simplicity and readability make for a great reading experience on a device people use for reading.

Yes, the iPad does all those bells and whistles splendidly. I use it for watching videos and playing games, and many other things. But that doesn’t mean that when I’m reading, I want videos and games in the middle of what I’m reading — nor the bandwidth required to download them. (Context, I could use more of, but that’s another post.)

Over time, publishers will learn that bells and whistles are stuff on the edge — not at the core —  of what makes a magazine (or any medium that, for a couple of centuries has been associated with that sub-set of “content” related to words arranged in sentences and paragraphs) app great.

Great writing. That’s the core stuff. Making it easy to download and read. That’s more core stuff.

The bells and whistles are best left to bells and whistles makers. At least for a while.

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.]

  • Dunno… one swallow doesn’t make a summer.u00a0nnThe New Yorker doesn’t represent all media publications. Heat mag readers, for example, may prefer less text and more pics.u00a0nnBit early to say…nnIvan

  • The subject line includes the word “photos” in a way that I hope indicates I don’t include photography in the “bells and whistles” category. Indeed, I think you’ll find in my past writing on this topic that I believe photography — and, indeed, multimedia — that adds to the story (or is the story) or to the experience of using the app, is something to be celebrated. My complaints have been focused entirely on the gratuitous and bloated junk publishers have allowed to go out under their brands. I’ve also been very clear that, while I have my opinion, I learned a long time ago, this isn’t a one-size fits all world. If there’s a market for magazine apps filled with bloated and gratuitous junk, I hope that market is served well.

  • Well said, Rex.u00a0nnI’m not familiar with the rest of your work tbh, but if you’re suggeting is an overpriced, dysfunctional gizmo, then I’d have to agree. Mono-tasking? Gimme a break!nnAnd if people want to watchu00a0gratuitousu00a0junk, then let them :)u00a0nnIvan