Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Idea 004: the rise of the blogazine

Posted in Ideas for the future of news by Adam Westbrook on December 7, 2009

In this series I’m compiling a list of creative, tangible, practical ideas for journalism which will emerge from the digital revolution. If you have any suggestions for future features, contact me. Previous entries include:

003: events based reporting

002: students as investigators

001: the news aggregator

Idea: Powering a Green Planet

By: Mark Z Jacobson, Mark A Delluci & Scientific American

An apt subject as the COP15 meeting gets underway in Copenhagen this week. Powering A Green Planet, featured in the Scientific American in November, explains a radical idea on how to stop global warming, put forward by two scientists.

They reckon if we embraced renewable energy head on, we could power the planet on 100% clean energy, in just 20 years. That’s a bit better than the current targets, right?

Powering a Green Planet, Scientific America

It’s an enjoyable, interesting and convincing read. But let’s get down to the future of journalism nitty-gritty.

The Scientific American utilised multimedia platform Flyp to produce the piece. It is arranged and designed as an attractive magazine, so you can literally turn the page, with lots of video, graphics and text moving on the screen.

It is beautifully designed, with lots of space on the page. Crucially, this piece never feels too cluttered: it always feels like there’s just enough information on the page…but not too much.

It’s interactive too, with lots of buttons to click on, video to watch and audio to hear. The complicated science bit is explained in colourful graphics.

This is challenging scientific information made digestible and accessible. And there is value for the consumer in this too, perhaps one they’d pay for.

The blogazine

The idea of the interactive magazine is still in the embryonic stages. It has a blog counterpart too, the blog-azine, a small but growing trend of bloggers who chose to make every single blog entry a unique design masterpiece, tailored to the particular subject of the blog.

For example, British web designer Gregory Wood designs each blog post individually, creating stunning pages like this: Top 5 reasons to learn to dive

In a recent feature, Smashing Magazine said blogazines were great because they stopped you:

“Slipping into the habit of typing up your thoughts and clicking “Post,” without thinking about the layout of each article… By taking a little extra time for the art of blogging, your creativity will increase with your efforts”

but also admitted:

“…building a custom layout requires some experience with CSS and HTML…style borrows many elements from print design, anyone who has worked only in Web design may find it difficult to change their way of thinking. Rules of typography and white space, for example, may throw you off. But practice makes perfect, and an endless supply of inspiration can be found in creative magazines.”

A business model?

This is a surprisingly new way of delivering content. It’s amazing isn’t it, that this far into the web 2.0 world, this far since the development of flash, CSS, J-Query and easy to deliver multimedia, 98% of online news is delivered just like this blog: there’s a title, some text, if you’re lucky- a picture or some video embedded. Which leads us to the big question: can making your content stand out make any money?

This has yet to be proved, but I really think it has potential….but its future lies in mobile. In the advent of the Kindle and other OLED readers these interactive experiences could really kick off, because they gain so much value from a touch screen. Imagine being able to sit on the subway with a newly downloaded copy of your favourite magazine, in exciting interactive form! You can flip the pages, click to watch video, audio and drag graphics around.

And if they’re produced as well as the Scientific American, your sleepy commuter eyes won’t skip over long drawn out paragraphs of text, because it would have been made so accessible.

In the meantime there could be room for an ambitious start-up willing to combine magazine design with innovative content. Again if it looks like nothing else on the internet it could soon grow an audience.

This technical sublime I firmly believe the consumer will pay for. But it relies on a visual sublime too – it has to look good. Style over substance? Maybe.

The sooner designers and journalists start talking to each other, the better.


5 Responses

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  1. machiko said, on December 7, 2009 at 10:37 am

    just a note – the link to FLYP is i think

    and to add on to your note about the mobile format of journalism, i was really impressed by the sports illustrated tablet demo this week. have you seen it?

    even more customized than the kindle.. i think this could be a digestible magazine format that’s easier to read and share than a laptop or a cell phone.

  2. […] creating blogazines instead of boring old blog […]

  3. Bill Torgerson said, on March 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    This is one of the very few resources I’ve found related to the notion of a blogazine. I’m a college writing professor with a novel coming out next year, and I’m interested in having my students do a lot of their writing through the medium of the blogazine, and I’m personally attracted to the idea of writing in this way that appears like an online magazine. I think there is the possibility for me getting some money for training. Would I start with CSS and HTML?

    If you’re on Facebook, I’d really appreciate you becoming a fan of “Cherokee McGhee,” the press that is doing my novel, LOVE ON THE BIG SCREEN. I’d also like to hear from you there. I’m “Bill Torgerson.”

  4. » Blog Archive said, on June 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    […] storyteller Adam Westbrook writes in his blog: This is a surprisingly new way of delivering content. It’s amazing isn’t it, that this far […]

  5. Lashay Slusser said, on February 27, 2011 at 9:22 am

    This site is very cool, I dont know what to say.

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