Bo Sacks is a guy I have tremendous respect for and I hope his vision of the magazine industry of the future does come to pass, but I’m just not as confident as he is that publishing models won’t need to change. His assumption is that the substrate will change but our interaction with it will remain the same.
This is not and should not be a fearful transition. Everything stays the same except the actual reading platform. The paginated (metered), well designed, and edited magazine experience is the same. The same writers, editors, artists, and mostly the same publishing staff will be required to “manufacture” magazines of the future.
Those are some comforting words for magazine publishers to hear, but I fear they fundamentally underestimate the scope of the change we are going through. This is more than just a change in technology, this is quite possibly a change in human cognition.
Like Scott Karp, I see something more profound happening here… something that changes how we think and interact with information. If that is so, then Mr. Sacks’ metered information model (though it may survive as a media format) will certainly be challenged as a business model.
As more people start manifesting networked thought patterns the linear magazine model will seem more and more restrictive. Readers won’t want to be bound into “issues” or “volumes” but will prefer to be out in the wilds of hyperspace, free to bounce from source to source.
Without a doubt this transition will take a while… perhaps decades. In the short term replicating technologies such as e-paper will most certainly fill the gap in much the same way that Mr. Sacks describes.
The question for publishers is really about transition and timing. To stick your head in the sand and insist that the change isn’t coming won’t help… it is coming and you need to have a plan. You need to visualize what your titles, your events, your products will look like in a world where information flows from node to node without respect for the boundaries of the page.