Living Magazine Cover and Spread – Outside Magazine
Photographer Alexx Henry and his team show you how a magazine might look in the not-so-distant future with the October cover and spread for Outside Magazine. In this video, Alexx Henry takes you through the creation of the Living portrait of the triathlete Chris Lieto photographed using the revolutionary Red One cinema camera and the 5d Mark II.
The Evolution of Print
How dynamic content and developing technologies can revive an industry with an uncertain future.
by Alexx Henry
It’s the year 2015 and a commuter is heading to work on the train. After taking a sip of his coffee, he glances down to see a moving picture of his wife blowing kisses to him on the front of the cup. Smiling to himself he turns the cup around to check the coffee level, shown as a horizontal line dancing with the motion of the train. Placing the cup down on the tray, he picks up the local newspaper and glances at the headlines. The paper is alive with moving pictures and type that begs for his attention. He swipes his finger across the top of the paper and when a password box pops up he taps something in. Suddenly the paper transforms itself into a much more pleasing layout reading “Welcome Mr. Smith.” All the articles are custom tailored to him.
For now this reads like a scene from a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster but the truth is we may be just a few short years from realizing this. There are developing technologies with applications that look like they come right out of the future. We’re talking flexible displays that can bring us Mr. Smith’s “living” newspaper. This will change the way we ingest tangible media. This is exciting stuff. And I’m going to say something pretty unconventional here, given the current condition of the newspaper and magazine industries: this is an exciting time for the print industry, because these technologies might just provide a solution for an industry with an uncertain future. This could be the evolution of print.
I know. The Apple Tablet is coming. The kindle will be improved. Others will follow with their claims to save print and get people reading again. I don’t dispute this. I don’t even dispute that some of these devices will hit new levels of awesomeness, and get people reading digitally in record numbers, but I don’t see these devices as being able to shut down the presses. For one thing, not everyone will be willing to own a device that will cost several hundred dollars, no matter how great. What I do see is this: advances in electronic paper technology that will bring us flexible, portable and recyclable displays- inexpensive to make and distribute, and affordable enough to buy in the morning and leave on the train for the next guy. Now that sounds like print evolution.
The technologies that can get us there
There are two emerging technologies that have the potential of putting content on small, portable and flexible vehicles. OLED (Organic LED) and E Ink. If you’ve ever laid eyes on the Amazon’s Kindle, you’ve seen E Ink technology in action. Using the same technology, Plastic Logic, a company out of England, has plans to release a letter-sized flexible e-reader in early 2010.
OLED is fast emerging as the preferred display for cell phones and soon televisions. OLED is extremely color-rich and can be made light, portable and energy efficient. Flexible futuristic prototypes have been developed by Sony, Samsung and the Universal Display Corporation, who has even developed a flexible wristband that streams video. Most exciting is that as recently as August, scientists from the RIKEN center in Japan announced advances that would allow OLED devices to be manufactured as inexpensively as printing newspapers.
Given these developments, it’s no stretch to imagine how these technologies can be adapted to produce the next generation of “living” newspaper or magazine.
“Living Art” and a warning from DOOH
As a photographer, my interest is in the content creation side of all this, and as a content creator, I’m teeming with excitement, because with new technology comes new opportunities. Dynamic content will need to be conceptualized and developed specifically for this new media if it is to thrive. This is a great time to be in the business of content creation.
But before discussing dedicated “living”content, let’s take a quick look at the Digital Out of Home (Digital OOH) market, which uses existing technology (HD screens etc…) to integrate moving content into people’s daily lives. Digital OOH is just similar enough to “living” print to give us ideas about what might and what might not work. In fact, they’re conceptually twins. Both media rely on grabbing the attention of non-captive audiences. So unlike in television or film, where people have signed up as viewers, with this media, the motion or images need to be engaging rather than noisy. And content using the principles of still photography achieves this.
CBS Alive in the UK has done a good job of making Digital OOH a welcome part of the London commuter’s daily life. Many of their campaigns show still pictures, like the movie poster for Bride Wars, suddenly coming to life. What used to be flat still shots are now springing to life in a way unique from video. And according to research, most commuters are seeing this as a welcome and pleasing distraction. And there’s a lesson for would-be “living art” content creators in this.
London’s digital screens were not always embraced. As a matter of fact, when the screens first came out, the video that was streaming was basically repurposed commercials originally intended for broadcast. They were met with public scorn and some even cited them as harassment.
Mike Hemmings, the Head of Digital Marketing admits that they were intrusive. The lesson was to focus on the idea of attraction vs distraction. He states, ” [Digital OOH] failed to capture the imagination of advertisers, but more interestingly…the consumer.” He explains, “The multitude of blinking ads with an array of colours and sounds were cited as harassment rather than offering inspiration. From this very first incarnation of digital screen, we can learn much.”
So the trick is to create unique and compelling motion content that will attract- not distract, and convey its idea on one level at a glance, while offering more layers should a viewer choose to invest. This is great news for photography and image professionals, because many of the skills and disciplines used to make a powerful still image work are the same skills that will produce the best content for these next generation technologies. So if you understand how to communicate an idea through a single image or spread, you understand how to create compelling content for a future medium like a living magazine.
So let’s evolve
So while it may be another 6-8 years, depending on market demands, until we can hold a living magazine, let’s get people excited for the promise of what may come, before we get stuck repurposing old rules for new mediums- which we already saw did not work for the DOOH market.
Let’s make content that offers a unique experience unlike that of watching TV or surfing the Internet- that will be integrated into the consumer’s daily lives: at the newsstand, on the train, in a cafe. Let’s make content that takes what we love about newspapers and magazines and bring it to a new level, enhancing readers’ experiences. We don’t have to worry about the future of print. We can evolve.
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