Shocking News: The Web is NOT a PRINT Medium…

February 11, 2009

For starters I agree with the saying, “if it does not move, or if it does not sound, it has no place on the web.” The beauty of the internet is it provides us with moving objects, beautiful sounds and animated illustrations. Unlike magazines, which by nature, are meant to provide us with still objects (frozen great images) and a combination of the 26 lead soldiers (the ABCs for those who want to know) in a way that will and should (if done well) captivate all our senses. To each medium its own.

So, it is beyond me to understand why people, very creative people, spend so much time to create what they call “e-zines” that do nothing but imitate ink on paper. If I want a magazine page to flip open, I will reach to a printed magazine. Why should I imitate that flipping feel of a real magazine on the web? If I wanted to read something for the pleasure of reading why do I have to use a magnifier to do so on the screen? I do not do that with my printed magazine. picture-1

The web and the internet are completely different beasts from the printed publications. Until we use them as such, we will continue to do our industry and our magazines a disservice to both our readers and customers. New media deserve to be treated with new ideas and not a mere rehash of old stuff that we’ve being used too. What are the benefits of recreating “traditional media” on the screens of the “new media?” It is, for sure, beyond my scope of understanding. Successful ventures are going to be those which utilize all the relevant channels to serve the relevant audiences with the relevant messages.

It is a shame to put good ideas to waste, just because we are trying to imitate something else.

By the way, the reason for this blog is an e mail I received this morning from the United Kingdom. David Leydon, the creator of a new e-zine Good Bad Ugly sent me an e-mail introducing his new e-zine. He wrote:

Good Bad Ugly is another one of those e-zines that keep cropping up, but Good Bad Ugly is hopefully a little different in approach and style and hopefully we manage to deliver a half decent magazine for free.

If you think about it how often do you spend £4 on a magazine and feel robbed? Belittled? Disappointed? Saddened? Angry? Or Frustrated? Well it happened to us at Good Bad Ugly a lot. In fact almost every time we bought a magazine at least one of those things buzzed through our head. So we set about building our very own magazine. Take a look and decide what you think, hopefully you’ll avoid some of those emotions as you wander through Good Bad Ugly’s very first issue, the TV Issue. Or we just be a rubbish free mag – who knows???

The idea behind it all is that if you contribute you take ownership of what you do and have complete artistic freedom with it – well as long as it’s not going to get sued!

Check it out and find I6 pages of irreverent, hopefully entertaining, possibly artistic, different, inventive (well it could be?),free and completely independent goodness.

Click here to read the first issue of Good Bad Ugly. To me, Good Bad Ugly deserves an A for effort, as for the execution, that is a different story for a different blog.


  1. Samir:
    I am in complete agreement with you on this one (although I’m a bit more forgiving with regard to text in the digital realm – but that’s another story). In fact almost exactly one year ago I had a similar rant which was inspired by a digital edition of SPIN. My title was “Good print design is bad browser design” see: http://mturro.bluepear.org/2008/02/08/good-print-design-is-bad-browser-design/ – it seems not much has changed in the last year.

  2. E-zines and PDF zines are made simply because PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO PRINT. It’s as simple as that. They WANT to make a printed magazine. Sheesh.

  3. I think the point is that if they are going to create e-zines (even if it’s only because they don’t have the money) then the e-zine should have more than still text and photographs. An e-zine should be more animated.

  4. Samir,
    I couldn’t agree with you more. In these down-trotting times, I’m one of the few that have not jumped on the “just make it digital or put it on the website” format of media. I can understand why people publish e-zines, having been a managing editor (Papierdoll) for one myself, however I always felt that the internet is a medium for interactivity (i.e. video, sound, etc.), and I think this is where the industry in going wrong. Everyone seems to be so quick to give up on print and go straight to the web. Why? Because they think online ad sales are better, or that is where the future of media is heading. I beg to differ.
    Again, lovely post Samir, and hope to see you at Colophon 2009.

  5. Current ad sales, circ and newsstand trends make a strong case that print really is dying. While not ideal, digital editions at least offer the ability to find something you want to read and access it instantly as well as reduce the carbon footprint of content consumption.

    While Good, Bad, Ugly is really just the last two, there are fantastic examples of ezine content at http://www.issuu.com.

    Over time consumers will migrate to web-based newsstands like http://www.zinio.com and publishers will all offer digital versions for web and mobile devices like PasticLogic’s http://www.plasticlogic.com

    The cost and time-to-market limitations of physical distribution are just too high to be sustained.

    And the excitement of posting a great article to Facebook or reading about a recipe and then seeing an instant “how-to” video by clicking will, over time, make those who enjoy the pulp-in-hand experience come around.

  6. Does the above mean that anyone with an idea, a designer and access to the free packages out there will simply become a publisher – will this raise or lower editorial quality?

    Print mags surely have now to cover all the bases – print, digital and website in a way that engages their print readers and non-readers and in a way that is appropriate to the medium. It could be good for them and maybe even increasing subs as more people come into contact with the title.

    Personally I feel that the success of digi mags comes from the fact that advertisers understand paying for a ‘page’ not because digi mags are that great….yet. Having digi competitors ourselves one thing keeps coming up – the fact that readers rarely actually READ these mags or go back to them after a first scan.

  7. Agree with all your comments about the web v digital page turning mags – magazines are a print medium.

    We produce all our mags digitally but only because we have found a way of doing it for free. It allows us to reach a wider audience than we can in print, especially internationally.

    However, there is no way I see this as replacing the print edition as our main format, even if digital paper ever gets to be a widespread technology.

    The only really effective use of this technology to produce a digital only magazine that works is http://www.monkeymag.co.uk, a soft porn ‘lads mag’ in the uk, and this may only be because of its subject.

    Truth is magazines are here to stay, and the web is another medium.

  8. I spent a few minutes deciding whether or not to add to this discussion, but as the person almost responsible for Good Bad Ugly I thought I probably should. Please don;t shout at me too much!

    I agree with most of the comments you’ve made. An e-zine should be all singing and all dancing. There should be animations, videos and flash inspired bits and pieces, but Good Bad Ugly isn’t a business nor does it possess a big budget, it’s just a hobby that’s been done in people’s spare time and therefore lacks the budget to create all of these things. It might have been a bit rich to send an e-zine to Mr Magazine but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    For me, e-zines are there for those that can’t afford to go to print but want to do something half creative. So it’ll be an ongoing effort to make Good Bad Ugly more animated, so if you’re not too insulted by the prospect of another e-zine check back and see what happens with the next issue.

    I’ll take the A for effort and wear it with pride. Bad and ugly were achieved pretty quickly, so we might have to give it another 5 issues or so to make the good happen…possibly!

    My comments are meant in good jest, they not meant to be sarcastic or spiteful. Plus at least we’ve managed to create a bit of conversation and it didn’t cost anyone any money.

    Feel free to shout at me directly contact@goodbaduglymagazine.co.uk.


    • Dave
      Thanks for the comments, and by all means keep me posted on the progress… I understand your point of view and the reasons behind Good Bad Ugly magazine. I again applaud your efforts and wish you the best. Also, many thanks for helping start the conversation.
      All the best

  9. Samir:

    Have you no room in your heart for variations on a theme. There are a thousand reasons to produce a digital magazine. Cost, carbon foot-print, ease of entry, zero distribution costs, zero returns, and perhaps most importantly, instant global access.

    I prefer to call digital magazines paginated media. What is wrong with that? Where we agree is that paginated digital media and printed media have one thing in common. They have a beginning, middle and an end. This makes for an ease of reading and commitment. Where we also agree is that the zooming process in digital magazines must be put to death. There are many new digital magazines that are designed to be just that, digital magazines, and there is no damned zooming in those.

    Sure some digital magazines are under-designed. So what? There are digital magazines that are over designed. Again so what? One man’s simplicity in action is another man’s boring moment. So What?

    The same story is told in any creative medium. There are good artists and there are bad artists. There are artists that understand the platform that they are working in and there are those that don’t …So What? Not everybody is a design genius. How many god awful printed magazines have you seen? Do you condemn the print process because a bad art director got his/her hands on a paste-up board?

    The future of the written word is digital. All authors write in a digital format, get edited in a digital format, create in a digital format and will have those words predominantly delivered in a digital format.

    • My dear Bob
      The web is NOT a PRINT medium… I said that yesterday, I say it today and will shout it again tomorrow and the day after. So, yes, there is no room in my heart for variations on a theme.
      All the best

  10. Baby-boomers still read print magazines. They grew up reading them and are reluctant to do everything web-based. Plus reading on a computer screen is hard on older eyes. We only publish digitally because our advertisers think the only way to reach the public is through the internet. So, it sells ads.

  11. Actually I agree that taking advantage of the media capabilities of the internet is key, but if people are putting magazines up on the web to save money, paper, etc, the cost savings quickly goes out the window if they have to produce flash/video/sound etc which take much more time and programming than putting a still picture up. Also, in an age where everything is moving, tv backgrounds are always moving and everything is quick cut, a still picture might be refreshing.

  12. Moving images should be part of an online publication, only if they’re relevant. Video, audio, or motion graphics that do nothing to inform, educate, or entertain readers is pointless. Are we saying Web magazines must have entertainment value? Entertainment is important, but there’s a lot of bad journalism on television that’s entertaining.

  13. Yes, there ARE fewer limitations and more possibilities in ‘new media’. It is a fallacy, however, to argue that these SHOULD therefore be taken advantage of. The fact that GBU magazine is an up-and-running e-zine, available through search engines and getting hits, means that it already exemplifies ‘new media’. Plenty of stuff on the net ‘imitates’ older media by not using moving imagery or sound (usually for simplicity), and it doesn’t make it any less valid. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

  14. How about “if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing well” – the problem with typical digital editions is that they are shoehorning a print design vocabulary into a digital/interactive medium. It rings false.

    I wouldn’t say video or audio or motion graphics NEED to be in the digital edition – but the well designed digital mag will at least attempt to break free of the print context. That much is owed to the reader. Good design tells your readers you actually care.

    I don’t think Samir is condemning the digital edition in general as much as he is condemning the notion that you can recreate the print experience in the digital world. In that respect I actually agree with him.

    The most important thing a publisher can do when moving their stuff into the digital world – or any other world – is to acknowledge and demonstrate an understanding that the new medium is in fact a new medium with new tropes, new methodologies, new capabilities. They owe it to themselves – and more importantly to their readers – to create the best possible design for the medium they choose to publish in.

  15. …and the best possible design within their budget, of course.

  16. That goes without saying… but the quality of design is limited most often by the size of the imagination. not the size of the budget.

  17. It’s clear to me that most of the current digital magazine formats are transitional technologies. Simply displaying a print layout on a monitor may be the easiest and cheapest way to distribute your content on the Internet, but it’s not an effective use of digital technologies. In the process of creating a digital edition, the simple user interface of a paper magazine is replaced with a confusing passel of buttons and dropdowns where readers have to zoom in and drag each page around on their monitor in order to read your magazine. In short, everything that makes paper magazines so attractive is stuffed into a computer where it turns into something that’s difficult to use — unless you print it out. My company (minnickweb.com) has a different approach: we produce a custom digital publication that is laid out for the Web. People register to read it, and then the qualified leads are turned over to the sponsor. This provides quality content to readers for free, while satisfying the advertiser’s need for a real return on their investment.

  18. This is very interesting discusion here. I am not a baby boomer, and I am not internet generation kid. Born in 1974. i still prefer print than web.
    I do managinzes and I cannot imagine to see my print edition on the web. It looses the soul. It cant be the same. I must totally agree with Samir.
    Idea of flipping pages with mouse is totally ridiculous for me. and magnifier also. Web is web, print is print.
    For me the pleasure is to see first copy from the printing house, to feel it in my fingers, the smell of the paper and ink…
    Magazines totally lose their soul on the web. Totally. Its not the same thing. And as much as it is cheeper, you can get wider audiences and so on, its not the same thing. And it will never be.
    And besides, I cannot take it to the toilet with me 🙂

  19. […] visit site […]

  20. I am in the early stages of creating some sort of website with articles (I dare not say web magazine here), and I am glad for this discussion.

    I recently encountered one of these digital “magazines” and wondered why it went for this imitation of print without taking any advantage of all that the digital medium has to truly offer — not only in terms of singing and dancing but also intertextuality within the magazine and also out in the wider web. There was no way for me to scan through links in the magazine the way I might do with, say, a simple Wikipedia page, because there were no links. I am a Gen Y-er who loves print magazines (whenever I can get my hands on a decent one here in Slovenia) and also loves the web, and I agree that we should let the mediums be the best of what they can be rather than smashing the two together and getting something terrily mediocre at best.

  21. Samir,

    We put out our magazine in PDF because it’s cheaper, yes, (I won’t say free… many of the same costs apply). But we also try to avoid the traps of other digital magazines.

    You don’t have to zoom in to read.
    There is not annoying page-turning.
    We try to incorporate video.
    We try to make it lovely to read on-screen.
    We link content so readers can go directly to websites we write about.

    Ours is a local magazine about philanthropy and volunteering, called GivingCity Austin (www.givingcity.com). We don’t expect a large circulation with such a narrow topic. But we have been surprised. We pay for professional content but we use free social media tools to grow ciruculation – Twitter, YouTube, a fledgling Facebook account, blogs.

    What we’re finding is that there are benefits to the digital version aside from saving on print costs.

    1. Pass along is real. We can see it. We send an e-mail announcing the availability of the download to abut 1/3 as many people who download it. Somebody’s sending it to somebody.

    2. Linking to online resources, in the case of our subject matter, is a true benefit to our readers – and to the nonprofits we write about. If a reader wants to take an action from one of our stories – make a donation or sign up to volunteer – they can immediately.

    3. This is still a magazine. Readers have said they heard about events, people, nonprofits, etc through our magazine that they had never known about before. It’s online, yes, but it still offers readers that most important quality of magazines – discovery.

    You have to know what you’re looking for on the Web, in most cases. In a magazine, you give yourself to the content and allow it to present to you information you didn’t know about. That’s what makes magazines so fun to open month after month. It’s what I love about them.

    We’d rather do this in print, and we’ll happily accept any unsolicited blank checks in order to do so. Until then, I think we’re taking advantage of all that digital publications can be, in the form of a magazine. Please let me know what you think!

    Monica Williams

  22. I know how ‘enthusiastic’ most of you were about the first issue of Good Bad Ugly so I thought I’d let you know that the second issue has just been released.

    We still haven’t got videos and we still haven’t got any animations, but we’re working on that side of things. Any generous benefactors that want to make some donations to speed along the process would be more than welcome!

    The new issue is here: http://www.e-pages.dk/goodbadugly/2/

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