Death+Taxes magazine: Using Technology to “Rock” Your Print WorldOctober 21, 2009
In a letter to a friend, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The aforementioned death and taxes have been the idea behind “the smartest, coolest music magazine in the world: Death + Taxes.” In fact, I selected Death + Taxes as one of the “most notable launches of the year” four years ago, and I am glad to hear one of its editors Stephen Blackwell saying, “I am happy to say we’re thriving.”
After 21 issues of print only publication, the editors of Death+Taxes magazine, through what they labeled as their first interactive issue of the magazine, have added technology to the two unavoidable things in life: Death + Taxes. “For the first time, print media and new media have merged — not as a gimmick, but as a truly new experience,” write Death + Texas editors in their Nov./Dec. issue of the magazine. They explain that this new experience has been created by “combining the best of the print world (gorgeous photos and great stories) with the immediacy of the digital world (music downloads, videos, sound clips, and so on).” All what you need is a copy of the printed magazine and a phone with a camera, and, voila, you have an experience that amplifies the future of print rather than nullifies that future.
Mr. Blackwell, Death+Taxes magazine editor told me that “this is not a traditional piece of print media. It is the first magazine that utilizes mobile technology and cloud computing to deepen the editorial experience for readers.”
I asked Stephen Blackwell few questions regarding this latest innovation in amplifying the future of print:
Samir Husni: You present this issue of the magazine as its first interactive issue, why and how did you decide to do that and do you think the future of print will include interactive media to complete the experience?
Stephen Blackwell: The technology we used to produce the interactive issue, which is called Mobot, has been around for a couple of years. It’s been used in out-of-home marketing campaigns as well as advertising campaigns in a few magazines. Basically, people would take pictures of ads and get coupons in return. We started discussing its possibilities with Scion and we figured, instead of making advertising interactive, why don’t we make our editorial interactive? We ran an editorial on a great guitarist named Marnie Stern. If you take a picture of the page with your cell phone, you’ll get a video in return where you can watch her perform and experience what we’re writing about. We’re providing another editorial dimension via the print magazine. The technology is a little limited — it compresses the content and can only deliver about 30 seconds of material — but our imaginations still ran wild with it. Our partner Scion loved the idea and really made the experience a reality.
SH: How much of a lesser experience do you think DT will offer if there was no interactive link with the mobile technology?
SB: Death+Taxes came together after the social network and blog bubbles happened, so it’s in our DNA to be as innovative as possible. To us, creating an interactive issue was an irresistible idea, mainly because it was a way to get a group of artists to collaborate with each other in way they never have before through our magazine. That said, print is still the most aesthetically and mentally rewarding form of media when it comes to diving into long-form editorial content. As an experience, the depth offered by a well-written and well-designed magazine article isn’t rivaled anywhere on the web or in a quick video clip. Print is not an incomplete experience, so I don’t think delivering a product without interactivity will lessen the quality of our magazine, or any magazine for that matter. But we do embrace the opportunity to explore different dimensions with new tools that technology makes available.
SH: Where do you see innovation in print is heading and how can we use technology to amplify the future of print?
SB: Magazine titles need to use technology to leverage their brands however possible. The days of shipping your product to a newsstand in hopes of obtaining readers through a flashy cover are over. That’s not say magazine covers shouldn’t be flashy and attention-grabbing, but developing a constantly updated website, developing an iPhone application, and developing readership through social networks all fall under the hat of a magazine editor these days. At Death+Taxes, we’ve never thought about print as being in competition against online. They are both avenues for creative people to deliver different types of content, and they can have a symbiotic relationship that drives readers to and from the other. I think we’re just starting to see the start of that.
So what are you still waiting for? Head to a nearby newsstand and pick up a copy of the Nov./Dec. 2009 issue of Death+Taxes and let technology rock your print world.