The Best Formats Are Invisible

MUD day 18:

It’s a new dawn and I’ve awakened with my usual optimism and generosity of spirit restored. Today I see things a bit differently. Magazines aren’t dying, they’re simply transmigrating.

You see, the soul of a magazine is not to be found in its format. LIke every other kind of communication, a magazine is expression, transported in a vehicle. If you pay undue attention to the vehicle, the format, you’ll miss the important thing being expressed.

When new-media thinkers talk about transparency, they’re usually thinking about ethics. We need to think of it in terms of expression and formats as well. The point of new media is immediacy, direct connection, and that works best when the format recedes into the background of your attention and becomes virtually invisible. This is one reason for Twitter’s success. The pared-down simplicity of its vehicle doesn’t get in the way; you focus on the words, the expression, not the technology or format.

That highlights the problems with digital magazine formats so far. When you have to spend too much of your time clicking and zooming, you become too conscious of the medium, and lose sight of the message.

Eventually, expression will have its way. The various urges to communicate that constitute what we think of as the magazine will find the transparency that suits them best.