The Problem with The Magazine
Marco Arment’s ‘The Magazine’ is an ambitious foray into digital publishing, full of insightful, well written and entertaining writing, and I respect it greatly1. But there are fundamental problems which need addressing, especially with The Loop’s magazine release today.
Is there such thing as ‘too niche’?
The Magazine has never been a technology magazine, and it never will be. It’s a publication aimed at technology enthusiasts but from day one has covered niche topics and personal stories. In fact, the editors ask for pieces to be written as a bildungsroman2, so that an insightful story can be developed. However this leads to a worry of mine: articles are too ‘out there’, too niche, and have recently failed to grab my wandering attention. When I get into an article, I always enjoy it, even if it is about something I never would usually read about, but these niche topics have to compete with the entirety of the web, which happens to sit right alongside it on the iPad. They just aren’t enticing, and there are other pieces I’d rather read, and topics I’d prefer to study.
The Magazine is in danger of having readers deciding they simply do not care, and want to read something else more specific to their interests. There really needs to be a leash which writers should be tied down to. Albeit an unusually long leash, allowing them to explore new and innovative topics, but one which will hold them back from alienating even the most avid readers.
Beautiful, but easily copied
Few can criticize The Magazine’s look and feel. It’s sleek, tidy, and extremely readable. It’s simplicity, however, is as much of an issue as it is an attraction. When ‘The Loop’ magazine was released, there were instant complaints that it looked just too much like The Magazine, and it does – I was concerned at first glance. But this isn’t Jim Dalrymple and Peter Cohen’s fault. The Magazine’s design has no real stand out design feature3 which sets it apart from other publications looking to take their place within someone’s Newsstand. If a designer sets out to create a digital magazine, with a sliding side panel holding a list of articles, they’d come up with something very similar to The Magazine. It’s so easy to copy, and I don’t think we should be criticizing The Loop for being to similar as by trying to differentiate themselves, it’s very possible they would have produced something inferior.
Should I read?
Reading The Magazine is an education. The diversity, while worrying, is fascinating. I doubt many people will be able to read all the published pieces in their busy lifestyles4, and I don’t blame them. The Magazine is just settling, with recurring writers and a growing readership, but I worry that it’s going to become lost in many new digital magazines which take the simple and copyable design, and have a narrower, but more accessible portfolio of writing.
- I also love the way it is run, how much they pay, the strict editorial process, it seems to work really well, and assures consistently high quality across articles ↩
- A bildungsroman is a ‘coming of age’ novel. Notable literary examples are To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Kite Runner. ↩
- Except the hamburger, of course. (Hold down the menu icon in the top left) ↩
- I can’t, and I’m not that busy. I have a huge backlog from months ago, and really need to catch up ↩