Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cover Up

One fundamental difference between print and online periodicals: the concept of a front page. Magazine covers have no digital counterpart: the homepage of a magazine's website contains images, links, lists, ads, all competing for your attention. But a magazine on a newsstand makes one singular bold effort to magnetize:

99% of the time I decide what magazine to buy based on its cover. Do I like the featured celebrity? Do the headlines intrigue me? Sometimes I'll pull it off the shelf and flip through it, but more often than not my decision is made based on that initial visual contact. Much thought and muscle go into the design of an issue cover; and when the market receives it successfully the payoff is huge. No one will forget the Rolling Stone cover of Yoko and John:

or the LIFE moon landing chronicle:

Striking cover images can live in infamy unlike the nebulous homepage of a magazine's website, constantly shifting and changing and being updated and scrolled through and commented on and retweeted (I still don't know what that means). The American Society of Magazine Editors put together a "10 years in 2 minutes with 92 covers" video re-telling of the past decade.

With the migration of journalism from print to online, I consider the loss of magazine covers a considerable one. Editorial content is the heft of a publication's value, yes, but how memorable is a list of links accompanied by thumbnails on an iPhone or Kindle? Even print pubs are taking a cue from their digital cousins and offering readers cover customization: Wallpaper* Magazine is hawking the chance to "play art director for the day" and Graphic Arts Monthly offered five different covers for its January issue based on a survey of its 70,000 subscribers, each reader receiving the copy whose cover story pertained most specifically to them. The magazine industry has had flames licking at its edges for some time now- evidenced by Out of Print titles and magazine graveyards, plus magazine aggregate sites like Maggwire. But I'm fighting the trend tooth and nail- editors, and your design teams, you can still have my dollars!

1 comment:

  1. Great post...I really enjoyed the pictures, too.