Arquivo de 20 de Maio, 2009


Links for today | Links para hoje

“you need to know how to write first”

“When Aspen arrives, you don’t just read it — you hear it, hang it, feel it, fly it, project it, even sniff it.”

Such was the sales pitch in 1965 for Aspen magazine, probably the world’s first example of what creator and former Ad Age editor Phyllis Johnson called a “multimedia magazine.” Each edition arrived at its subscribers’ homes in a small box, containing anything from a miniature sculpture to a brightly colored poster to a reel of celluloid film.

In some ways, Aspen was a product of the 1960s, a time when art was drawing on popular culture and mechanical reproduction to spread its messages. In other ways, it was ahead of its time. There was nothing quite like Aspen, beyond very short-run art projects, for nearly 30 years. But today, at a particularly tough time for magazines, a number of publications are again looking beyond the standard glossy format, experimenting with different manifestations of what a magazine can be. In doing so, they are offering their readers special experiences that Web sites and other free-content digital distractions can’t match.

I knew the day was coming, but it was still a shock when the day came. Groggy-eyed in the early morning light, I slowly went down the four flights of stairs in the front of my building and looked down. Nothing. For 18 generally uninterrupted years, I had the San Francisco Chronicle delivered to me, except when neighbors stole it. Today, there was nothing to steal.

The prospect of a world without snooping reporters should be troubling even if you’re not the type who can say “Fourth Estate” with a straight face. Sure, reporters on lengthy investigative junkets produce their share of multi-part snoozers that wouldn’t see print if not for the sunk costs of the investigations— Pulitzer bait informing the reader, for example, that U-Haul trailers may flip if you turn your car too sharply. But the daily newspaper, specifically the daily newspaper with a full or near monopoly in its local market, can still afford to concentrate reporting resources with a degree of intelligence that blogs and news aggregators have not yet matched.

The internet is, in a way, the first thing to deserve the label “media”. It is a general-purpose mediating layer, one that can hold multiple types of content, created and distributed for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. Prior to the internet, the costs of reproduction and distribution created an asymmetry of access: every time someone bought a radio or a television, the number of media consumers increased by one, but the number of producers didn’t budge. The internet, on the other hand, moves the basic mechanism of reproduction and distribution into a lattice of shared infrastructure, paid for by all and accessible to all.

  • Save the Presses!,

    2. You can shed a tear right now for the iconic ransom note, with letters clipped from newspaper headlines. What’s a kidnapper to do? Print out letters at home using different fonts and point sizes?

    3. How are concerned neighbors supposed to figure out that the little old lady who lives alone is sick if the papers aren’t piling up on her doorstep? And how will burglars know which houses to target?

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Maio 2009