Would you like some video with that magazine?

With circulation for print media outlets plummeting along with ad revenues, ideas abound on how to “save” the industry.

  • Charge for content
  • Go hyperlocal
  • Cut staff
  • Blog more
  • Pretend you “get” Twitter

Here’s the latest idea: replace ink with pixels.

This week Entertainment Weekly is debuting a new chip that embeds video into the a page of the print edition. It’s an ad for CBS’ new fall lineup, with around 40 minutes of video clips on upcoming shows, kicked off with a comical intro from the stars of The Big Bang Theory. Right now the cost of the chip is keeping the ad only running in major markets, but the technology is widely available and could very well pop up in other magazines in the near future.

The instant association (well, at least for Harry Potter fans) is the moving pictures of the fictional Daily Prophet, a seemingly magical version of the newspaper that also mirrors what the movie Minority Report envisioned as the future of “print” journalism.

We’re not that far off from such a possibility, with innovations rapidly developing with e-ink that can transpose digital images onto screens that have the size and flexibility of paper. If you’re a fan of Esquire Magazine, you’re probably already familiar with this technology, as that publication used e-ink for the cover of its 75th anniversary issue last year.

All these developments have a “wow” factor at first and attract immediate attention. But beyond the novelty, whether video in print succeeds depends in large part on how closely it will mirror the website experience. In the case of a video chip touting CBS’s shows, the end result is a low-quality version of something that can be just as easily accessed at a number of web sites. Why watch standard video in a magazine when we all have multiple options for high quality video at our fingertips.

The e-ink developments have more long-term potential in that they provide multimedia content while maintaining the thin, foldable format that is the one advantage print media now has going for it over websites. Then again, as smart phones become more advanced and wi-fi networks ubiquitous, online multimedia is almost as portable as a rolled up magazine. We may have to change our entire definition of “print,” because there will soon be no reason to consume news and entertainment through old fashioned ink on paper. But if we can go digital with a material that’s just as easy to stuff into your carry-on bag, perhaps what we know as “print” can live on in the age of interactive media.

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    • steveearley
    • September 15th, 2009

    Print doesn’t die; it’s reborn. I like the way you think. In a comment on Alex T.’s blog, I made a point similar to yours about print always being able to do certain things better than digital and the exciting prospect of being able to replicate these characteristics on e-paper. Embedding videos in a print-like format, however, presents a whole new design challenge.

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