Why Technology is Digital Media’s Mystery Box
In 2007, legendary director and screenwriter J.J. Abrams (creator of LOST and director of the 2009 Star Trek movie, among many other incredibly addictive storylines) gave a TED Talk in which he explored how advances in technology have suddenly let filmmakers do incredible things with storytelling. A man getting sucked into the engine of a jet? Now possible! An extensive recreation of Star Wars’ Tatooine? Also possible! Today, the things we can do on TV and in movies is limited only by our imagination; and we’re at the same point with digital publishing today.
Creativity in publishing is important but what’s the driving force behind this? Is it the content? The way pages are laid out? The ad formats? The reality is that all of these boil down to one thing: technology. Unquestionably, in whatever field you’re in, technology is both driving and enabling creativity.
Let me paint a picture. It wasn’t that long ago when creativity was all about pens, pencils, papers and then came the 80s where we saw a technological revolution with CAD (computer-aided design) and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing). This was a crucial point of inflection where you could suddenly design on a screen. From then onwards, creativity, technology and design have always gone hand in hand.
Back in the day, publishing meant laying out editorial content on physical pages and slotting ads into the relevant position. You would then have to print the film in time for the courier bike arriving to collect and make the print run in time for wide distribution the next day.
In the 90s desktop publishing and processing really started to kick in. This meant that pretty much anyone could publish – if you had a computer and the right software package, you could create a page, insert your own text and pictures; you could publish. That’s when the real deal-breaker came – an ISDN line connecting typesetters to the printers. All you had to do was hit a button and the fibre optic pipes would carry the data, albeit a very small stream, to transfer electronically in three hours. Now of course, this would take just seconds to do, completely changing publishing.
Incredible creativity in digital media is being unlocked by technology
Fast forward 15 years and we have the opportunity to publish in real-time, on any device, instantaneously across any platform. We may even incorporate brand messages sometimes. You can publish a 140-character message on Twitter and hit 10 million people in one shot. Of course, we still take a lot of inspiration from printed magazines, but it’s dramatically easier to invent new features, to give editors a brand new authoring environment.
The ability to create beautiful, scalable online media experiences has always been limited by existing, cobbled-together systems. Technology is there to support the specific needs of the modern digital magazine. Having a scalable publishing platform in place allows companies to focus on their content, their readers and their business instead of their technology, to create beautiful new experiences.
Take Tempest for example, for editors it makes their lives a whole lot easier because they have the tools to create rich interactive stories. For readers it’s cleaner and less cluttered – the content is front and centre and the interface gets out of the way. And for brands, their messaging has the opportunity to be integrated into this environment in novel and beautiful ways.
The crux of this is about creating an enhanced user experience, which is suited to the time we live in. Forget page views and focus on engagement – we want to create media for humans. Just look at some of these examples – XoVain, ReadWrite and Lifetimemoms. Instantly you can see high levels of integration, seamless design dramatically changing the way media is created and consumed.
The intersection of technology and publishing is what’s driving us forward. The media companies of the future are based upon the foundation of technology and having your own tech stack means you can innovate faster and keep making things better. While good, strong editorial is the lowest common denominator in any publishing house, technology is powering modern-day publishing and that’s how digital media experiences are being reinvented.
By Lawrence Horne, UK Director at Say Media.