Time's Manhattan Project Will Explode Like the Atomic Bomb It Is

TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld got a sneak peek at Time Inc's "Manhattan Project", a digital magazine designed to run on tablet computers, including the fabled Apple tablet. And it's going to rock because that's exactly what people crave for: INTERACTIVE MAGAZINES!!!

People from the 80s. All the five who survived wearing their hair spray and shoulder pads and striped shirts and silk undapants. You know, the kind that get inside your buttcrack and itch, which is precisely the sensation I get from Schonfeld's description of Time Inc's project:

The demo was shown on an HP table computer with a touchscreen [...] The cover takes up the full screen and you tap it to show a table of contents with thumbnails of the actual layout, which you can rearrange to read in any order you like. To flip through the pages you swipe with two fingers, and you can also tap to get a navigational timeline at the bottom. There is also a navigation wheel which lets you share stories via email, Facebook, or Twitter, favorite a story, go to related videos or photos interviews, other articles, or stats such as live scores.

Holy fuck! Live scores! Score for you, Time Inc! And share stories via email and Facebook and Twitter. Please keep on talking, because you are getting me wet. But please, satisfy my curiosity before I get on my knees and bow down before your genius: How is this different from a web page? Other than costing ten times as much to produce, that is.

Never mind, I will tell you how: It's a lot worse. It's just pasting an old medium into a new one, painting the resulting clusterfuck with two layers of thick varnish. This effort to cling to the past may look pretty, but no matter how much eye candy Time Inc. throws at this, it would still feel stale and dead.

I'm sorry, Time Inc. and Condé Nast and Murdochs of the world, but magazines are not dying because they are printed on paper. They are going under because many other factors. Here are some of them: Reduced attention spans, reader's demand for instant satisfaction, and a general change in visual culture and codes that have rendered the page concept obsolete in favor of more anarchic, time-organized information structures, as well as non-linear ones.

So get over this phase, this desperation of yours to keep the old into the new. That's not how innovation happens. Don't try to translate pages into a tablet format by just adding multitouch, animation, and Twitter links. Instead, think about how the new medium can deliver content in a truly different way, rather than just putting pages together into glorified PDFs. If you can live up to the promise some people believe in, you may succeed. But until you really nail it down, you'll keep reducing staffs and closing publications, no matter how many Apple Tablets are sold. [TechCrunch]