fredag 30 november 2012

Future of Magazines - invitation to final presentation & book intro

This is a two-for-the-prize-of-one blog post. First an open invitation to the Dec 7 final presentation of The Future of Magazines (basically a copy of an email I sent earlier this week), and second the introduction I wrote for the limited-edition book we are publishing about the Future of Magazines.

1) December 7 final presentation

You are invited to the final presentation in the course Future of Media. This year's theme is Future of Magazine / Magazines of the Future.

The course is given for the 10th year and I think this year's presentations might be the best and the most ambitious ever. Do note that the 12 project groups go far beyond the issue of (only) magazines and will also touch upon the future of texts, the future of reading, or journalism  (and journalists), and of the future of publishing!

Here are seven (magazine-related) trends for the next 10-20 years that we have identified and that has had an impact on students' scenarios [further developed in the book introduction below]:
- From scarcity to abundance
- Increased number of mobile devices and tablets
- Better Internet
- More digitized content and digital magazines
- The death of paper?
- Less money in print and less money for quality content
- The ascent of social media


/Daniel Pargman


The 5th year students at KTH/Media Technology will present 12 projects and 12 ideas for the Future of Magazines and Magazines of the Future on Friday December 7 (at 13.00 - 16.00 in lecture hall F1). The students have worked very hard with their projects for the major part of the autumn term and the final presentations usually have a very high entertainment value (interesting, thought-provoking ideas, well-crafted movies and other supporting materials).

For more information, see:
- A 1-minute promotion movie.
- The Future of Magazines website.
- The Future of Magazines Facebook page.

We have booked KTH's largest lecture hall (500 seats) and you are therefor welcome to bring all your colleagues and friends to the presentation We also urge you to forward this mail anyone you think might be interested!

Please join us for this event and don't forget to tell us that you are coming by signing up on this webpage.

Below is one of the 12 projects that will present their results on December 7 - and who isn't interested in the future of journalism?

2) Book introduction, "The Future of Magazines"

This book is a result of a project course, "The Future of Media", given at The Department of Media Technology and Interaction design at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden.

Media Technology

Information, communication, media and media technologies have become increasingly important in today’s society and in people’s everyday lives. Media Technology can broadly be characterized as technologies and methods for supporting communication between people across distances in time and space. The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) has offered a Master of Science in Media Technology since 1999.

Future of media

In the project course “Future of Media”, advanced graduate students in media technology and media management explore the relationship between technology, economy and social factors in processes of technological innovation and development. The course load corresponds to a third of a semester and runs throughout the autumn semester.

This year, 2012, the course is given for the 10th time and for the second time in English, with international students participating. A special effort has now been made to document and make the results of the course available on the Internet. These results include this book “The future of Magazines”, a webpage, as well as concrete practical “design representations” such as for examples movies and prototypes that have been created by different project groups within the course. The aim is to make the results of not just this, but also of successive courses available on the Internet at <>.

This year’s theme – The Future of Magazines

Each year, the course treats a different theme. Past themes in the course have for example included The Future of TV, The Future of Books, The Future of Music, The Future or Radio and The Future of Computer Games. This year’s task has been to analyze, reflect upon, review, refine and further develop The Future of Magazines and Magazines of the Future from a media technology perspective.

The Future of Magazines! What could be more exciting? Well, some students were initially hesitant or skeptical about this year’s theme and asked whether (paper) magazines do have a future? If magazines are defined as (only) paper products with glossy covers, it might very well be the case that “magazines” don’t have a future some decades on. Reading the initial essays about these particular students’ relationships to magazines, you might be excused to think so. While young people might read more text than ever, a minor part of that text is packaged and delivered on glossy paper – rather than read on a computer, a tablet or a smartphone screen. For this course, we have however chosen to widen the concept of “magazines” to potentially encompass all texts in-between news stories (in the daily newspaper) and book-length texts. What is the future not only of magazines, but of texts, of reading, or journalists and of magazine publishers? No less than 12 groups of students have explored 12 different futures for magazines during the autumn of 2012. The students presented their suggestions and the results of their projects on December 7, 2012, but the results are also available here, in this book, as well as on the web.

A framework that all project groups have had to relate to is that the course aims for a future sometime during the next 10-20 year, i.e. sometime between 2022 and 2032. All projects have also had to limit themselves to, or at least orient themselves towards a Swedish (western, relatively affluent) context. The proposed futures might, but do not have to assume large technological breakthroughs. Some technologies and ideas that are already around today (or that are being explored in labs at this very moment), might take a decade or more to spread and take hold among a larger proportion of the population. The challenge might not always be to invent purely technological futures, but to imagine patterns of usage and new business models emerging when current (or future) patterns of usage among small groups of early adopters spread to larger groups in our society. Despite widely different ideas and scenarios, there are still a number of trends that all project groups position themselves in relation to.

Magazine trends

Below are seven trends that we have identified in the course and that are of importance for The Future of Magazines and Magazines of the Future. Each trend is of importance to at least a few, and sometimes several project groups.

From scarcity to abundance 
We are in the midst of a shift from information scarcity to information abundance. But what to us today seems like an abundance of information will seem like scarcity when people look back on our age 10-20 years into the future. A decade or two from now anyone can easily become a ”journalist” or a ”publisher” – and many will! Some of the texts written will be of very high quality, rivaling the writing of professional journalists, but most will be of (very) limited interest or just plain bad. It will become increasingly difficult to find quality content in a deluge of texts and pictures, but it’s an open question as to whether people will be willing to either pay for quality content or “pay” in terms of time spent sifting though immense amounts of data and/or setting up personal strategies for finding what constitutes quality content to you (as well as to invest in a constant upkeep of said strategies).

Increased number of mo- bile devices and tablets 
There will be an increased number of mobile devices around in the future – the descendants of today’s smartphones. These devices as well as the tablets of the future will be smaller, thinner, lighter, more powerful and less expensive than they are today, leading to (even) more people using these devices more. Today only 7% of the population in Sweden owns a tablet. According to a forecast by IDC, there were 70 million tablets on the market worldwide last year (2011) and that number will more than triple in just five years. Many more people will own tablets 10 or 20 years from now. In fact everybody living in an affluent country will own (at least one) tablet, much like “everybody” owns a mobile phone (or a smartphone) today.

Better Internet
These mobile devices and tablets will be a lot more versatile and useful in the future, not the least due to an upgraded infrastructure which will offer better performance of an always-available wireless high-bandwidth Internet. According to mobile traffic forecasts (2010), the amount of traffic will increase by a factor of 33 between 2010-2020 and the broadband network of 2020 will be ultra-high speed and ubiquitous.

More digitized content and digital magazines 
With more and better mobile devices and tablets, and with a better, faster Internet, more content will be digitized and more people will read texts on screens (mobile devices and tablets). This will lead to a much larger market for digital magazines and an explosion of digital magazine titles. Access to digital magazines will become much easier and more widespread as more people will shift or extend their reading to magazines in digital formats.

The death of paper?
Whether the trends outlined above together with other changes (for example in user habits and business logic) will lead to the death of paper (magazines) is something that different groups disagree on. Some groups think that the trends above will lead to the death of paper magazines, while other groups think that paper magazines are going to stay with us for decades to come. Some groups extrapolate from current trends and arrive at the conclusion that paper magazines (and newspapers) will not be around 10-20 years into the future, or that they perhaps will be around, but will be marginal and represent totally different functions than then-dominant mainstream digital magazines. In defense of paper magazines, paper does however have several characteristics that are hard or impossible for digital devices and tablets to replace; texture, the sound of rustling paper and all other aspects of reading that is coupled to sensual experiences (touch, smell and even taste!). Paper magazines are furthermore inexpensive to manufacture and buy, foldable and non-fragile (can be shared, left behind on the train, brought to the beach etc.). Lastly, reading a magazine on paper is not just a matter of acquiring specific information (perhaps better solved by searching on the Internet), but can also have a ritual dimension, i.e. intimately be connected to a daily or weekly habit of curling up in a favorite armchair and relaxing with a glass of wine and the latest issue of a favorite magazine.

Another option, beyond questions of paper-vs-digital formats, is the combination of paper and digital magazines, a solution that is explored by several groups in this book.

Less money in print and less money for quality content 
Due to pressures from many different directions (the rise of digital platforms, changing user habits, ample user- generated content available for free on the Internet), there will be less money in print products in the future. This will lead (and has already led to) the financial decline of traditional newspapers. While all newspapers have a web presence, the move from paper to the web has also (this far) meant exchanging dollars for dimes in terms of income from advertising. People have up until now been notoriously stingy when it comes to paying for online content.

While magazines have held up better than newspaper in terms of keeping up readership and circulation numbers, it is an open question whether current trends (declining revenue and declining circulation) in the newspaper business will be replicated for magazines. Magazine publishers might come to feel an increased pressure to experiment with, and to find new business models to counter decreased revenues from traditional sources.

With less money in print, it is likely that there will also be less money for the production of quality content – including less money for journalist’s salaries. A possible development is thus fewer journalists and/or journalists who are paid less for their services. It might however be the case that this trend will be countered by another trend: an increase in the sheer mass of information might mean that readers are prepared to pay a premium for quality content or for quality editorial services.

Ascent of social media
Social media will continue to increase both in volume as well as in importance during the coming decades. Breaking news will quickly be spread faster by people who were there and through social media channels rather than by professional journalists and through traditional (print) media channels. It will on the other hand be more difficult to find information (rather then rumors, unverified information or disinformation) and more difficult to know which sources to trust. Perhaps social media services will (further) decrease readers’ willingness to buy magazines that are geared towards specific target groups, rather than reading several overlapping and/or complementary articles about a specific subject from different sources?

Work process

During an intense six-week long start-up phase from the end of August 2012 to the beginning of October, the whole class read selected literature about magazines, worked with magazine-related issues in seminars, and were visited by around 20 guest lecturers from industry and academia. These guests had a variety of backgrounds and presented a wide variety of perspectives, over-all providing us with a well-rounded picture of the history of magazines, the present situation of magazines and the magazine market, as well as some trends and possible future developments.

At the end of the start-up phase, project groups were formed around course participants’ emerging interests, and 12 project groups were formed. During the second half of the autumn semester, these groups have independently explored different aspects of this year’s theme.

The result of each group’s effort is a proposal/scenario pertaining to the future of magazines. The results are presented as chapters in this book, as well as through a live presentation that was held on Dec 7 2012 in front of an audience of hundreds of persons, consisting of younger students as well as teachers, guest lecturers, alumni, and representatives from the publishing industry. Documentation can be found at < archive>.

On the texts in this book
The 12 resulting scenarios that follow do not aim for a purely academic form (such as in a report or an academic article), but rather for something in-between an academic and a popular text. These texts are meant to inform, entertain and perhaps dazzle (like a popular text), but they are also backed up by relevant literature as well as by own inquiries and original research.

Each text will clearly outline who the stakeholders (end users/target groups) of said tools and services are, and the typical situations where these stakeholders benefit from the proposed scenarios (i.e. “solutions” to problems currently being experienced). Finally, the texts will also point out important decisions and the reasons behind decisions that have been made during the design process.


Daniel Pargman (Assistant Professor in Media Technology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and head teacher for the course “DM2571 Future of Media”)
Leif Handberg (assistant teacher)

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