What will magazines look like in a hundred years’ time? A clue this week came in a little story about the planned relaunch of technology news website ZDNet UK.
The relaunch looks to take advantage of the recent popularity of social networking. "We have always let people interact with the website to a degree,” Matt Loney, ZDNet UK site director, told Journalism.co.uk, “but now what we are doing is allowing people to log in and collect all the stuff they need together; it's like a MySpace for geeks."
At first glance, it's easy to dismiss this as another organisation jumping on the MySpace bandwagon, but look a bit deeper and we may be seeing a window into the future of magazines.
To begin with, ZDNet plans to create a new post of community editor: “a hybrid marketing/editorial job - to moderate discussions, grow the community and create a dialogue with the readership."
This role is not a new idea, but it’s an indication of where the ‘Editor’ role in magazines may be heading: not managing the publication, but managing the community.
Why? Because the community has the potential to be the publication. Loney’s intention is “that the community editor will spur further debate and encourage the readership to bring its collective knowledge to the site though comments, forums and blogs."
In other words, journalists are part of the process, but as only one catalyst for discussions among many, rather than as the product itself.
Meanwhile, the previous editorial role of selecting, arranging and prioritising stories begins to pass to the reader, who decides “what they want, [and] how they get it”
Loney outlines features that “list the most-read, discussed and popular items on the site as well as highlighting readers' contributions by drawing attention to the talkback [reader's comment] of the day.”
Of course this is only one, very technology-friendly, publication dipping a toe into the possibilities of social networking, but look a century on, to a world of ubiquitous internet and virtual community, of active consumers and advertisers who expect to know everything about their market, and you can imagine magazines having transformed from an object you read, to online communities of interest you engage in and contribute to.
And you’ll be able to read it in the bath, too.
Paul Bradshaw lectures on the Journalism degree at UCE Birmingham media department. He writes a number of blogs including the online journalism blog (http://ojournalism.blogspot.com), interactive pr (http://interactivepr.blogspot.com), and web and new media (http://webandnewmedia.blogspot.com).
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