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Magazine Covers In The Internet Age

January 29th, 2015 by

How has the rise of the online paper changed the cover page? Jessica Furseth investigates…

Break the internet, Kim Kardashian” – we’ve all seen this infamous cover of ‘Paper Magazine’ by now (and if not, that image search is NSFW). At first this may seem like an odd tagline for a print publication (a hint at how this image was basically guaranteed to go viral) when the magazine in question is a niche print publication in New York?

But of course, the tagline is brilliant. It’s a knowing nod to how we share things now and how the internet buzz carries the word of the magazine far wider than the print publication ever could on its own. As the internet is becoming the main tool for reading magazines and newspapers, there’s no reason why print publications can’t use this fact to attract readers. Kardashian hasn’t broken the internet yet, but she came close: pretty much everyone who’s seen it has had an opinion on that cover, creating a storm of tweets, Facebook posts, comment pieces, numerous parodies, plus an adorably serious inquiry by the BBC into whether it’s actually possible to break the internet. With every mention, ‘Paper Magazine’ gets another pair of eyes on their cover:

While publishing an oiled-up Kim Kardashian on the cover is an extreme move, the need to attract attention on the internet has spurred plenty of magazines to get creative with their covers. ‘BusinessWeek’ has received praise for its innovative take of late, with covers featuring quirky fonts, playful images and animated GIF-versions for those viewing the covers online. “I think it’s a great way to let our readers in on the dialogue, and to show that we actually have a lot of fun making the magazine every week,” ‘BusinessWeek’ creative director Robert Vargas told ‘Gizmodo’:

Newspapers’ online homepages used to resemble the physical front pages in the early days of the internet, but the rise of social media has meant that people are increasingly coming to online content from other sources. For example, most visitors to ‘The New York Times’ would traditionally arrive via the homepage, ‘FastCompany’ reported earlier this year, but lately this number has dropped to one-third, as people go straight to articles via social media. This opens the door to new ideas of what a homepage can be now that it no longer exists solely to promote the maximum number of articles to visitors. ‘Quartz’, and the newly redesigned ‘The Awl’, are examples of how the homepage could become something more akin to traditional magazine covers: cleaner, sleeker, and more focused on a central showpiece story:

“It didn’t make sense for us to devote resources to the homepage: design resources, development resources, or editor resources to maintain it,” Kevin Delaney, editor-in-chief at ‘Quartz’, told ‘FastCompany’. “But there’s an interesting question we’re thinking about a lot: Can a homepage do a job other than being an index of headlines? The answer to that question will determine how the ‘Quartz’ homepage evolves from here.”

A more unusual web-print hybrid style is currently being used on the ‘Daily Mail’ homepage: a big splash headline and picture on top akin to what you’d normally see on a printed tabloid, followed by a long scroll of numerous articles. Seeing what is the ‘top story’ on the homepage is still symbolically significant to readers, much in the same way that physical front pages are an indicator of which stories are most important that day. This means pictures of the physical cover will often be shared on social media, even though people end up reading the story on the web.

Of course, the ‘Daily Mail’ knows full well that something doesn’t have to be important to make the front page and that can result in even more social media shares. “Is there no one left in Britain who can make a sandwich?” blared the tabloid the other week in an attempt to start a conversation about immigration. But instead, the world of social media did what it does best: a meme was born, as people made funny sandwiches and posted them with hashtags such as #DailyMailSandwich and #BlameSociety. Chances are, this sort of attention was a positive for the Mail, but at least it gave people who were fed up with its inflammatory agenda a chance to get a dig in. The Daily Mail doesn’t have an online front page, opting instead for a lengthy list style where pieces which are popular or chosen as important by editors will appear at the top.

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