News & Views

Searching for a little insight on the current magazine industry? Look no further. Through interviews, profiles and a few observations, you'll get my latest analysis on our ever-changing magazine world.

The Marriage of Digital and Print

So can ink on paper and pixels on a screen live happily ever after. Well, here is an example of a publication that is shows that when pixels on the screen marry the ink on paper, the result will be the creation of a community that interacts with each other and that have more connectivity and usefulness second to none.

To take from the words of its founders: There are magazines, and then there are magazines and then there's JPG.

And they couldn't be more right. JPG took the mold of an industry model and completely smashed it, proving that technology is not the enemy to print as all the prophets of doom and gloom preach.

Recently I spoke with founder and Editor/Publisher Derek Powazek, we talked about the short history of this unique title and how it all came to newsstands across the country.

Since his beginnings at HotWired in late 1995, Derek has been working on the web as everything from creative director to art director to designer and consultant. His handiwork can be seen at web addresses for Nike and Blogger and proudly says he has been on the web "since there was one."

Before JPG's inception, Derek and his wife Heather felt that the magazine industry viewed the web as an ugly stepchild. What Derek soon discovered was that where the web can be brilliant at growing communities and connecting people, it can be bad for serendipity and archiving. Somehow print is social in a different way than the community on the web. It's like a gift. If you give someone a magazine, it's like giving them a present, but if you email someone a link to a website, its just an email. You have to use both for their strengths.

And understanding those strengths is just what gave birth to JPG.

JPG was started completely online in 2005 as a community of bloggers and photographers. The aim of the JPG website was to give the necessary tools to its online community to gather information for a strictly online title. It was created to be a healthy virtual community with people submitting stories and photos.

The community was the key component of JPG and was integral to its success. The idea was that 80 percent of content would come from the online community of storytellers and 20 percent would be created by a small editorial staff.

Derek, with his newly recruited publisher Paul Cloutier, wanted the community to really help in the creation of a product. While the community supplied ample material, the editorial job was then to take what was received, find the common voice of it and sculpt JPG, issue by issue, around the voice of the online community.

Each month the quality art received by JPG is a testament to the feeling behind the creation of the title. The platform for honoring great work that could be found didn't seem fairly represented by the current media. Small competitions in large magazines with few pictures didn't full encapsulate the body of photography that was worthy of being showcased on a page.

The web provided multiple tools such as Flickr, GMail and to help Derek and the crew at JPG create the product they had in mind and after 6 issues, there was no way to ignore the huge community that had rallied around the new publication. However, this group did have two complaints: 1) individuals really wanted to subscribe to a print version, and 2) paying $20 for a 60 page custom made magazine was too hefty of a price.

So the only reasonable explanation was to put to action what Derek had discovered at the outset: the web and print have viable and useful strengths that should work together. This brought about the first newsstand issue of JPG in late 2006. Community members still submit work via the web and still have the chance to see their work chosen as a part of the bimonthly collection, but now they also have the option of finding a true, perfect bound copy of their work on the local newsstand.

Derek and Heather Powazek and Paul Cloutier took a hard look at what was created digitally and charted a new plan of action to what they felt should happen with JPG. Combining the strengths of print and the web they were able to make an individual's personal computer a medium by which to communicate. For JPG the web was not the end point that so many magazines see it as today, instead it truly was the vehicle by which to create a truly remarkable product. And in issue nine of JPG that remarkable product was created by using "7,337 photos submitted by 4,475 people" and by "610,265 votes cast by 13,199 people in 117 countries."

The "wisdom of the crowds" and the "creativity of the editors" combined may chart the future of the debate on how one's laptop or desktop computer can become an excellent tool or providing information for the masses written by the masses and edited and designed by the trained journalist, experts, and professionals just as is the case of JPG.   Now I can easily say, I have seen the future, and the future is NOW.

JPG - First Issue

JPG - Newsstand Issues


April 20, 2006


© 2008 Samir Husni, Ph.D. - Mr. Magazine™