I have been a magazine junky all my life. There is something about the way magazines can package random collections of events, facts and opinions into a story that can be more compelling than any other medium. This was the dominant medium of my youth; magazines were and are more faceted and languorous, more personal and conversational than the alternatives available. While everyone was discussing Dallas and JR at school, I'd be pouring over my copy of the Face.
In 1998, I was part of a team at the crest of a wave that took advantage of the DTP revolution to create Tank - one of the early examples of "boutique publishing".
Like the rest of print, magazines have been besieged by online. Most have watched the booming cyber-publishing and self-publishing industries with a mixture of disbelief, terror and distain. Online versions of magazines rarely aspire to the same level of quality as their paper counterparts. There is no mystery to this; it takes glossy monthlies at least a hundred people to deliver the edition, while the digital team can be counted on the extremities of one hand. The digital version for most magazines is the equivalent of the fashion cupboard, where the unpaid interns languish and the newbies are supposed to cut their teeth.
Trumpeted digital versions of magazines aren't any better than a facsimile of their material edition but in PDF format, unreadable on mobile devices and costing the same as the paper version. Although praised as the Holy Grail by publishers, the majority are rip-offs. By pinning their hopes on these half-hearted versions that do not embrace the new medium, publishers are sadly mistaking magazine lovers for idiots.
On Saturday, Tank launches a fashion supplement to be distributed with copies of Tank magazine and with the Guardian newspaper within Greater London that might just change all that. I believe that some day ALL magazines will be like it.
O by Tank is an 80-page print magazine that is animated with over 100 short film clips. In other words it's a pop up book for grownups that love fashion. It works with a free app that scans the pages using any iPhone, iPad or Android device, delivering video illustrations that expand on the print content using specially made software, and is edited by the influential Caroline Issa.
It has a simple and routine remit: to inform and inspire the style decisions of men and women in the season to come. Here the similarity to the myriad of rags that fall out of your weekend paper ends. Every page features up to half a dozen lovingly created short films, from a few seconds to a few minutes long. Visual finger food. Our focus groups became absorbed readers who scanned the pages, darting backwards and forwards, watching their favorite content again and again. In my 15-year career in print, rarely have I seen such levels of absorption and engagement. This is no flick and bin.
For luxury fashion brands caught between their traditional and preferred mode of communication; the exquisitely produced ads shot by reassuringly expensive photographers, and their urgent need to be creating online content of indeterminate nature and value, this magazine provides the missing link. A hybrid solution that allows existing adverts to become the gateway to a further world of digital content that leapfrogs the desktop and goes straight onto mobile. This is where digital content needs to set its sights.