As someone who makes a serviceable if paltry living out of writing for various magazines, news that Google plan to get into publishing would seem on the surface to be cause for celebration.
Ah… but is it? IS IT? The answer is, probably not yet. Perhaps. Oh, let’s stop whipping the perimeter of that Bonsai eh? No one really has a clue what they’re up to.
What we do know for definite is that the great Google, masters of the Internet, owners of your first born’s first born, have filed a patent for a system that enables users to create custom print magazines filled with content of their choice and, crucially, targeted advertising.
It’s an interesting concept, disassembling the magazine format and tailoring it to user choice. From Google’s point of view, it’s another medium to sell advertising into – and it’s our guess that’s why they’re involved.
Predictably, some SEO bloggers have gotten into quite a lather about this, going all gooey and space age about the possibility of future magazines you can make yourself. You can have the review section of Empire without the tediously subjective top ten lists. Your DIY newspaper might be full of sport results and lacking in Britney coverage. So far, so libertarian.
Call me old fashioned. Call me a brown teapot or a penny farthing – but I’m not sure that’s such a super idea. I love me some magazines – and one of the things I love most about them is discovering the stuff I didn’t know I wanted to know. The new band interview that made me go out and buy the CD, the David Shrigley cartoon that lead me down his gravity well of madness or the Jon Ronson feature about religious extremists that I never would have Googled.
If we become editors of our own magazines, then who will discover this stuff for us? Is that our job now? Because, cha, that’s one of the reasons I buy magazines – so I don’t have to go looking for things I just might like.
Internet browsing is one (rhizomic, chaotic, organic, spontaneous) experience, reading magazines is another (finite, authoritative, linear, planned). I turn to magazines to be mollycoddled and comforted, stimulated and enlightened. I turn to the Internet for deep background and reference, chance and happenstance.
Of course, there’s another thing that concerns me – and that’s my job. But that’s a matter whose complexity is better suited for another entry…