If you think it was confusing to read, let me tell you how confusing it was to produce. First, there were the debates over what might constitute a nonlinear design for a print magazine. As Media art director Jonathan McEwan pointed out, magazines have always been nonlinear: People read the portions they want, when they want, and where they want. With that in mind, we asked Jonathan to design a layout that would at least connote a sense of nonlinear design. Judging from some of the outcry, we succeeded -- possibly too well. But the design of our print edition was just the beginning. From the start of this project, we knew we wanted some of the content to exist in true nonlinear form on other platforms.
Being Web publishers, it would have been easy for MediaPost to simply render the content of Media online. In fact, we already do that each month. No, we had to do something far more nonlinear. The answer hit us while we were brainstorming with Dave Ferguson and Mike Bloxham from Ball State University's Center for Media Design, who told us about a new media delivery system that displays media content online the same way our brains might order it. Aptly named TheBrain, the system inspired us to make the medium the message and actually do a story about new media delivery systems. We then used TheBrain's platform to provide another way of reading the March issue of Media.
The result was truly nonlinear. When you land on MediaBrain (www.thebrain.com/nonlinear/), you end up in a place that's like a nonlinear version of a nonlinear version of Media magazine. For one thing, it isn't strictly Media magazine; it links and branches off to other content depending on where your brain opts to take you. Some of it is other MediaPost information or simply links to things we are talking about within the magazine. My favorite moment was seeing the mirror typography Jonathan used for Chris Schroeder's "Gestalt" column rendered online. I could imagine people holding up their laptops, as I did, in front of a mirror to read it.
Frankly, I'm still playing with it, and haven't made up my mind -- er, brain -- whether it's a platform for me. Check it out and judge for yourself.
The thing we found most logistically challenging was page 51, the one that didn't actually exist in the print edition, but on the corner of 49th Street and Seventh Avenue in Times Square, courtesy of Clear Channel Communications (see page 15). The page, which featured Media's 2006 Person of the Year, Steve Jobs, appeared only at this one outdoor location for a few days in early March. The process taught us a lot about the steps involved in using outdoor media.
Which, by the way, is the focus of this month's issue. After all, out-of-home, placed-based, and public media may be the ultimate nonlinear media.