As an old-fashioned girl who grew up in the last century reading shiny, not virtual pages, I don't think the Internet can ever fully replace magazines. Still, I've been discovering how the Web can enrich the print experience with those online virtues of community, interactivity, and immediacy.
Case in point: Domino's site, which I've been reading as a supplement to my passion for the pub's print version (expressed in last year's review). A graphic-oriented shelter book majoring in gorgeous photos and captions, Domino is particularly well-suited to the Web. And the pub's status as a shopping mag also calls out for the click-to-buy immediacy of the Web.
So how does Dominomag.com stack up?
Getting blogged down: Blogs are a big part of the original content here, with six bloggers writing in that often-breathless, free-associating style of someone with a daily deadline and no help from a copy editor. The ideas and prose can vary wildly -- from hey-that's-cool tidbits (like Nick Olsen's mention of a scratching post inspired by architect Frank Gehry, for the design-sophisticate kitty) to those that read as if the writers are straining for something, anything to write about (a post on dark chocolate Altoids?).
Those bloggers who have a specific theme -- rather than just, "let me tell you about that gorgeous wastebasket I saw the other day" -- do the best job. Kudos to Brooke Williams for The Renovator's Diary and my favorite, the blogger known as Germinatrix (actually Ivette Soler). She writes beautifully about gardening, adding some heart and soul to what can seem the bloodlessly acquisitive world of home design. I loved her story about finding a dead robin and discovering that he may have died from alcohol intoxication.
Giving-away-the-store ratio: If you're a subscriber to a print pub, don't you get annoyed when every single article is also available online? Me too. Only about a third of the features from Domino's online table of contents are clickable -- which I think would help draw Web surfers back to the newsstand to get the actual issue.
Newfangled Technology: So far, the Domino site hasn't done much with videos or podcasts, which could be tools to promote brand loyalty: "You can see us (editors, decorators) moving around! You can hear us!" A talented videographer is obviously on hand, though; the most current video on the site brings to life rooms from the charitable Domino Design Project more vividly than on the printed page.
Community: The forums set aside for reader talk aren't exactly a hotbed of community. As one participant puts it, people seem to log on only when they have a design question they want answered -- although I did see a few names again and again. I registered so I could post my own query -- "Repairing a peeling mirror?" But I guess I haven't gotten the appealing-headline shtick down yet. After several days, there's still not a single reply. My next query will be called "Sexy chocolate mirrors!"
Synergy between the virtual and real page: A few stories in the June/ July issue get fleshed out with more detail on the site -- a feature cross-promoted inside the mag. I was intrigued by the print version's "The Evening Garden," which introduced me to the idea of planting scented white flowers that will glow in the moonlight. So I went to the site to get more how-tos and to click on links for info on the flowers mentioned. Interactive fun -- exactly what a mag's Web site should be.
User-Friendliness: The site navigates smoothly, with areas clearly marked to organize a prodigious amount of information. However, it took a few tries for me to realize that registration is required to get to the Click & Buy area to purchase items featured in the magazine.
Wish list: I'd like to see original-to-the-site Q&As with Domino editors -- a feature available with editors from sister pub Lucky on its site. And how about using videos to extend the reach of print stories? The Adventuress, a regular feature in which writer Cynthia Kling samples a lifestyle-oriented class or service, practically cries out for video treatment. I imagine Kling narrating footage in a deadpan voiceover -- like the sight of her clueless classmate at culinary school who was "found with his arms in a big mixing bowl," having taken literally the recipe's instructions to "mix by hand."