As publishing ideas go it is counter-intuitive to say the least.
Let’s tell people about the dizzying pace of technological change by writing things on bits of paper, loading them into vans and driving them all around the country.
The launch of the UK edition of Wired Magazine could hardly, it would seem, come at a worse time.
The UK economy is in meltdown, structural change means readers are deserting print, and even digital advertising has been drying up.
But of course, the magazine as a format is far from dead, as the success of titles such as The Economist, The Spectator, New Scientist and Prospect illustrate.
And Conde Nast deserves a fair wind for being one of the very few publishers in the last 18 months to have grasped the nettle of a high-profile consumer launch.
Here is Press Gazette’s first impressions of the May launch issue of Wired UK.
The cover strikes an eye-catching note with its slickly-produced computer-generated vision of a London of the future.
Using technology which will be familiar to anyone who bought a prog-rock record in the 1970s, the cover folds out like a sort of gatefold sleeve to cover three sides of A4.
It ties in with a big feature inside in which 46 “futurists” reveal how they think we will live in 2049.
Many of the ideas on the front – space elevators, airships, mono-rails and holographic personal advertising – will be familiar to anyone with more than a passing interest in science fiction from about 1960 onwards.
Inside, Wired presents an impressive package spread across 186 glossy pages.
With a dozen editorial staff listed on the flannel panel – and a further nine contributing editors – this magazine clearly represents a significant investment in journalism and it shows. And at £3.90 in the shops, or £24 if you take-up the launch subscription offer, it looks like good value.
It’s the job of editors to be optimistic whatever the weather – but David Rowan goes a little over the top with his introductory letter on page 19.
He says: “Whatever may be happening in today’s economy, the pace of change in business, science and culture is not slowing – which is why, unreconstructed optimists that we are, we believe there’s not better time to launch an exciting, inspiring magazine for those of us hungry to understand what’s coming.”
I can think of a few better times – like just about any other time in the last 100 years, with the possible exception of 1929.
After that the magazine is divided into: Start: News and obsessions; Fetish: Objects of desire; Play: wired culture; How to; a big features Sunday supplement style news section and then finally: Test.
There is a huge amount in this magazine.
There are blokey style quick-fire features on subjects like: South Korea’s deep freeze fighter testing facility; ultra miniature surgical tools and the ultimate hi-fi gear.
But there’s also more cerebral stuff on the mathematical equation which helped bring the global economy down and the latest trend in “life-tracking”.
The team behind Wired have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the launch issue design-wise – so that at times it feels a bit like one of those graphics-heavy MTV shows where something new is constantly visually shouting at you. The flourescent orange headlines in the big futurism feature literally made my head hurt.
But no doubt this will settle down after the excitement of the launch.
All in all – modern technology is making the world an incredibly complicated place and we need the clever people at Wired to explain it all to us in handy monthly form.
The launch issue could do more to organise and explain the technological fire-hose of information. At the moment it feels a little too much like a mirror of the noisey chaos of information out there – rather than the more sober and thoughtful reflection that I personally like a magazine to be.
But all in all, it is an impressive launch, packed with information to satisfy all from the mildy tech-curious to the all-out geeks.