In the beginning, there were magazines. And the internet was without form and void. And computer geeks said: Let there be blogs!
I’ve been writing online since the mid ’90s. I’ve always had a blog, even going back to the days long before the term was invented. When other teenagers were, I don’t know, watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or whatever it was that normal teenagers did back in 1996, I was writing opinion pieces and reviewing products and putting it all up on the World-Wide Web (as it was called back then).
I read very few paper-based magazines or newspapers at the time, and virtually all the written content I consumed (leaving books aside, of course) came at me via a computer screen. Eventually, as time passed, and the internet exploded in popularity, the old-guard news media launched their digital media strategies—however, due to the limitations of the medium of the web in those days, the results were pretty barebones.
Everyone raced to publish content faster and cheaper, which meant that the length and quality of articles suffered greatly.
The trend over time, of course, was that the immediacy and write-click-publish nature of blogging compelled stalwarts of the press to operate more like blogs themselves, and by the mid 2000’s, content in general on the web felt like blogging no matter where you found it. The “magazine” as a time-stamped package of thematic content released on a monthly or weekly schedule seemed to be dying out. Web magazines were magazines in name only…essentially they were just large-scale group blogs. Everyone raced to publish content faster and cheaper, which meant that the length and quality of articles suffered greatly.
Then a curious thing happened. New form factors of computers emerged. The iPhone and iPad changed the game when it came to people’s experiences interacting with digital media. The web continued to grow more sophisticated in its graphic presentation capabilities, and suddenly it seemed like graphics designers everywhere woke up to the idea that you could display content online in ways that echoed the best of print traditions. And while it was a short-lived format (thankfully), replicas of actual print magazines were now able to be read directly on a touchscreen tablet. Digital editions in the form of apps drove awareness that maybe, just maybe, not everything being published online had to look like and be packaged just like a blog. Long-form writing was back in vogue, and people were able to sit back and digest online content in a more relaxed and thoughtful way.
Thus the pendulum has swung the other way. Even while the typical format of the blog has become stale as discovery and consumption of digital media has transitioned over to social networks, content creators are increasingly experimenting with other types of content formats and various ways to support and deliver quality journalism. In the case of Trellis Magazine, I have opted to take a page (pardon the pun) from the best of old-school media and publish a monthly bundle of content, called an issue 😉, that exhibits several characteristics:
It’s thematic. Each month centers around one topic or a small number of related topics, and provides a window into discussion or research of that subject matter from a variety of viewpoints.
It flows. I think the flow of an issue from the first article to the last is really important. There’s a shape to the pieces within a magazine that I feel is all to easily lost in the usual “reverse chronological” order of things on blogs.
It attracts great contributors. When I would reach out to other writers when I was writing for my own blog, it felt like pulling teeth to get any kind of guest contribution. But from the moment I started Trellis—even before the first issue came out—I was amazed to receive such huge interest from writers right from the get-go.
It has a business model. Right now, Trellis is free to read. But eventually, as the reader base grows and the breadth of content we feature in each issue increases, we will launch monthly subscriptions. I believe people are increasingly willing and able to support quality writing and independent journalism online with their wallets, and I look forward to pushing the envelope when it comes to reader-supported content.
It looks cool. Yes, I know it’s totally anachronistic to feature a “magazine cover” for a digital publication. And I know that it’s probably overkill to spend so much time on art direction for every single article. And yet the feedback I’ve received as people read Trellis for the first time has been overwhelmingly positive. People just think it looks cool.
Even with all that, I still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible for Trellis. I can’t wait to see how it evolves and grows over the next few months. If you agree, please join our free mailing list to get notified each month when a new issue is published. And of course let me know your thoughts and ideas for the magazine as well!