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The Message Isn’t Always The Medium

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There’s an intriguing thinkpiece in Wired UK’s September edition in which Russell Davies effectively argues that the shape of our content is a product of the media that carry it

“Column size, article length etc are as much to do with the physics and economics of production as they are with the human attributes of attention and comprehension…

“MP3s, Napster and iTunes have turned the natural unit of music in to the song …

“How long before bands decide that they’re only going to make albums available as single unbreakable files? … How am I supposed to write for (Wired’s iPad app)? What could I be doing with words that I can’t do anywhere else?”

The answer, I think, to that last question is: not much. Because, although a tablet computer is not a magazine, many publishers – even Wired’s Conde Nast – are conceiving their iPad editions with print as the originator. The message bears close resemblance to the parent medium…

That’s why Wired’s U.S. iPad app essentially repurposes the magazine and adds some new navigability and extra photos and video on top, rather than reinvents the wheel in the same way its website has over the years.

This would contradict Davies’ argument that content takes on the innate properties of the new media rather than being defined by the old. Last week, I quoted Marshall McLuhan who wrote:

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