As the CD-ROM juggernaut gathers speed and publishers scramble to come up with new and different variations of product, a seemingly unavoidable stop along the way would be the CD-ROM magazine. A look at two current examples of digital magazines, Medio and substance.digizine, shows widely differing ideas of what a CD-ROM periodical should look like.
The monthly Medio aims itself squarely at the mainstream, looking more than anything like the CD-ROM equivalent of your Sunday newspaper. Medio has all the standard sections you would expect to find in a Sunday paper: news, sports, comics, business and finance, books and theater, pets, food, travel. Like any good general-interest magazine, Medio lends itself well to browsing, with most features having pertinent sound bites and video sequences available by means of icons cleanly embedded in the text.
Not everything here is multimedia-enabled, however — as you get past the main stories, there’s lots of AP newswire feed that’s just plain text.
Medio goes out of its way to be friendly and accessible. The soothing mellifluous voice-overs encountered at every turn make it feel at times like a Disneyland ride, and even the well-crafted installation program is remarkably free of technical jargon. Medio’s interface is simple and easy to use, with a robust search function and the ability to leave any number of bookmarks to flag places where you’d like to return.
If Medio is like reading a Sunday paper, substance.digizine is more like picking up an issue of Wired. Published quarterly, its substance eschews the “something-for-everyone” mainstream approach and instead targets the young, hip and technologically savvy cyberpunk counterculture.
Touting itself as “the digital journal of the electronic new edge,” the mag aggressively seeks out the new and strange and serves them up in fully electrified 256-color splendor. Each issue is a unique creation that deftly melds such diverse elements as surreal art, audio CD segments, software downloads, musicvideo and extensive celebrity interview sound bites into a fascinating multimedia collage of audio and image.
The user interface in digizine is much more stylized and varied than that of Medio. This makes it a less familiar and more challenging environment, requiring of the user a spirit of adventure and a willingness to experiment. As with Wired , the subject matter can seem a little foreign to the uninitiated, but whether or not you get it all, it’s certainly fun to explore.
Based on the range of difference between these two fledgling publications, it would seem that there’s a lot of room for other CD-ROM magazines. It’s clearly a genre that’s still being defined.