The appeal of ‘subcompact publishing’
Yesterday, I wrote about research conducted at the University of Texas that found contained, constrained platforms tend to do a better job of conveying information without overwhelming readers. In it, I pointed to a presentation on “Subcompact publishing” that Craig Mod delivered in October to kick off this year’s “Books in Browsers” conference, held at the Internet Archive.
Mod has since posted a version of his talk online. He invokes several themes that I lean on, as well: how disruptive innovations typically start focused and small; the value of “hiring” solutions for specific tasks or jobs; and using the principles of lean consumption to solve customers’ problems.
The ideas underpinning “Subcompact publishing” have been picked up in a number of disparate forums, including:
- John Batelle's Searchblog
- Kent Anderson, writing at Scholarly Kitchen
- Bill Mickey, reporting at Folio:
- Rob Beschizza (briefly) at boing boing
- Cyndi Stivers, as part of a round-up on Nieman Journalism Labs
The meme’s growing universality is a good thing: Mod challenges people to think of publishing in terms that separate it from more traditional approaches.
At the end of last week, Mitch Joel of Twist Image made a similar case for “The new digital minimalism”, a world in which “technology is removing the technology from the technology”. Though they come at the topic from different angles, I think Mod would find comfort in Joel’s idea:
“Consumers are moving through content at a voracious pace and yet we (the marketers) still pretend that everything we're publishing is some kind of destination in their consumer experience. It's to adapt to the new reality. This is less about short-attention spans and a consumer's ability to click away in a millisecond, and much more about creating a clear value chain that is steeped in minimalism.”
The demise of an app like The Daily has raised a host of questions about whether a platform-specific app can prosper. The jury is out on at least part of that question, but both Mod and Joel argue effectively that digital success, when it comes, will not look like a periodical of old.