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12.02.15

The Amazing Technicolor Journal

Like me, you might be taken with the GE commercial where the little girl talks in venerable terms about her mom, who makes trains that are friends with trees, and hospitals you can hold in your hand. It makes me think of the power and prevalence of technology in our times. Technology has a way of making the most fantastical concepts downright commonplace.

It also makes me wonder why, then, is there not more amazing technology infused within the most powerful content generated today, found in STM print journals and their largely mirror-image electronic versions?

When the “print-to-life” technology of QR Codes and Augmented Reality debuted a few years back, it felt like acceptance and implementation in the publishing community was a bit anemic. And not just in the STM communities; but everywhere.

It could be that the cost to fold in such technology wasn’t in line with maintaining already tight margins, or possibly the timing (way, way back in the early 2010s) didn’t find an app-happy, universally smart phone-dependent mobile public – all too ubiquitous today.

My supposition is that not a lot of germane additional content was readily available – or, more likely, that there weren’t dedicated resources to determine where within the journal supplemental content could benefit, to scout out such content, and to inject it into either the print or online journal.

Recently, I saw The New York Times magazine utilize Virtual Reality and Google Cardboard VR viewers to literally bring readers into the story. It’s powerful.

This new immersive reader/viewer virtual reality technology got me thinking. How cool would it be if a CME journal could deliver a virtual classroom environment complete with instructive and procedural videos and interactive FAQ?

What if an article on the latest clinical study brought the methodology and results to life via video? Or a groundbreaking surgical procedure was communicated through immersive media? Or, if a picture of a new DNA code animated at the snap of a smartphone? STM journals would never be the same.

Why not scholarly journals, for that matter? What literary enthusiast wouldn’t marvel at listening to a 1924 gramophone recording of James Joyce himself reading from Ulysses, in a wished-for reprint of the notoriously defunct journal The Little Review? Technology even has the ability to bring history to life. Imagine a history journal where the reader “walks” through an event instead of reading about it, thanks to immersive media and the availability of the event captured on film.

Whether it’s mobile or print, whether you snap or click or do whatever instant access mechanism comes next, it seems to me there is a tremendous opportunity for important content to up its game and harness more multi-media.

In my humble opinion, the key to this dynamic content shift would lie in the planning. And that might involve the creation of a dedicated and informed team to identify multi-media content to support or enhance an article. Then, to execute it, and even subject it to vetting, if warranted. I am aware that on a small scale, many journals utilize multi-media, but I’m talking about something bigger, more pervasive. It’s where we as content consumers are going.

No; my mom doesn’t work at GE, but I can envision a future where journals -- print and online -- are literally alive with multi-media content and rich, real-time reader interaction.

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