The New York Review of Magazines


By Susie Poppick

Months before the launch of the iPad, Sports Illustrated developed a software prototype for tablet computers that would allow readers to rearrange pages, watch videos, view sports scores live and share stories over e-mail or social media. Soon after, Wired followed with its own sleek prototype. As more and more publications prepare for the tablet platform, it may seem that a technological revolution is brewing in the land of magazines. But the iPad is not the first innovation to add new vitality to the seemingly inert medium. Here are some highlights — both low- and high-tech — from the last 50 years in the print magazine world.

Mad magazine begins including a “fold-in” back page. A twist on the foldouts in Life and Playboy magazines, creator Al Jaffee’s satirical illustrations reveal a hidden image when doubled over like a folding fan.

3M invents the fragrance-releasing pull-apart sheet, allowing fashion magazine readers to begin baptizing themselves with all the scents of a Macy’s perfume counter.

National Geographic wows readers by decorating its cover with a hologram of an eagle.

Japanese inventors create the two-dimensional “QR Code.” This modified bar code will appear more than a decade later in the articles and advertisements of such print magazines as Elle, Vice and Wired, directing readers to a web address once they snap a photo of the code with their smart phones.

Inventor Richard House patents the first paperboard CD pocket inserts for magazines, giving publications a handy sleeve in which to bundle music, videos and all that other digital content readers never knew they needed.

JPG magazine launches with the novel premise of filling a print publication with digital images submitted online by citizen photographers. Online, readers get to vote on which photos should appear in the magazine.

’s “Sexiest Man” issue includes scratch-and-sniff photos of male celebrities scented with aromas they’ve chosen to make them “feel their sexiest.” A Welch’s ad in the magazine earlier that year encourages readers to lick the page for a taste of “100% grape juice.”

An Esquire cover printed on electronic paper depicts a flashing tagline: “The 21st Century Begins Now.”

An issue of Entertainment Weekly contains a video chip ad from CBS and PepsiCo. The clip includes audio, and readers can even recharge the display with a mini USB cord, so the gimmick never needs to die.

Esquire ups the ante with a new “augmented reality” issue, allowing readers to hold the magazine’s pages up in front of their webcam and — once they’ve downloaded software from Esquire’s website — watch those pages come to life on their screen.

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