The New York Review of Magazines

Techvolution

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.

1964
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.

1984
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.

1984
National Geographic wows readers by decorating its cover with a hologram of an eagle.

1994
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.

1995
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.

2006
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.

2008
People
’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.”

2008
An Esquire cover printed on electronic paper depicts a flashing tagline: “The 21st Century Begins Now.”

2009
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.

2009
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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