Information vs Entertainment

So I was going to do a second post on my review of the Wired app, but it didn't jell. I kept wanting to write a post that reflected on the meta-context of information vs entertainment as a topic and didn't just nitpick on the details of Wired. You see, it wasn't until I really looked at this app that I finally understood why I don't read magazines. Like a lot of magazines, Wired don't provide a news product in their monthly magazine. This is an entertainment product.

News sources are designed to get the content to you as fast as possible; that's why they often have less fancy formatting, graphics, and other fooferaw. The Wired magazine, on the other hand, has a lot of fancy stuff wrapped around the articles; it's part of the entertainment value. The fancy stuff, sidebars, cute little articles, animations, and embedded clips all add to the enjoyment of using the app.  But they don't provide a lot of information, do they?

Consider Zite (an iPad app which helps you find enjoyable content to read) and RSS feeds (where that content often comes from). The former is for entertainment and the latter is for information. A lot of the content will be the same, but the Zite app puts work into finding content for you and providing better formatting. This adds to the entertainment value of the app. On the other hand, the improved formatting also slows down how fast I can scan and pass on new content, which detracts from the information value.

Or you could consider the way a recipe is displayed in a cookbook vs in a home-making magazine. The recipe might be the same but the magazine will have more pictures, a more colorful description, and might even have a sidebar with a related tidbit of information.

Basically I think that when you increase the enjoyment factor, you also decrease the utility. So here's my question: Do you think I'm right or wrong? I really would like to hear what you think. I consume so much content on a daily basis that I probably qualify as a statistical outlier. My experience might not match anyone else's.


There's an interesting corollary to my point above, and it has to do with the Wired website. Wired publish over 50 posts a week on their blog. You might think that the free web content undercuts the monthly magazine, but I don't think it does. It lacks the formatting of the magazine, which means it's not the same product.

It looks to me like Wired are making 2 different products each month (website and magazine). Am I wrong?

Let's take my idea one step further. What if you took the design and layout of an entertainment product like Wired magazine and standardized it as a blog or website theme? You could then use the web content Wired put out each month and build an app around it. Wired would then have a third product to sell (or they could bundle it into their current app). This is content that they're already paying for, so wouldn't it be a great to find a new way to make a buck off it?

image by Tracy Hunter

About Nate Hoffelder (11464 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

7 Comments on Information vs Entertainment

  1. curiosity killed the.. // 20 April, 2011 at 9:57 am // Reply

    Ithink the big difference between daily news and magazines are mags regurgitate an awful lot of the same stuff in each magazine.
    prime example cosmo probably only has 3 distinct articles on how to “spice up” the bedroom and they have spliced mashed up and reworded those same freaken articles every issue since the mags conception(im sure there’s more than 3 it just seems that way a lot)
    if you broke down a magazine like literally ripped each page apart and lay them all down in front of you. then sorted them by advertisement pages, “articles” ,and filler snippets(1/2 a paragraph and 5-10 images on a single page)
    then you would really see how a magazine really operates not that its not already obvious but. i’m willing to bet over 1/2 of it are advertisement pages 1/4 are snippet pages and 1/4 are actual articles. and of those articles i bet 1/2 of those are actually new articles that haven’t been regurgitated from previous issues.
    but you ask anyone that buys a magazine off the rack why do you buy this? and they most likely will say for the new articles highlighted on the cover.
    if you compare all that to a daily newspaper? for 50cents you are getting probably 100x the new content but most of it is stuff you don’t care about. i would say it still has at least as much content in 1 newspaper that you actually read than 1 magazine for $7.99+
    lol and like you said the “news” you actually get with a mag is usually not news by the time you read it cause they are always behind at least a month sometimes 6 or more.

    • Ah. You found a point I missed. The quantity of content is usually higher in news products than it is in entertainment products, and the return on your dollar is also higher.


      • curiosity killed the.. // 20 April, 2011 at 11:02 am // Reply

        i think the irony of this article i looked back to see the last mainstream magazine i had bought.
        4 years ago was the last time i bought a magazine and it was wired lol.
        although.. im tempted to slap down some money for some new science magazine subscriptions. they are finally starting to see the light that if they don’t drop their prices the internet is going to completely wipe them out of business.

  2. Well, it’s hard to argue with the entertainment content. But with some magazines, especially technological and political mags, the articles can provide depth and analysis that the newspaper doesn’t have time for. Admittedly, some magazines are better at this than others.

  3. The original Wired had a visionary behind it and in the beginning I absolutely hated the crazy layout. But it grew on me once I grokked what they were doing. It was a VERY high-bandwidth magazine. Then it was sold to Conde and became low-bandwidth. Basically G4TV as a magazine. Yecch.

    Really intelligent in-depth journalism takes money. And for a digital magazine, it takes marketing bucks. Unfortunately, only a tasteless clueless boob such as Murdoch has the marketing money. The rest of them are balless and contentless and a Dark Ages is falling on long-form journalism for a while. Someone like Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone is a glaring exception. Hell, I’d pay just HIM for his writing,

  4. Interesting post. I think this applies to books to, this “infotainment” (my iPad dictionary says that’s a real word.) I’m thinking of the Dorling Kindersley type books for kids. They provide less information, but in an attractive package that is more easily digested then an encyclopedia article. Is it easier to remember and absorb information as a tidbit in an attractive sidebar?

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