In the last few months, reactionary hand-wringing over the demise of traditional magazines has spawned hundreds of online publications. Pictory, a new online photography publication launched in December 2009, came from none of that angst, and it shows. With gorgeous large-format photos and tight, smart writing, founder Laura Brunow Miner isn't trying to duplicate the print world's page-turning format or glossy ad sales; instead, she's focusing on creating the best experience for her users. "I've put a premium focus on what folks in the biz call 'reader service'—making sure that my viewers are comfortable, stimulated, and entertained on the site," she says. She can count on about 14,000 visitors a day when she releases a new "showcase," a curated series of user-contributed photo-stories organized around themes like Neighborhood Treasure and Spring Breakout. She's also netted 25,000 Twitter followers in three months.
While Miner was editor-in-chief of JPG Magazine, she began to notice there was an intricate, time-tested art and science to magazine-making that hadn't yet been developed online. "There's a sophisticated understanding of human needs, desires, and attention span in magazine craft that the Web hasn't caught up to," she says. The biggest difference? "Attention to detail," she says. "Print-style typography on the Web, careful line editing and proofing, attentive and highly practical design, pacing, and narrative arc—things that aren't rewarded on the Web in the age of the cost-per-million." Collaborating with guest art directors and editors on each feature allows Miner to add the creative give-and-take of a magazine layout—and drive up the value of online publications in general. "I hope to pave the way and prove that it's commercially viable," she says. "Quality worth striving for, worth achieving."
Miner does have a notable business plan in the works, although she's not quite ready to reveal the details. "All I can say for now: I have a vision for online advertising," she says. "My top priority for Pictory will always be the quality of the site experience, but my business model falls right in line with that focus." Would that include corralling some of her ace designers and photographers in service of site supporters? She will say only this: "I still believe in the seemingly lost art of good advertising."
And of course there's that other bee in the publishing world's bonnet: the oncoming onslaught of the iPad. Miner's site is pretty much custom-made for the new medium, and she's ready to take Pictory in the direction of immersive emotional content. "A friend suggested working with a guest musician for each showcase in addition to guest designers or guest editors," says Miner. "Who knows? A living room device like the iPad does invite one to engage more senses with content."