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'Airman' magazine enters digital era

Posted 11/8/2012   Updated 11/8/2012 Email story   Print story

    

11/8/2012 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- 11/7/2012 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- A year after publishing the final print edition of Airman magazine, the Air Force is unveiling a new digital version of the service's official magazine specifically geared for tablet devices.

"Built specifically for Apple and Android tablet users, this new format gives readers all the in-depth feature stories and spectacular photos they've come to expect from Airman magazine and adds layers of multimedia content and interactivity only available through new publishing techniques," said Preston Keres, Airman editor-in-chief. "We are very excited to release this first new issue, and begin a new era for telling the Airman's story."

In addition to stunning photography, compelling copy, great video, interactive content and design, Keres said the staff is proud that they are able to bring back the monthly publishing schedule.

For the past year, the Airman editorial staff and design team have posted original content to the Airman website at http://airman.dodlive.mil, which will remain current after the launch of the new tablet magazine. The website will continue as the home of Airman and will feature extra and exclusive staff-produced content, as well as strong feature stories, images and multimedia from the field.

The website, however, was never meant to replace the printed magazine.

Budget efficiencies in 2011 led to the elimination of the printing budgets for all flagship service magazines. At that time, the Airman editorial staff and design team were reduced to only one full-time employee each, during a BRAC move that consolidated most flagship service products at the Defense Media Activity here.

One veteran designer, Luke Borland, made the move from San Antonio to Fort Meade and became the chief of the Airman design team. His enthusiasm for the new technologies just coming onto the scene were critical to developing a plan and building a team that could exploit new tools and processes to bring Airman readers the same kinds of stories in new and exciting ways.

"Loss of the printed magazine was a little sad, but not unexpected, and in some ways a pleasant change," he said. "While some people may miss having the paper in their hands, these new tablet platforms still allow you to hold something, have the same feel, but get so much more out of the product."

In rebuilding, Borland and his team spent a great deal of time getting a broader understanding of digital design tools to get the most from new multimedia content, learning about publishing to the different digital magazine stores and finding that there are still some limitations.

"There are things we want to do that just are not possible yet with the current publishing tools. But what we have been able to do so far is amazing," said Borland. "We want to push the technology to its maximum potential and give our readers that immersive experience."

One thing Borland said he wants Airman readers to know, whether they started reading 50 years ago or yesterday, is that in this new era, the magazine will remain the same trusted source it has always been. "We're still telling the stories of everyday Airmen and Air Force heroes. It's a deeper form of the magazine, it's the added layers to the presentation that just make it a richer experience for the reader, but it holds true to the integrity of Airman."

While Borland and the design team worked on the technical side to get ready for digital publishing, the creative staff was also working hard to capture stories in new ways and develop ideas that would lend themselves to the new format. To head up the editorial staff, Keres, a former multimedia instructor at the Defense Information School and former staff photographer at the Washington Post, was selected specifically for his vision and ability to inspire great storytelling. He was named editor-in-chief in April.

"From the beginning, Airman has always focused on people, cool aircraft and unique missions of the Air Force. Our staff strives to find better ways to tell those important stories," he said. "With the new technologies available today, we can tell those stories in a much better way. This new interactive digital format makes storytelling fun. We can push the boundaries of what people have previously thought of as a magazine. Reading Airman is now a personal experience and the reader feels engaged with the subject."

One of the most important technological advances Keres brought to the Airman team was non-narrative video storytelling using digital single lens reflex, or DSLR cameras. Until recently, most digital cameras used by professional photojournalists shot individual still frames. Now some of them give the reporters and photographers the capability to capture high definition video in the field. In this smaller package, and with the same lenses used to shoot breath-taking still frames, Airman photojournalists have quickly learned new ways to draw readers into the story.

"The great thing about the new platform is the crispness, vividness and life of the imagery," said six-time Military Photographer of the Year, and Airman senior photojournalist Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock. "Anyone who is a fan of photography, and especially Air Force photography, will notice huge differences in the way these tablet devices are able to showcase visual content."

The new magazine was previewed over the last couple of weeks, with many readers already downloading it from their app stores. Early adopters and those who follow Air Force and Airman social media outlets were given download links. The staff also sought the opinions of some Air Force and media industry leaders before today's publication date.

"Airman magazine now as an app -- what a fantastic way to read these stories and showcase the amazing photography by Air Force photojournalists," said Linda D. Epstein, McClatchy Tribune Photo Service senior photo editor.

"I love how the magazine comes to me on the iPad -- I can read it whenever I want to. I used to glance at the site in my browser but with the new platform, it has drawn me in to read it from cover to cover," added Epstein.

In the November 2012 issue, the cover story is "Donning History," which features two Air Force veterans and their expansive collections of vintage Air Force uniforms. Accompanying the story are a multimedia presentation and photo gallery that show Airmen wearing many of these uniforms from our Air Force past. There are other major features, including "Medics in Mayhem," which covers military medical personnel training in a civilian trauma unit; "Outside the Wire," about TACP Airmen who live somewhere in between the Air Force and the Army; and "Refueling the Field," about a KC-135 unit which acts as a flying gas station giving the fleet additonal range.

To complement this month's features, the staff has updated "Around the Air Force," a standard favorite that shows the great work Airmen are doing around the world and added new departments like "Through Airmen's Eyes," where Airmen tell their own stories and "Airman Visuals," which showcases the Air Force through imagery.

"For me personally, it was an honor to be able to take Airman from the respected printed magazine it was to bring it into the new world of digital publishing and maintain the quality look and feel," Borland said, "to give the readers new ways to interact, make the content leap off the page and continue to tell the Air Force story in a much better way than we were able to do in the past."

Airman tells the story of the United States Air Force through images and written stories about the people, missions and equipment that define the nation's youngest service. The magazine was first published in August 1957, and continued as a printed magazine in various sizes, formats and printing schedules until the final edition, the September-October issue of 2011.

Airman is free and available now for download in the Apple iTunes newsstand at http://bit.ly/TK559c and as a standalone app in the Google Play store at http://bit.ly/WE3FTX.

For information about the tablet edition of Airman, visit the website at http://airman.dodlive.mil/, or watch the video above to see how the new format will change with a preview of the active cover.



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