This is a beautifully designed web magazine: Inverse. [Should Web be capitalized?] It’s a Joshua Topolsky joint, along with a stable of other publications that I’ve noticed are a cut above what else is out there — Input, which is similar to Inverse and actually the two seem to unhelpfully overlap — and W, a women’s fashion mag also published by Bustle Digital Group that I normally wouldn’t look at but am enjoying the design.
Despite the outstanding web artisanship, can a magazine survive if it feels ultimately corporate, which seems a danger when the job title changes from co-founder or Editor-in-Chief to Chief Content Officer, Culture & Innovation?
The writing in Inverse itself feels pretty generic; this is relentless plodding coverage, not tours-de-force by experts. Article after article appears on a single scroll; you never reach the end of the page, and although this is convenient, I’ve never liked it, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted by it. Also, while the pages as a whole are gorgeous, I am not reading the articles. The san-serif body text looks like it’s there more to be looked at than to be read. Also, the text is too far to the right on the screen. And there’s a little wobble.
From the case study by web shop Code and Theory, it appears Input and Inverse have been merged onto the same content management system, and Input was Topolsky’s technology mag baby but BDG also acquired science and entertainment site Inverse.
They have a theory behind this to me exhausting and unpleasant infinite scroll:
In a world where scrolling through feeds feels second-nature, we designed Input and Inverse without traditional homepages. Upon landing on inputmag.com or inverse.com, readers see an infinite scroll of stories. Each story offers a snippet—the headline, maybe a quote, or a key stat, along with some information. The reader can then expand that story in the feed to read more, or continue scrolling.
When one story finishes, users scroll right back into the infinite stream of stories.
The stream can also be interrupted by rocks—curated content modules, e-commerce breakers and other fun interactive moments for the reader.
I may be just not representative of what most people like to do on the web, but I think this is misguided. On an infinite scroll, you become a skimmer. Well, you know, is that what you want people to be doing on your site, skimming, thereby not really reading the articles, but seeing more ads? Fine, but that is less valuable and less satisfying than reading an article with a serif body text where the page ends when the article ends. If I read a piece, I want to feel I’ve read a piece. And I’ve found every one of the subtitles kind of smarmy and annoying, neither informative nor actually witty.