Miscellaneous Reviews:

Tomorrow's World Magazine

(Published by BBC Worldwide, first issue April 1998)

[Tomorrow's World Cover]

Always slow on the uptake, the BBC finally got around to publishing a magazine devoted to its longest-running and most popular science programme Tomorrow's World - a mere 32 years after the show first aired!

The launch issue went on sale in April 1998 and retailed at a discounted £1 over the usual cover price of £2.75. Gracing its cover was the imposing visage of the show's presenter Peter Snow. Clearly, the BBC isn't planning on cutting into the sales of the plethora of men's titles weighing down newsagent shelves across the UK at the moment! However, the magazine's designers (more on which later) did also manage to include a small (but nevertheless cute) picture of Snow's co-presenter Philippa Forrester.

The 136-page first issue set out its content in two areas entitled "Features" and "Regulars". The regular columns include 'Tomorrow Today' - latest news from the world of science; 'TWIRT' - the Tomorrow's World Institute of Rigorous Testing (or gadget round up to you and I); etc. etc. The features ranged from the evils of organophosphates, through a guide to the digital TV revolution, to a behind the scenes report by Philippa Forrester on the incredibly sad (but also worringly watchable) Robot Wars TV show.

The first thing one notices is the quality of the publication. Slightly larger than A4 (9" x 12" - a format more common to US publications) and full colour and glossy throughout, its a pretty heavy tome (a tiny footnote inside tells us that "the cover is printed on 170gsm Motoblade Matt, produced in Austria... from well-managed forests"!). The design too is impressive. If it didn't have the £5million revamped BBC logo atop the front cover you'd be hard pushed to believe this had anything to do with the dyed-in-the-wool insitution we know so well. There's even a fold-out three page photo - though it's of an errupting volcano and not a scantilly-clad woman. Even more suprising is the opinionated stance the editorial team has taken to the subjects covered. Whilst this seems partly an attempt to give the magazine 'youf' appeal via trendy and irreverent humour some of it actually works very well.

A good indication of whom publishers are aiming at with a product is to note the advertising a magazine includes. Featured in issue one were: Casio sports watches, Nikon binoculars, KEF loudspeakers, Lexmark printers, the British Library, modems, computer software, books, cars and, of course, shameless plugs for other BBC titles. So Tomorrow's World is aimed at trendy, techno-nerds, who prefer cars to women, appreciate a quality read, own Playstations and might also be interested in the BBC Wildlife magazine. Hmm, not sure there is a demographic group that fits the bill there. Still, like all new magazines, it'll take a few issues to settle down.

I didn't want to read all the articles in #1 but that's probably because flicking through an issue is like looking at a paper equivalent of a CD-ROM encyclopaedia - hard facts delivered in an agreeable package, some of which will be very interesting, others of no interest whatsoever. The only obvious competition for TW is the equally cool-looking T3 technology magazine. But whilst that publication is squarely aimed at thirty somethings with wads of disposable income, TW is clearly catering for a broader readership hoping to pull in spotty schoolboys and Greenpeace fans alike. With the ever increasing web prescence of the BBC it is entirely appropriate that Tomorrow's World has a website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/tw), but I'm a sucker for tactile information and I'm more likely to buy the magazine than I am to surf the net for technology information. An impressive debut for a magazine that deserves to do well once it has secured an audience.

Rob Dyer

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