Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Lean Back versus Lean Forward

One of the old debates about the emergence of the personal computer as a media device centred on the lean-back (think television) versus lean-forward (think PC) distinction. The meme was that computers would never replace television because of that difference in engagement. In some ways the tablet (think iPad) has shattered that as it has very clearly become the couch computer. But it’s not just television that will feel that change. An interesting Guardian interview with the CEO of The Economist suggests this:

He says they came to realise that there was a distinction between what he calls the “lean-back, immersive, ritual pleasure” of reading the Economist in print compared to the “lean-forward, interactive” way people used the site.

It was, says Rashbass, the difference between “snacking on the net as against the gourmet meal of reading in print”. That convinced him and his team to offer an entirely different experience to website users. Rather than lecturing the audience, they set out to build a community of people eager to participate in discussions with the magazine’s journalists and with each other.

Then along came the e-readers and tablets. “We suddenly realised that if we were making a distinction between lean-back and lean-forward, here was lean-back digital or lean-back 2.0. We made a conscious choice to avoid the web-style interactive approach. Instead, we saw the potential of delivering a better lean-back experience than we have ever achieved in print.”