Paper or Pixel? Why Not Both? Act 2 of With A Passion About The Printed Word

The view from my bar stool at Wildwood BBQ tonight as I continued to drink the good drink and consume the piece on Iceland in the New Yorker
The view from my bar stool at Wildwood BBQ tonight as I continued to drink the good drink and consume the piece on Iceland in the New Yorker

So, Collin replied to my post with this comment. The line from the comment I found worth jumping off from towards my next thought about print journalism was:

My point of leading with Ben McGrath’s New Yorker piece wasn’t to discredit his story. Pieces like that have their place in journalism, and that specific story is full of worth (it’s in the New Yorker, ’nuff said). I just thought it was a great example of the traditional print voice that is seeping online.

And the thing is I wouldn’t say that it’s “seeping online” because there’s no real problem with the internet being used as a means for distributing material, at least as long as the material is worthwhile (no point in copying and pasting crap, which is why it’s great that Dane Cook started online, so his bullshit wasn’t redundant on top of being bullshit) presented in a visually palatable manner and there’s a decent business model behind it. And unlike many other publications that use the internet to mirror their physical product, The New Yorker has a pretty good handle on it’s online presence.

First of all, the New Yorker does it right because they let their writers have blogs on site, such as Sasha Frere-Jones, whose blog is definitely worth the click it will take you to get there … once you’re done here. I promise there’s a funny clip at the end of this, but it will disappear if you just scroll down right now.

The New Yorker also offers the smaller pieces for free to entice the would be spenders, then putting a premium on the meatier works as well a crazy little thing called Design. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I don’t like the web design that most sites employ. The New Yorker’s standard web isn’t the big offender, that award goes to Rolling Stone and the combination of the teeny-teeeeeeny-teeeeeeeney-tiny (©Maddow) thin column of text and their insistence on splitting a piece displayed so think across four fucking pages, without a “one page” option that many including the NYTimes offer.

But how does The New Yorker manage to get it right? Well, what I’ll assume are well-padded coiffures were able to put as many net application designers in all of their open-space offices on the same task, and this resulted in The New Yorker’s Digital Reader. The simplest way to browse is click on the arrows on the sides of the layouts, and then, as you’ll see below, after you click on the page, you zoom in to read the page.

The New Yorker Digital Reader Means Business
The New Yorker Digital Reader Means Business

Works like Parker’s article, the creme de la creme, are kept “behind the curtain,” as The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, in the premium content section of The New Yorker’s site. This is done for one very good reason: good work doesn’t come free. Sure we’ve hit a point where admitting you still pay for music illicits stares akin to suggesting you just sharted, but journalism is a key ingredient in a well functioning and self questioning society, and we should be paying for it, hand over fist. Buy those NYTimes’ or whichever local paper is worth your money, (and no The USA Today does not count) not just when Obama’s won an election as I now endorse buying the Times (not that this was always the way I rolled over the W. Bush years) on any day of the week.

The New Yorker Digital Reader Zooms In.
The New Yorker Digital Reader Zooms In.

A few weeks ago, TIME had a cover story about the ways to save the newspaper. The problem the industry is currently facing is the fact that internet ad revenue for the news site industry is down. This trend results in oddities like the ginormous screen-estate that the Apple ad on the front page of the NYT that you may see when you go online to check your digital news, a stunt done wherein a high end company promotes itself to an audience that is presumably able to afford the product. The problem, though, is that these sites are all free, so their customers have no proof they’d actually be able to afford the ginormous 17″ Macbook Pro.

With The New Yorker’s digital reader, only available to those who will pay for it or actually subscribe to the publication, the people at Chevron know their product hawking won’t fall on broke ears. Admittedly, it would be great if all news would be available for free, but money doesn’t grow on KFC Famous Bowls yet, so we’ll have to pay for quality for the time being. And I have to reiterate that I think that as hard as it’s been for the journalistic commuity to get a grip on the net world, I think the New Yorker has a good start.

The author of the above TIME article then went on The Daily Show and Jon Stewart admitted that he shares the same crippling addiction to newspapers that I boldly revealed in my lede yesterday. Here’s the clip:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


2 Replies to “Paper or Pixel? Why Not Both? Act 2 of With A Passion About The Printed Word”

  1. I think this is where our views differ: you think the internet is a good place to distribute print content as is, and I am not so sure. If the goal is to make money, I think publication’s websites need to be more than just a showcase for their print work. You and Jon Stewart said it, reading on a screen doesn’t have the same appeal as spreading a paper/magazine out on the table. So doesn’t it make a little sense to differentiate the two?

    You also wrote that you only want worthwhile content being put online, and that you think the New Yorker’s web model is a good one (smaller pieces free, greater pieces for pay). I think the logical question is: is this working for the New Yorker? You know as well as anyone that the NY Times’ attempt to do this a few years ago fared poorly–has anything changed?

    It’s all well and good to have great content, but if no one’s willing to pay for it/if the pub is losing money, it doesn’t work. Hopefully the New Yorker is gaining on this venture, but my gut says they’re not, otherwise there would be an uproar from the fading journalism crowd.

    You ask “Paper or pixel? Why Not Both?” and I agree. But do both have to converge? Perhaps a symbiotic relationship between the two can be a model that works?

    Otherwise, I think creativity in getting the print content to the web is a must. Add something to the piece. Present it through supplemental content. Do something. I just don’t think having the same thing in two mediums will cut it right now.

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