[I’m Reading] ‘Online, each story is at best its own magazine, sent out to find its own temporary audience’

Excellent piece written by Ben Smith and published on Medium:

Online, each story is at best its own magazine, sent out to find its own temporary audience. One article may absorb people who subscribe, or would once have subscribed, to Foreign Affairs; another might absorb devotees of Wired or Men’s Health or Glamour. The author and the story choose their audience, and the editor’s role is to begin the conversation over who will read and share the piece — not to rework it for the group of people who happen to subscribe to your magazine.


Bennet and others have celebrated technical aspects of digital journalism — images and gifs and audio — as a reason to be excited about the web. These tools are can be beautiful and useful, though they can also sometimes evoke worst of Flash-dominated, distracting early ’00s web design. (Rolling Stone recently published an article on animal rights that actually moos.) We are careful to get out of the stories’ way: Images and gifs and videos must look great on the iPhone screen, which may already be the most common way readers experience long narratives.


The scroll is a wonderful way to read that forces writers and editors alike to make more purposeful choices. The editor loses the excuse of a word limit or the geometry of columns to make choices easier: He or she must instead be able to convincingly explain what belongs in the story and what doesn’t. Writers lose the same crutch. The story should be as long as it should be.


"Companies like Demand Media were created to game search — to take what people are genuinely…"

“Companies like Demand Media were created to game search — to take what people are genuinely interested in, and then exploit those interests to get undeserved traffic and ad revenues. Gaming social media, by contrast, is much harder: people tend not to share things they don’t genuinely like.”

Quality vs quantity online | Felix Salmon

On search vs sharing and “content discovery”.

‘The popular social blogging site Tumblr is hiring writers and editors to cover the world of Tumblr’

So meta my head imploded:

Chris Mohney, a senior vice president for content at BlackBook Media, will be the site’s editor in chief. Jessica Bennett, a senior writer and editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, will be the executive editor and, she said, a kind of Tumblr correspondent.

“Basically, if Tumblr were a city of 42 million,” Ms. Bennett said, referring to the number of Tumblr blogs that exist, “I’m trying to figure out how we cover the ideas, themes and people who live in it.”

Their work — both documenting the Tumblr service and marketing it to users — will appear on the Web site’s staff blog and on a separate part of tumblr.com that has not been set up yet, a Tumblr spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Source: Blogging Site Tumblr Makes Itself the News – NY Times

As if more examples were needed that the lines between so-called “content creators” (curators?) and “platforms” are blurrier than ever.

‘iPad magazine content shouldn’t look like scanned printed-magazine pages’

I’ve been binge-reading my way through my (scary) backlog of Instapaper’d articles and RSS feeds. Deciding to read, as it were. More on that concept in the next Galavant Times.

Meanwhile, this quote from a longer digression on advertising-in-stuff-you’ve-already-paid-for (Double-Dipping) by Marco Arment struck me:

 On the iPad, I find that the magazine-like layouts get in the way and make the reading experience more difficult. iPad magazine content shouldn’t look like scanned printed-magazine pages.  

Are incredibly complex and expensive-to-develop iPad apps necessary, or would simpler ones suffice? Are enough customers really demanding the expensive features — especially those with big per-issue costs, like all of the multimedia “extras” — to make them worth their costs, or would most of the readership still pay the same amount for just the text and a few optional photos in a nice, reusable template? That’s how most websites publish their content, and we’re all fine with it. In many ways, such a structure could result in much better apps: adjustable fonts, text selection, highlighting, and many other reader-friendly features become much simpler to implement in such an environment. Higher quality, lower cost.

I subscribe to the New Yorker. And I absolutely loathe the format of their archives – a user-hostile “e-magazine” format that is hard to read, difficult to navigate, and ugly. The New Yorker isn’t the only one to do this – print publications are enamored of the idea of “e-editions” and “e-magazines” that replicate the print format online.

(See also: ‘This approach privileges print and its design conventions, imposing them on new platforms’)

Another trend, as publishers herald the iPad as the saviour of all (old) media (companies): those whizz-bangy ooh-look-a-pigeon apps alluded to above – in which the “extras” distract from the actual reading experience.

But the piece isn’t just about simplifying the reading experience; it’s also about the economics of that complexity, and of print vs digital-only media:

Ads are supposedly necessary to subsidize the publications so they can be sold at an acceptable cost to most readers. But if ads didn’t need to be sold, the staff and operations related to ad sales could be cut, reducing the cost of delivering each issue.

If the publication went digital-only, the entire infrastructure for printing and distribution could be cut, too.

If all readership is on the website and an iPad app, how much of the layout staff is necessary?Web publications don’t need custom layouts for each post…

Emphasis mine:

With a smaller staff, and with most resources allocated to content generation, how much management and support staff could be cut? And would the huge offices in prime Manhattan locations still be necessary?

For a reasoned counter-point to Marco’s argument, see Blast Radius on the cost of reinventing The New Yorker as “a modern, digital-only version”.

Newsstand Is Promising, Yay! But Enough with Issue-Based Publishing – global moxie
The New-World Economy of a Modern Magazine, or, A Single-dip – Blast Radius