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Since taking the helm of The New Yorker in 1998, David Remnick has returned the magazine to its profitable glory days. A graduate of Princeton University, he began his journalistic[…]

Does a Web presence compromise the New Yorker brand?

David Remnick: I think about this a lot, the New Yorker on the Web. And I think that if I were in Bill Keller’s position, which is the editor of the New York Times; or Lynn Downey’s at the Washington Post, my sense of the Web would be different than my sense as the editor of the New Yorker.

If you’re the editor of a newspaper, your sense of the Web is existential. In other words, if you’re honest with yourself, you know that nobody under a certain age, or essentially nobody, is reading the paper on paper, or going to read it on paper for much longer.

We know all the stuff about reading habits. I won’t bore you with it, but you know it to be the case. And it is probable that the best technology for reading the newspaper, for navigating the newspaper, not for advertising, but for reading the thing itself, is the Web.

Laptops get better. They become more portable. They’re unbelievably fast. You can search around them. To say nothing of the extra things that newspapers have learned to give their readers, including audio, video and what not.

On the other hand, it’s arguable that the best technology so far for reading, at least my magazine, the New Yorker, is the magazine. In other words, the best technology so far for reading a 14,000 word piece might be that thing you roll up, shove into your bag and take with you on the train that you can’t with the Web.

I don’t see many people reading long New Yorker pieces on a PDA in the subway, or on commuter trains or airplanes. I don’t.

Now all that said, I want to be there for everybody. And I want to develop a Web site that is there for everybody. I’ve got to make it work economically as well.

Now if you told me in 50 years the New Yorker won’t be on paper, I wouldn’t be shocked. I’d be sad maybe. I don’t think that’s the case, but again prediction is the lowest form of human endeavor, I think. My job is not that. My job is to be there for everyone; for them to read it in a way that’s convenient and even beautiful in both senses.

Question: Does a Web presence compromise the New Yorker brand? 

David Remnick: If the New Yorker is done poorly on the Web it will compromise the New Yorker. And we’ve thought about this a lot. 

In other words, if we try to keep pace with the Web so that we’re not checking things; so that it’s not proofread; so that it’s a mess, then we just become one more Web site. And then I’m not quite sure what we’re worth. If it’s done with the same sense of standards and care, then I’m happy to do it, enthusiastic to do it.


Recorded on Jan 7, 2008


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