New Yorker Builds Online Content — Slowly
There’s no question the New Yorker is an institution in the magazine industry – but even a brand as powerful and revered as the New Yorker has to be careful wading into digital waters.
Case in point: During the U.S. Open tennis championships in Flushing New York earlier this month, John Colapinto, one of the New Yorker’s bloggers, captured and unloaded a grainy video clip of Roger Federer to YouTube and embedded it in a post on the Sporting Scene, the magazine’s U.S. Open blog. One slight problem: like most of the clip-happy blogosphere, the New Yorker didn’t have the rights to upload or post the video; CBS and USA, the networks carrying the Open, did. The magazine was operating under the bloggy interpretation of fair use. That is, if you are critiquing something, particularly a live event, then using the clip to allow your readers to watch along with you is certainly fair. (Honestly, how can you read a blogger’s rant of Britney’s trainwreck appearance at the Video Music Awards without simultaneously watching it?)
The clip was promptly pulled by YouTube at the networks’ request.
There are currently 25 videos uploaded to the New Yorker’s YouTube account—content ranging from New Orleans’ jazz parades to an odd high school graduation—used mainly to accompany blog posts by the magazine’s New Orleans correspondent Dan Baum. Nearly all of the clips are original … and nearly no one is watching. One exception: a video that accompanies Jane Mayer’s magazine piece about the torture scenes on the Fox hit series 24. The seven-and-a-half-minute video, which includes clips from the show, has generated 4,144 views since it was uploaded seven months ago. (Saturday Night Live’s Emmy-winning “Dick in a Box” sketch, by completely unfair comparison, has generated 27,178,510 views over roughly the same time period.) The New Yorker’s YouTube channel, meanwhile, has amassed exactly 19 subscribers since the account was created in February.
Whereas its city counterparts at New York magazine have taken aggressively to the Web with blogs and videos – and skyrocketing traffic (27 million page views in June vs. 3.5 million in June 2006) – the New Yorker, it seems, moves at the pace of a New Yorker story: slowly, methodically, uniquely their own.
The magazine has four original blogs – not including a handful, like the Borowitz Report, the site links to – they’ve let build organically. Hendrik Hertzberg, the New Yorker’s senior editor and staff writer, began blogging from August’s Yearly Kos conference, and has since continued to post with semi-regular frequency ever since.
The New Yorker’s online audio offerings, though, have fared significantly better than its blogs and video. Two weekly audio podcasts (plus one monthly) are featured consistently in the Top 20 on iTunes, while a new fiction podcast debuted at #5 on iTunes.
Its formula, however methodical, seems to be working: page views have quadrupled month-over-month versus 2006. (In June, the site had 4,892,816, compared to 1,059,909 in June 2006, according to magazine representatives.)
“There are a lot of things that aren’t New Yorkerish about the Web,” says one employee. “But there are a lot of things about the Web that you can’t do in a New Yorker article. Unlike newsmagazines or alt-weeklies or newspapers, where their niche is changing drastically, we don’t have that urgency, desperation. That’s why we’re proceeding cautiously to find that place where the New Yorker [sensibility] meets the Web.”