Anthony Herta

How the New Yorker is innovating while the New Republic struggles with digital transition

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As we know, the journalism field is in a very transitional period. Print and online publications are grappling with what content makes the print/online issue, how ads are bought/sold, etc. Most importantly, the time for analog senior staffers with glasses half way down their noses are on the way out of long-running publications. But some are being pushed out by new scary technology and digitally born “innovators.”

Take The New Republic for instance. Owner Chris Hughes is selling the New Republic. This comes after a huge shake-up for the outlet. In 2014, two years after Hughes bought the publication, he stressed that in-depth reporting was not enough, according to The New Yorker. Rather, “We also have to do videos. We also have to do interactive graphics. We have to be increasingly smarter—we’ve already made good progress, but even more—about how we use social media.” He later closed the same meeting with, “This institution has been around for one hundred fucking years.” Yikes.

But it wasn’t enough. In 2016 — just four years after buying the venerated publication — he put the magazine up for sale.

Obviously the stakes are high as legacy brands make their way to digital. To survive, these outlets have to think of different ways to produce content both online and in print.

While the New Republic is struggling, one of its competitors is innovating and looking at alternative storytelling. The New Yorker has gone about the shift slowly but is starting to develop a digital brand.

For example, rather than merely posting supplemental videos and visuals with its stories, the magazine has introduced a new show called “The New Yorker Presents,” exclusively on Amazon Instant Video, according to Wired. In this new series, each episode is formatted almost like the print magazine itself. Episodes include, short documentaries, cartoons, poetry and fiction stories.

“It’s not a re-creation of the magazine itself, but a step in the direction of reinvention of the news magazine format,” Kahane Cooperman, executive producer of The New Yorker Presents, told Wired.

To find inspiration for the show, Cooperman read through many print issues of The New Yorker and highlighted stories she saw the most unique, diverse and relevant. She then sent this list out to filmmakers and let them choose stories they wanted to tackle. But these episodes aren’t meant to be just visual representations of the stories — rather the print story is used as the foundation of the story.

“Translating The New Yorker in all its various forms — profiles, fiction, humor, cartoons — to TB is no small feat,” David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, said to Wired. “Alex (Gibney) and Kahane (Cooperman) have done a masterful job and I’m tremendously pleased with the result.”

After watching the trailer for this new series, as a journalist, it looks very intriguing to me. Although I was aware of The New Yorker before, this new series not only intrigues me to watch it, but to pick up the print edition and see what the foundation was really like.

I find it particularly intriguing because this traditional magazine just didn’t pick an established television channel (or make their own channel for that matter) — rather they picked a more trendy streaming service.

Although this is an example of a print magazine adapting to the digital atmosphere, this move could shape how we consume content in the future.

Will it work? That’s still to be determined. But it’s enough to get me interested in a magazine I hadn’t thought much about previously.

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