New Yorker September 24, 2001

New Yorker September 17, 2001
 A while back, I wondered about the usefulness of iPad magazines, and noted that they had the potential to update as needed and never (or less frequently) go out of date. In that post, I noted that the first New Yorker edition to come out after September 11 had nothing to do with the attacks (and may have arrived on news stands on September 10). Because of an inevitable printing lag, the magazine with the all black cover and shadows of the twin towers was the September 24 issue, the second issue after the attacks. It ran with no cartoons.

The September 11 attacks were on a Tuesday, which--along with the print to distribution lag--meant that the New Yorker, which dates its weekly issues with the Monday date had to wait a whole 13 days until its print edition could comment on the attacks.

New Yorker May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday evening New York time May 1, 2011. His death was confirmed by President Barack Obama late Sunday night. Of course, the New Yorker issue dated May 2 was not going to comment on the bin Laden's death; almost a full week before he died.  The May 9 magazine, has nothing on bin Laden either; it appears to have arrived on news stands on May 2.

On September 11, 2001, the New Yorker website was less than a year old. Now, the site serves as a supplement to the magazine. Currently, there are at least 45 online items (blog posts and audio included) about Osama bin Laden that have been posted since Obama's speech.

Newsweek  May 6, 2011

In terms of technical feasibility, I understand why all that work is web-only. Unlike the New York Times, it was clearly far too late for the New Yorker to yell "stop the presses".  The New Yorker is not a news magazine; Newsweek's Friday cover, for example, will feature bin Laden (left). But changes in how we read magazines makes the New Yorker lag feel particularly strange.

I currently read the New Yorker on a Kindle. Because it arrives instantly and via the Internet, I am more aware of how behind it is. I have already received the issue dated May 9, and I found myself disoriented when I started reading the first article: "Memorials" by Adam Gopnik. When I saw the title, I expected it to be about Ground Zero, the Pentagon, or something about how we memorialize and celebrate. Instead it is about Civil War memorials in New York City. It's interesting and well written, but seems totally disconnected from the world in which I live.

New Yorker May 9, 2011
The experience of momentary confusion, of a tiny clash of new technology and an 85-year-old stodgy, scrutinized  magazine, brought up this question: should the electronic editions (iPads and e-readers) of magazines be different from the print edition? Should someone have changed the lead article in the magazine that was sent to my Kindle? I already get a modified version of the magazine: there are no columns, no ads,   no illustrations or photographs, and all of the comics are grouped together in one section. Why shouldn't I get a magazine that reflects some of the huge amount of content generated by New Yorker reporters and writers since I received the last issue?

 I am not sure when the issue arrived on my Kindle; it could have happened Sunday night (I've been reading a print book and hadn't checked for a bit). If so, there would not have been time to update the Kindle edition. Still even if they chose to release the Kindle edition slightly after the magazine hits the first news stand,  I'd still get my issue before print subscribers got theirs.

On the one hand, that's a lot of extra work, considering Kindle, Nook, and iPad users (who I think get a magazine much closer to the print issue than Kindle users) likely spend a lot of time on the Internet anyway. On the other hand, shouldn't changes in technology be embraced for what they do best?

As someone who likely will switch  back to the print edition in the near-ish future (it turns out, I feel just as guilty about partially-read issues building up in my digital archives as I do them piling up in my bedroom), I could see print subscribers --who pay more than I do--getting annoyed that they get less content. On the other hand, that extra money allows print subscribers to turn the pages, read in the bath, see color images, share the magazine with friends, tear out comics or covers they love, and--and this is key-- access the digital edition at What if that edition reflected the extra content? (Or, if that content remained free to access online). Why not acknowledge that a magazine that arrives  over a 3G network while I sleep could and should be a dynamic product?

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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Books pyramid image originally from the British website, Explore Writing.