Posted tagged ‘magazines’

Atlantic.com: Putting the “Re-” in Reiterations

7, October, 2008

The Atlantic.com, web outpost for the improbably long-tenured U.S. magazine, has debuted another iteration. I’ve lost count of how many sub-launches of the site there have been just since I’ve been paying attention.

But that’s good. From where I sit, multiple iterations are the way to progress on the web. Too often web developers sit for months creating a grand castle,  worrying the details until it’s just “right.” But time passes, opinions multiply, and eventually the grand castle is released as a McMansion with a scrim of Google ads running down the side. Three years later, another team is back at it, with pictures of a new castle up on the conference room walls.

Theatlantic.com, by contrast, just keeps pushing out upgrades every few months. Each one gets better, and creates subsequent opportunities to correct and change course.

Here’s the new masthead, which anticipates the printed magazine’s new retro look:

And here’s editor James Bennet’s explanation of what’s going on.

Key detail. A news-ish feature called “The Current” has been renamed “Dispatches.” Good move. “Dispatches” I understand. “The Current”. . .not so much. More proof that on the web, clear beats clever every time.

Longstanding grievance: How could an operation that “gets it” so well still view the website as a way to sell subscriptions to the petroleum-and-lumber version of the magazine, so much so that it is willing to degrade web user experience in the process of pushing pulp? Witness:

FOUR FREAKIN’ PROMPTS TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINTED MAGAZINE, ABOVE THE FOLD, OCCUPYING THE MOST VALUABLE REAL ESTATE ON THE WEBSITE.

Stop that, I tell you, stop that!

Atlantic.com: They Get It, They Really Get It!

21, March, 2008

The Atlantic, the magazine that is rarely described without the adjective “venerable,” has undergone an astonishing web rebirth–or, rather, series of rebirths.

I don’t mean they’ve gone on the web. They did that a long time ago. I mean they’ve gotten the web.

The magazine (which, with its we’re-doing-it-meta-so-we’re-not-really-pandering cover story on Britney Spears is perhaps trying to earn the adjective “venereal”) has updated is website three times in the past year. Each time it’s gotten better–more web-savvy, more accessible and less self-infatuated.

With its first re-do in August 2007 (for which I gave it this fanny-slam), it retained its dead-from-the-neck-up policy of asking readers to pay to read the full text of the best articles that appeared in the magazine. It also pretty much kept readers out of the game entirely, sticking with the other dead-from-the-neck-up policy of pushing material to web readers but hardly letting them talk back. Smug.

A few months ago the Atlantic website was re-iterated, guillotining the pay-to-play policy and letting readers romp a bit–adding a not-very-venerably-named “Hot Reads” box of most read, commented, etc.,  splaying out an excess of thinky blogs on the home page, and opening up to reader comments.

And this month a new iteration takes the website into the new world almost fully. Its new section, named The Current, features

  • Three blissfully short contributions daily, navigable by calendar
  • Links to “best opinion”–off-site
  • Comments galore–including a Post and Riposte forum section
  • Smartly curated related-content links, both off- and on-site
  • Free access to back-issue (and related web-only) content back to 1995 (for issues before that, you still have to pay)
  • Continuation of the high-cranial blogs, some of which now integrate multimedia

I could pick nits, but won’t. The Atlantic has demonstrated one of the most important concepts of web development–repeated iteration and continuous improvement. I suspect more improvements will come, but already the website has cleared a very high bar.

Who knows? Someday people may refer to theatlantic.com itself as “venerable.”