Magazines learn Web 2.0 tricks

Five months after the American Society of Magazine Editors presented a National Magazine Award for general excellence to National Geographic and The New Yorker, it is what these publications are doing off the printed page that impresses me.

Three Ways Print Magazines Are Making Daring Online Plays

While retaining impressively high editorial standards, The New Yorker has found ways to leverage this content in ways that should attract a different breed of reader — or at least a newer generation.

The image below is a screen capture of a featured political cartoonist at work, creating a caricature for a story. Included on the same page are links to feeds for editorial content unique to the medium — podcasts and blogs.

(The magazine also publishs all print content online. I love how I can pass along by email a copy of an article I’ve read in the print edition of The New Yorker. Example: The South Korean film The Host (original title: Gwoemul) was one of my favorite films of last year, but few in my circle of friends and acquaintances knew about it. Anthony Lane, the bright and Wodehousean film reviewer for the magazine, described this film wonderfully in this New Yorker review. I’ve probably emailed that review to a dozen people, mostly because I find The Host brilliant, but also because Anthony Lane is such a persuasive salesman for the film.)

Another 2008 editorial award-winner, National Geographic, presents its stunning photography in a format that invites sharing. In fact, I had originally seen these photos (sampled below) in the print edition. Fellow blogger Lembit Kivisik had reminded me of them in a post on his Twitter feed. He commented to me that “I think about subscribing to the mag after visiting their site. Maybe I finally will now.”

And that’s the point, I think. Many of these magazines are flashing a little ankle, as it were, on the calculation that people will want an analog version of what they see digitally. (And who can argue that — unlike the online versions — the lush photographs and maps in National Geographic’s print edition are something to prize … to linger over and visit revisit often?)

Jozsef Szentpeteri's cool photos of colorful, bee-eating birds

And then there are the magazines using podcasts in a big way. My latest print Economist is a weekly treat (it’s sad, I know), but time being scarce, I appreciate their new service, Talking Issues. It allows print subscribers to download the latest issues as dozens of well-categorized and labeled podcasts. You get every word of their print edition. Now I get to “read” The Economist the way I would a spoken word book during my long commute into work.

Download the entire magazine in spoken word. Approximately 150 Mb per issue!

Do you have favorite examples of magazines making new media plays for our time and subscription dollars?