Wish fulfillment: How would you reinvent a weekly magazine?
Imagine you just became the the editor of a weekly magazine. You produce a 16ish-page tab once a week, plus whatever you want on the web. You have no advertisers, no responsibility to earn money, and a bunch of smart, ambitious college students willing to work for free. Your weekly has a tradition of printing old-school longform narrative cover stories, plus embarrassing party photos and snarky columns. But you’re having a bit of an identity crisis. Blogging has taken off, which means many of the stories you used to cover are now blogged first, and in a conversational tone that used to be your distinctive voice.
What do you do?
I had this conversation yesterday with one of the new editors of The Harvard Crimson’s weekly magazine, Fifteen Minutes. Their first reaction to the growth of The Crimson’s news blog is to focus on more and better narrative journalism. Awesome, right? Remember: They don’t have to abase themselves for page views!
My advice for them: 1) Jump into Twitter. Find ideas and readers there 2) Do fewer stories but make them awesome 3) Let your writers find weird, idosyncratic stories they’re passionate about, rather than dutiful “issue” reporting 4) Become a platform for the campus’ smartest student bloggers. They have ideas. You have eyeballs. Make like The Atlantic, and put them together. 5) Take a look at Longshot Magazine, and invent some experiments of your own. 6) Think of yourself as a magazine based at a university, not just a magazine of undergraduate life 7) Try anything. You will never get an opportunity like this again.
What advice would you give them? What would you do if you got to run a magazine for a year–without worrying about profit?