NewYorker.com’s Nick Thompson on getting writers to love blogging

NewYorker.com editor and Atavist co-founder Nicholas Thompson is no stranger to technology. In fact, he spent five years as a senior editor at Wired magazine, and currently discusses technology news as a contributing editor at both Bloomberg News and CNN International. Despite its reputation as a fussy throwback, the New Yorker has rolled out a slew of online products, from a mobile app to audio editions of the magazine, podcasts, videos and more. The centerpiece, though, is NewYorker.com. Ebyline talked with Thompson about coaxing the magazine’s long-form writers into maintaining blogs, following up on their features and interacting with readers. Answers are edited for length and clarity.

How do you get a New Yorker writer who’s used to spending two months getting a lede for their story to love blogging?

It’s just a different form of writing, which they all love. And everyone can see the virtues of sometimes writing for the web and being able to respond to events immediately. On our site right now, we have moving and deeply intelligent posts about the massacre in Connecticut by David Remnick, Adam Gopnik, Jill Lepore, Evan Osnos, and Patrick Keefe.

Did any writers find it challenging at first to transition from stories with a long lead time, to responding to current events such as that one?

When writers are deeply immersed in long stories, they don’t have the time to write blog posts. But when they have the time, they’re able to do a great job on it.

Can you describe what the point of the website and the blogs are when your main product, the print magazine, is the complete opposite?

We run a similar mix of stories online and in the magazine, and we have many of the same writers. Of course the print stories are generally longer, and more intensively reported. But we like to think that all the stories have the same DNA.

What is your overall vision for the website?

Producing more great journalism, and creating another way for people to read New Yorker staff writers and freelancers.

How does it complement the print magazine? Or does it?

Oh, it absolutely does. Look at last week. Raffi Khatchadourian wrote an outstanding long piece that ran in the magazine on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday we ran, online, videos related to the piece. Then on Sunday, we ran another six thousand words that he had written about the subject.

What will NewYorker.com look like in 20 years?

I don’t know! I suspect it will still be creating wonderful stories for all kinds of different readers and technologies—and in many formats we can’t even imagine now.

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About Yael Grauer

Yael Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yael Writes.

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