The New Yorker Monetizes Digital Excavation

Last week, I wrote about my interest in finding the old treasures buried in the hills of the Internet. Now, via Felix Salmon, it appears that for The New Yorker is doing its part to facilitate such digital excavation of its own archives:

It started with “At the Ballpark”, an iPad-only collection of New Yorker baseball writing from 1929 to 2011, featuring the likes of John Updike, David Grann, and of course Roger Angell. That was sponsored by United Airlines.

The baseball collection was followed by a golf collection (Ogden Nash, Larry David, United Airlines again), and now by a “sustainability” collection sponsored by BMW and featuring the likes of John McPhee and Michel Specter.

Nearly all of these pieces are timeless, just waiting to be rediscovered. And the New Yorker’s archives are so deep, and are of such high quality, that there’s really no limit to how many of these things it can produce. Each one is very cheap to put out — just cobble together a bunch of articles under a theme, and get a TNY writer to pen a short introduction. Meanwhile, the advertisers get to align themselves with popular or trendy subjects (golf, “sustainability”), and reach an audience which is affluent even by New Yorker standards.

I don’t have an iPad, so I won’t be able to partake of these offerings. But like Salmon, I think it is great that The New Yorker is doing this. Not only is it providing access to classic content, but it is also innovating a business model in an industry that is in dire need of new and sticky revenue streams. Not every magazine will be able to package their old classics like this, but there is no reason that those that do have a broad history of great writing can’t use new technology to introduce readers to their best content from years past.

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