A Critical Overview of The Stranger
Last week was a bittersweet moment in Newsweek's immensely proud history. As we announced—and as has been passionately reported by the media in the United States and abroad and beyond abroad—Newsweek will go all-digital in 2013. And now I am encouraging The Stranger to do the same.
I'm not going to lie to you, Stranger: It's a bittersweet move, as I said. I love print. Back in my days at the New Yorker, I would roll around on a carpet of the magazines, and I'd swear I could feel Art Spiegelman's controversial cartoons ooze, like a raspberry guava treatment, into my skin. But we are seizing the zeitgeist, as we did back in my days at the New Yorker. I look forward to rolling around on a chilly carpet of tablets and feeling Andrew Sullivan's histrionic rants ooze, like an arctic algae skin wrap, into my pores. It will feel more comradely, Stranger, if you join us on the other side of the digital divide.
Oh, Stranger. I have many suggestions for you. First, your website. When I bought Newsweek, I immediately wiped away that stodgy old website, newsweek.com. If you wanted to read Newsweek content online, you couldn't do something as simple as type the "name" of the "magazine" into a "web browser." No, you had to join us at thedailybeast .com, a website that literally most people in the United States do not know exists. Counterintuitive? Of course! Like our reporting, we obfuscate simplicity in the hopes of driving toward a simple truth. I suggest you dump the too-obvious thestranger.com for a URL with more pizzazz, like ignominiouscontroversy.com.
How will The Stranger's content flourish in an all-digital terrain? Let's look to DOMINIC HOLDEN's marijuana feature for pointers. In the—ugh!—print edition, the words just... sit there, all immobile and fusty. You can't pinch to zoom, or flick to scroll, or palm to throb. In an iPad age, unchangeable words are death. Imagine an Ignominious Controversy app full of this and other Stranger content, with a Multi-Touch marijuana leaf–shaped infographic, allowing the reader to literally view the issue from all angles. And the illustrative image for the story should be more controversial and acontextual—think Newsweek's recent Muslim Rage cover—or perhaps more slyly witty, à la Spiegelman's covers from back in my days at the New Yorker.
And JEN GRAVES's art criticism is far too stuffy, too Old Media to go on existing in this bold new digital era. Rather than providing context and revealing a personality behind the new show at James Harris Gallery, I'd encourage Graves to use selected hot-button words to up the page rankings of her stories. Here are a few to start: vulvular, Islamic, Romney/Ryan, nip-slip, detox, Lohan, polygamous.
In the end, you want to rise to your audience, not just continue like some blind person who forgets it's no longer the silent movie era and now we're in the talkies. There are now 70 million tablet users in the United States alone; The Stranger does nothing to appeal to them. I would encourage you to join Newsweek in transforming your product into something resembling a New Media machine with a bit of that Old Media sauciness, much as I provided back in my days at the New Yorker.