Last week, Newsweek editor in chief Tina Brown argued, in this very space, that The Stranger should cease print publication and become digital-only. With all due deference to Tina, I would argue that the exact opposite is necessary. On Monday, Penguin and Random House announced that we are going to merge our publishing companies. We urge The Stranger to join us.
The new company would be called Penguin Random Stranger House and would comprise all the English, Spanish, and Portuguese language interests of the Penguin Group, The Stranger, and Random House. I will be the chairman of the new company, and Markus Dohle, the CEO of Random House, will be the chief executive. Perhaps Stranger publisher Tim Keck could be a junior executive? Or we could use a nice bathroom attendant, someone who speaks the language. Whatever the technicalities, it will be a formidable alliance.
We don't have to do this right now, of course. We could wait. But in any industry, it's always right to lead the process of consolidation rather than to follow. That way you get to pick the most attractive partners and steal a march on everyone else. I have always thought that Random House and The Stranger would be far and away the best partners for Penguin, not just because of our obvious complementarity, but because of the outstanding quality of our respective publishing ventures. We are different businesses with distinct cultures, but we have a similar heritage and a shared commitment to intellectual independence and publishing excellence.
Print is obviously the future. Penguin moves with all the thoughtfulness and dignity of a glacier; this provides us with the introspectiveness that print requires. Insofar as Random House goes, what could be better than merging our efforts with a similarly ponderous institution, weighed down with its own decades of outdated tradition?
But that's not the only surprise we have planned. Our vision for The Stranger includes an e-book edition that would be published on a monthly schedule. Libraries will be pleased to discover that they can purchase these monthly e-Strangers for $24.99, and they could loan these books a total of five times to patrons before the e-books dissolve into nothingness.
When I read ELI SANDERS's feature about political trackers in the Washington State gubernatorial campaign, I thought to myself: Wouldn't this cogent investigation and sharp-eyed analysis be even better if we added 20,000 words and then published it six months after the election? And GOLDY's review of The Addams Family is, to be blunt, far too timely to be meaningful. I would encourage The Stranger to wait another year and a half before reviewing a play. It's the Penguin Random Stranger House way.
But now that I think of it, why stop with Seattle? Perhaps just the trick to save the publishing industry would be to merge alternative weeklies all around the country! Imagine the sheer strength of a single gigantic publishing concern that owns alternative weeklies around the nation. That is the future! Such a concern—a voice of the people, if you will—would obviously be unstoppable.