Staking a Place Online Takes Killer Instincts.

By David Hershkovits


Publishing on the Internet is like trying to win the Hunger Games. (Watch out, there's a killer app out to get you!) It's survival of the fittest in a world with no rules, where everyone is vying for approval from the same audience. With the playing field leveled, a 16-year-old with a computer, a stupid pet trick on YouTube and Kanye West's latest Twitter blatherings all compete for the valuable eyeball.

OK, I'm exaggerating. Online media may not be as cutthroat as that and no one is asking us to sacrifice our children to maintain world peace -- or are they? -- but it's nonetheless treacherous and ungodly. What's most annoying is that it's a platform that is constantly shifting -- resting on one's laurels is equivalent to living on the San Andreas Fault and rejecting the inevitability of an earthquake.

What makes it even more frustrating is that conceiving, designing and developing a website is inherently a losing battle. No sooner have you come up with that perfect something that incorporates all the latest technology (widgets that make sharing as easy as...well, pressing a button, a gorgeous design that enables us to show off our beautiful photography and original content, bells and whistles meant to put us in the forefront of web publishing) than kaboom! Something else comes up, some must-have game changer that's taking the Internet by storm. (Has anyone heard of Vine?) So be it. Having been in this "space" since the beginning, I've come to view each emerging craze with skepticism, knowing that it will inevitably be replaced by another. Instead of keeping up with the Jobses, I fall back on the tried and true. Old-fashioned as it may be, good original content is what lasts after the GIFs have stopped moving and all the cats and babies have gone to sleep.

Even so, knowing that there is no stasis, that each new version is only the beginning of the next round of updates and bug fixes, we are proud as can be of Papermag.com's latest iteration -- especially our mobile-friendly home page, which we believe sets a new standard of functionality and design for the Internet. Design usually has to give way to functionality or vice versa, but rarely has the combination of the two been executed with such grace and panache. Hats off to our creative director Andrea Fella and the folks at 29th Street Publishing for working so closely with our edit team to make Papermag.com a pleasure to behold.

Our experience with the Internet goes back to the very beginning. Without doing the hard research to substantiate my claim, I believe that Papermag.com is one of the oldest ongoing magazine websites publishing today -- predating the New York Times and everyone else I can think of when we debuted online in 1995. Going back to the glorious days of yesteryear, I can remember my excitement when the first commerical browser, Netscape, was developed. My dream fulfilled, this scrappy indie monthly, with a staff barely big enough to produce its oversized print magazine, declared itself a digital daily. Our enthusiasm getting the best of reality, we soon found ourselves publishing story after story with barely a soul out there to read it. And advertising? Fuggetaboutit. When we approached companies they looked at us quizzically, as though we were visitors from another planet. The Internet? Never heard of it. We began hosting online chats and invited designers like Todd Oldham and Isaac Mizrahi to come and see for themselves what this wonderful new invention called the Information Superhighway was all about.

At a meeting on the day of Papermag.com's official re-launch, there was little time for kudos and pats on the back. This living thing that is the Internet demands our attention 24/7. Unlike the magazine, which is sent to a printer and is done, inviolable, a finished product to hold and admire -- the web is fluid, correctable, subject to tinkering and more tinkering.

Today the Internet has come to dominate our lives in ever (un)imaginable ways. The key word of the last decade has got to be "disruptive," as we've seen the digital tsunami sweep across the globe, taking down one industry after another. Publishers were among the first to feel it, but they have been among the first to emerge stronger and better. Now our fans don't have to seek Paper out in the furthest outposts of the United States and beyond. Now, we are everywhere. Enjoy!


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