By Kyle Austin
The Hampton bound aristocrats are in for a surprise when they reach into their bags for a beach read this weekend and turn to the cover story of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. You can hear them muttering “Who is Emily Gould?” over gin and tonics at the Maidstone Club already.
Emily Gould, Gawker’s former co-editor, graces the cover and details (in a painfully long-winded fashion) what she “gained and lost by writing about her intimate life online.”
The piece entitled “Exposed,” which went online on Thursday, has created an instant bloglash causing the Times Magazine editors to defend giving it the cover – before it even hits the front doors of homes across the country on Sunday.
Gerry Marzorati, editor of the Times Magazine, tried to explain his decision yesterday to MediaBistro’s Fishbowl New York:
“Putting Emily’s story on the cover was not a tough call. One of the things we are most interested in at the magazine are those lifestyle issues — what we call Way We Live Now issues — that blend personal narratives with larger political or ethical or philosophical concerns. These are the kinds of things readers are engaged by on Sunday morning (or anytime, in cyberspace). How the Internet is re-describing how we understand privacy, intimacy and personal history is, I think, such an issue, and the fact that the story — an 8,000-word story — has already, in 6 hours or so, attracted more than 600 comments (most of them having nothing to do with why we published the piece as a cover story) leads me to believe a lot of folks agree.”
Fair enough. Sounds like a digital age answer. As Ryan Tate of Gawker puns:
“That’s such a forward-thinking, blog-ish way to think. Gawker-esque, some might say.”
One problem though. If you’re admitting that the goal of the “thinking-piece” cover story is to create discourse in social circles both in the real world and online then why did they close the comments section on the story when it reached 727 and then suddenly re-open them a few hours later?
If you’re going to be bold and tab an Internet-memoir as your cover story, it’d probably be wise to fully embrace the public discourse (even if it’s overly negative) on your own site. As Tate also mentions, and the Times undoubtedly knows, the discourse will continue all over the blogosphere and through Twitter accounts, regardless of if they house it or not.
Maybe someone upstairs pointed out that discourse really is a good thing after they shut it down. 720 comments (no matter how negative), creates quite a few new pages – which the Times Co. can leverage advertisers on.
While the critics aren’t going to stop bickering about what a travesty it is that the editors gave her the front page of the New York Times Magazine to place the longest-blog-post-ever on, it’s a business after all and you might as well take advantage of it.
Today, the majority of that business and revenue is coming from the very thing the editors chose to spotlight in print for “everyone” to see – The Internet. That’s why it’s really on the cover after all, isn’t it?