If you look the bottom of the first page of an issue of the New Yorker, you’ll find teasers for articles which are not in the magazine you’re holding, but are on their website. A few pages later, a crossword puzzle with three clues asks you to visit the website to complete the rest of that week’s crossword digitally. (The New Yorker offers a separate paid subscription for crosswords.) In some issues, an entire page is taken up by the slogan, “Not all our award-winning writing can be found in these pages.” And who can blame them? If they could shove all their readers to online, they could remove the overhead of producing a print version of their magazine, turning it into profit (currently, the New Yorker offers both their print and digital subscriptions at the same price).
Weapons of Reason is a magazine about technology and humanity. It comes out once a year, offering a deep dive into topics like climate change, health and artificial intelligence. You can read the stories from the magazine online, but these are offered on a kind of time-delay; if you want to read the whole thing right now, you’ll need to order a copy and have it sent to you.
Kai Brach produces Offscreen from an office in Melbourne, sourcing content from writers across the world. It is only available in print, a kind of meta-statement on attention and reflection for the magazine’s tech audience. On his website, Kai writes: “Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about paper versus screens not as old versus new, but as different and complementary devices, each stimulating particular modes of thinking for particular times of our day.”
The New Yorker is no indie magazine, of course, it’s quite the opposite. But where a large-scale production like the New Yorker must cut its ties to the material plane to stay profitable in a world full of digital competition, the indie scene uses that same competition to their advantage, using their physical nature to set themselves apart from noisy online discourse.
This approach is difficult to scale, but that in itself becomes the appeal, the thing that makes it unique.