A Case of Disc-based Digital Content: The New Yorker Magazine

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Article ImageCompany: The New Yorker Magazine
The New Yorker is a literary giant, one of the cornerstone magazines of the past 100 years. Now part of Conde Nast Publishing, the New Yorker continues to have a healthy print publishing business, and has built an impressive online business that includes an advertising-supported Web site and a comprehensive ecommerce site that markets everything from framed reprints of the New Yorker's famous cover illustrations to note cards and shower curtains. www.newyorker.com; http://archive.newyorker.com

Business Challenge
The New Yorker was interested in providing a complete archive of its magazine to its readers, and was intent on also providing a disc-based product. As Ed Klaris, general counsel and project director, put it, "The goal was to give people the archive the way they want it, with the feeling of ownership that we thought would be important to them." Yet the archive is a complicated one—more than 80 years of a weekly magazine chock-full of text, illustrations, advertising, and photography—and a requirement to provide a reading and viewing experience that meets or exceeds the print magazine itself.

Vendor of Choice: Bondi Digital Publishing and LizardTech
Bondi Digital Publishing provides magazines with solutions for digital distribution. For this project, Bondi provided the overall product design, software development, and integration, working closely with the New Yorker team through all phases of the product development. Because of the size of the archive (over 60GB) and the demanding rendering requirements, Bondi and the New Yorker chose the DjVu viewing technology from LizardTech. The DjVu technology provides excellent rendering of both the typography and the graphics, with a compression ratio better than Adobe's PDF. The better compression enabled the product to be delivered on eight DVDs. www.bondidigital.com; www.lizardtech.com

The Problem in Depth
The specific requirement for excellent rendering speaks to a number of the broad requirements and goals of the product. The New Yorker is famous for many things, but its cover illustrations, inside art, and cartoons are, for many readers, the hallmark of the magazine's unique style and presentation. The Complete New Yorker had to give the reader the same satisfying experience with the artwork and cartoons that they would get from the magazine itself.

Yet the text rendering is just as critical. The 80 years of the weekly New Yorker totaled more than 200,000 pages, many chock-full of text. The viewing technology would need to provide excellent rendering of the text. As Murat Aktar, president of Bondi Digital, explained, "The New Yorker team was very focused on how people would use the product, especially the reading experience. Making something glitzy is great, but in this case, reading is critical, and the reading should be easy and not fatiguing."

Along with the rendering, the size of the content base also presented practical challenges of search and navigation. In addition to digitizing the magazine content itself, the New Yorker team also decided to digitize index cards of article and illustration metadata that dated back 80 years. This metadata would allow lookup by typical features such as author, genre, date, and keyword, but would also allow readers to look up articles and illustrations by which department of the magazine they originally appeared in, which is a well-understood part of the magazine.

One additional practical challenge loomed, which is that New Yorker readers would expect a Macintosh version of the software to be available. While the overall Macintosh market might be 5%-6% of the market, New Yorker readership is about 30% Macintosh, as so many of their readers work in the creative industries and education, where the Macintosh has its strongest foothold. So the goal from the beginning was to create a product that was identical in functionality and interface across the two platforms. But the driving overall challenge, as the New Yorker team saw it, was to provide a high-quality experience to the reader, befitting its tradition of editorial and design excellence.

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