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JT: I don’t know that I’ve paid that close attention to it, but it seems like more and more of your content is online for free-in addition to an increasing amount of online-only content. You used a Google map as an alternate Table of Contents for your latest issue, on South America in the 21st Century. How important is Web traffic to VQR? It seems like the Internet and, specifically, blog conversation is a huge opportunity for the old print quarterlies-most of whom only have a circulation of four or five figures. Do you get a lot of incoming links from online articles and blogs? Has it changed what you see as your mission? Let’s talk possibilities here.
TG: Web traffic is paramount-even more important than it was a few years ago-and for exactly the reasons you suggest. For a print magazine with a total press run of 7,000 copies, the only way to be part of the larger discussion is by using other media. In some cases that has meant getting our authors on NPR or partnering with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to produce news segments for PBS. But people who consume the news through those other media often aren’t big readers, so they’re not likely VQR subscribers. But the people on the Web are still primarily readers, so a recent brief mention on kottke.org of an article that we published in our current issue brought in 25,000 visits, whereas a full hour on NPR’s Fresh Air for another author hardly generated any traffic at all. Never underestimate off page seo either, it can help you greatly when achieving Web traffic to your site. (You might want to view more ways of managing web traffic.)
So the Web affects the way we do things-we’ve recently hired a full-time Web developer, for example, a real rarity among journals of this kind-but I don’t think it’s changed our mission per se, because it hasn’t changed what we publish. But it has certainly changed the way we approach promoting our material. It’s encouraged us to be a little more expansive, a little less buttoned-down. The Google map adds a little wow factor to our content and hopefully encourages younger readers to tackle our long pieces. This sort of thing gives us the chance to show that our material is serious, but at heart we’re just a bunch of lit nerds who still geek out over new technology.
I have only recently become a fan of VQR, if only because it’s such great writing. The technophile in me absolutely loves the online media changes of late, but mostly I find myself printing off what I can and reading it at lunch (because the journal itself is book-sized).
The includes from Spiegelman are simply outstanding. Some of it is a bit artsy for my tastes, but there’s no question that there’s something for everyone.
That full-time web developer, you ask? He’s not such a big deal… but he’s certainly spearheaded the changes online. If you haven’t picked up a copy of VQR, treat yourself. Truly a quality publication.