New Yorker editor David Remnick took the stage after Martha Stewart and Neil Young on Tuesday, but he might have been the most old school of them all at the AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media conference.
He doesn’t tweet, he doesn’t like reading on mobile phones and he wants to preserve long-form journalism -- all blasphemy to many in the techie set.
When asked what he called the New Yorker, of which he serves as editor, he said it’s a magazine.
“Business people call it a brand; I try not to vomit more than once,” Remnick said.
So no branding.
What about social media?
“I have enough manuscripts coming in to break the back of an elephant,” Remnick said. “I don’t want to spend all this time getting obsessed with another means. I may be wrong.”
He also lamented the now-common act of reading an article or book on a tiny smartphone screen.
But when it came to the iPad, the Washington Post alum stretched a smile across his face.
“The iPad is an exquisite way to read the magazine,” he said. “People aren’t just playing Angry Birds. There is real reading going on there.”
One reason Remnick loves the iPad so much is the success his magazine has had with the device, locking up more than 200,000 subscribers and drawing rave reviews from many media folks for the publication’s sleek digital edition.
However, the New Jersey native explained that it took a good deal of effort to nudge the New Yorker into the digital age.
Conde Nast was late to the game in a good and bad way, showing wise caution ... until it “became a belatedness.”
“I really banged on the door but couldn’t ask for much,” he said, and as Kara Swisher noted, Remnick was arguing with “one dude,” Si Newhouse.
But now that the New Yorker has a website and an app – among other digital initiatives -- he turns to star writers like George Packer and convinces them to supplement their long-form pieces with shorter commentary.
How does he pull that off?
“With love and influence. You push, you prod, you beg you plead; it’s a pathetic piece of business being an editor,” Remnick joked.
Remnick may at times feel personally pathetic, but that doesn’t extend to his product.
When comparing the state of the New Yorker with that of the Los Angeles Times or the Washington Post, where he once worked, his answer was clear.
The New Yorker, he argued, is as good as ever, but those newspapers are not.
Why is that? They mishandled the digital transition, which the old school Remnick has had to embrace.