At Magazines, It’s 2.0 Steps Forward, 1.0 Step Back

“If your magazine—or your company, whatever it is—has a point, it can do well in tough times,” said Mr. Carter.

The New York Times’ Joe Nocera burst out of his seat during a question-and-answer session and strongly disagreed with the editors and wondered how they could be so sanguine about the future of print.

“Joe, no!” said Mr. Remnick. “A, we’re not sanguine. Or blithe. We think about it all the time. There are meetings about it all the time. We’re each thinking about this. Constantly.”

And truth be told, Mr. Remnick is doing something about it!

In recent months, according to staffers, he’s finally taken to the Web and has been encouraging his endless stable of writers (and editors!) to start contributing to it. Mr. Remnick also hired Avi Zenilman, a former staffer at Web-savvy Politico, to start badgering writers into coming up with more ideas to write Web-only content.

On Dec. 16, George Packer wrote a takedown of Sean Penn’s cover story for The Nation on Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro. Mr. Packer’s post was bloggy in every way—dripping with sarcasm (“veteran foreign correspondent Sean Penn,” or, describing Christopher Hitchens as the “world-famous hedge-fund executive and philanthropist”), snarky and a pretty frank and vicious attack. And it even got a link on Romenesko—not exactly a familiar place for New Yorker stories.

Moving print and Web closer together—something that started happening at newspapers three years ago—is the direction some magazines appear to be taking.

At New York, the magazine’s online arm of the Intelligencer section, the Daily Intel, will start producing more material for the magazine’s section starting next year. The section is expected to be undergoing a remodeling where more and more Web-only content will be reconfigured or re-purposed for the magazine. Jesse Oxfeld, a senior editor who worked on the magazine’s Intelligencer section, was laid off due to the Web and magazine integration.

At Entertainment Weekly, there were five layoffs, including two editors, with the idea that there will be less editing—and more DIY from its writers!—but also more contributions from the magazine’s writers.

And at Forbes there have been massive layoffs from the Web side—including Forbes Auto and Forbes Traveler, as Gawker reported last month—with a full integration of the print and Web coming in the new year.

Meanwhile, looking back, it seems a surprise that the Web Staffs of the Magazine World ever felt their oats in the hidebound ink-and-paper industry.

In late September, around the time Fortune’s Andy Serwer gave the speech praising his Web staff, John Huey, Time Inc.’s editor in chief, sent out a memo to the staff of Fortune writers. Rumors were swirling that if Fortune writers didn’t start contributing to the Web, they could suffer penalties, like a docked paycheck.

“Although we certainly hope that everyone will see the dot com platform as a vibrant and exciting enhancement to the readers’ experience, we want to be clear that Guild-covered employees are not required to contribute to the Web sites as part of their jobs,” he wrote, “and will not suffer any negative impact as a result of not contributing.”

jkoblin@observer.com