Web magazines

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 09, 2004

Before weblogs ruled the realm, a typical way to publish content online was in a Web magazine format. Suck, Feed, Netly News, Smug, Stating the Obvious, etc. Sites like Salon, The New Yorker, Slate, and even most online newspapers publish in the magazine format, but sites like The Morning News and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency are more culturally similar to those early Web magazines (in sensibility and because there’s no offline component). Are there any other sites that you read that are still publishing regularly in this format?

Reader comments

TerenceDec 09, 2004 at 11:58AM

CBC Radio 3 is like neither of the magazines you listed, but it’s a cool magazine site none the less. It’s unique in that it’s flash-based, yet updated weekly. One of my favorite stops on the web.

staceyjoyDec 09, 2004 at 12:10PM

Don’t forget the dear, departed and sorely missed WORD.

chewybrainDec 09, 2004 at 12:25PM

man, i miss feed. especially since they were thinking about bringing on moderators for their forums, and i was in the running. i never could cozy up to plastic.com after the transition.

oh, i miss shift, too. yeah it was canadian and they had a print version, but it was still pretty cool.

i look forward to other responses so that i might find a feed-type site that offers good content and a decent (and decent!) community.

MattDec 09, 2004 at 12:31PM

But! but! but! The Morning News uses Movable Type to manage their weekly zine! :)

There are web dev zines like Digital Web and Boxes and Arrows and there are photography ones like 28mm that try to stick to a monthly update format, which I always thought was quaint, but kind of annoying since I’d have to remember to come back once a month.

I think people realized it was just too much work to pile up expectations and projects that had to be ready to go online by the 1st, and since these are often sites done for free, motivation to do a ton of work in the last few days of the month can be tough. It also kind of goes against common web publishing schedules (especially now, in the age of blogs). It’s much easier to maintain an audience if you just publish whenever you finish new stuff and throughout the month, so people that come back every few days have something new to see.

Part of me still feels it’s a quaint holdover from a time when printing and mailing were expensive and monthly was as often as you could release something. For projects done online, it feels like an artificial barrier set in place, since the moment a piece is done, it can go online and not have to wait until the first of the next month. Also, of the sites I know doing monthly releases, they often have to rely on email to remind people to show up again, which is getting tougher to do everyday as email becomes more broken for everyone.

Steven JohnsonDec 09, 2004 at 12:32PM

I miss FEED too! (But I’m a little biased, I guess.) Top-secret exclusive for Kottke.org readers only: we’re in the middle of getting the archives back online, after three years of being dark. Should be back up in early January I think…

markDec 09, 2004 at 12:39PM

publishing on a weekly or monthly cycle is not quaint - there are plenty of content areas which do not become less relevant on a daily basis. and if it has passed this test of still being relevant after a month, the archives of this type of content will not only be more compelling than 90% of blogs, but more friendly to browse, as it will be in nice monthly groups that an editor selected, rather than long list of daily archives or sorted by broad, generic keyword subjects.

MattDec 09, 2004 at 12:41PM

Actually, now that I think about it (post after thinking), I want the editing and the craft of writing seen in these zines, but not the monthly schedule. But I can see how that schedule promotes it because there is time to pour over every word and make sure it’s perfect.

Ryan SchroederDec 09, 2004 at 12:50PM

Where do pubs like Design in Flight fit in this conversation? Published quarterly as a pdf.

mspDec 09, 2004 at 12:50PM

ugh, i was trying to read some word.com on the way back machine just last night!!!

that was one of my favorite sites.

Owen ThomasDec 09, 2004 at 12:53PM

I couldn’t disagree more strongly with your entire premise, Jason. Suck was a reaction against websites that published in the magazine format. It was daily, short, opinionated, and hyperlinked — everything that web-as-magazine sites like Slate and Salon were not. When I look at blogs, I recorgnize a strong family resemblance to Suck — in the use of links, the tone, and the frequency. It was unlike anything that came before, and shaped much of what came after.

jkottkeDec 09, 2004 at 12:55PM

I want the editing and the craft of writing seen in these zines, but not the monthly schedule.

As long as the publishing effort is regular and sustained, I’m with you on this. TMN does a good job with this…they publish a new piece every day, but if they miss one here or there or take a week off, it’s not a big deal.

Xaviar XerexesDec 09, 2004 at 1:03PM

Okay I’m not sure if this fits here but I publish a webmag called Comixpedia which covers webcomics (at comixpedia.com). We update weekly (although we have monthly “issues” - which means a cover and a theme really) but we also have a blog which gets updated… frequently.

I think you need a schedule to have any sort of editorial review of pieces because it gives you some space to rework pieces, a deadline stick to get it done and a goal (weekly updates) to aim for. Plus it distinguishes the longer, more indepth pieces from the quick blog posts.

My 2 cents.

jkottkeDec 09, 2004 at 1:09PM

I couldn’t disagree more strongly with your entire premise, Jason.

Did I have a premise? I’m just looking for more good sources of edited, crafted, non off-the-cuff online writing. Honest. :)

(And you’re right about Suck’s kinship with blogs, but Suck was edited, just like more traditional Web magazines, which is the part I’m more interested in re: this thread. Suck articles were finished and “professional”, which is what’s missing (I think) from my online reading these days. Does that even make any sense? It’s hard to explain what I’m after here.)

ericDec 09, 2004 at 1:22PM


Andy BaioDec 09, 2004 at 1:26PM

So you’re asking about sites that publish several articles at once on a periodic basis, rather than piecemeal like a newspaper or blog? If so, McSweeney’s doesn’t really fit the criteria, but the Morning News Daily Headlines does.

One area where the publishing schedule still exists is in the Flash-heavy graphic design world. Not coincidentally, their complex interfaces and unique layouts create a lot of overhead, making it more conducive to production schedules and deadlines. k10k is the most prominent example (currently on Issue 131), and many other sites like it follow their lead. Born Magazine, Surfstation, Pixelsurgeon, Design Is Kinky, and so on. Of course, many of those have slowly either stopped updating or have added a daily news blog (usually in a teeny tiny font).

I can only think of a few other examples outside of design that haven’t been mentioned yet. NTK, b3ta, Things Magazine, A List Apart… Pitchfork publishes their news stories only once per day, as does Wired News (although they’ve interspersed some blogs to liven up the homepage).

emilyDec 09, 2004 at 1:34PM

The Obscure Store & Reading Room (still going strong), and the dear departed Mr. Showbiz are/were my faves.

snoosnooDec 09, 2004 at 1:39PM

McSweeney’s DOES in fact have an “offline component” — two, in fact: McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and The Believer. Yeah, the content is pretty much mutually exclusive from the website, but it’s still a “component.”

There are online magazines, such as Tiger and This Is A Magazine, that are all “new” and “fresh” and “hip” and “completely useless” and stuff. They take the traditional page-flipper paper magazine format, and put it on a computer screen. The content is rather unfortunate, but the concept is appealing.

TellerDec 09, 2004 at 1:44PM

Just a tidbit, but actually 28mm.org released their final issue some time ago.

kingbennyDec 09, 2004 at 1:45PM

Tony Pierce et al. did Lick Magazine in a ‘webzine’ format.

DonnieDec 09, 2004 at 2:04PM

I enjoy sites that update on a daily basis - I try to update daily, but it’s very hard to stay disciplined.

KenDec 09, 2004 at 2:10PM

Chicago has some exciting new web mags publishing at the moment. Sites such as The Blacklist, Revol, Gapers Block, and 606 are personal favorites. I also co-edit Subsystence, so maybe that’s worth a mention.

danDec 09, 2004 at 3:22PM

The Plug.
I know its a little different format-wise, but it is published monthly.

Owen ThomasDec 09, 2004 at 3:27PM

Ah, I see. You’re saying you miss editors. Well, who can disagree with that? Andy raises an interesting point: What was wrong with the early magazines-on-the-Web was precisely the monthly-magazine production cycle they pursued. Dumping a bunch of content on the Web once a month, and then letting the site lay fallow, was precisely the wrong strategy — and Suck’s daily posting schedule was the right direction. (Of course, as blogs proved and Nick Denton turned into a science, posting once a day wasn’t nearly enough.)

MikeDec 09, 2004 at 3:53PM

Ironically, The Plug recently announced they were pulling the…uhh…they were calling it quits!

DaveDec 09, 2004 at 4:16PM

I like the idea of the new PDF magazines that are poping up.

But they insist on publishing the mags in a vertical\portrait page format.

You think they haven’t noticed that the overwhelming number of monitors are vertical?

Perhaps they expect you to print out 125 color pages …

teaspoonDec 09, 2004 at 4:35PM

all things have their heritage. monthly schedule: not only by technical limitation (printing costs et al) but also; time goes buy. one day after one night. the calendar is not only culture but lies in nature. one moon -> one month -> one magazine.

Richard MacManusDec 09, 2004 at 4:40PM

Jason said: “Suck articles were finished and “professional”, which is what’s missing (I think) from my online reading these days.”

Richard ruminates: I wonder if weblogs are making our reading and writing habits temporal and ‘always unfinished’ (to twist the ‘always on’ term)? Having written an article for Digital Web Magazine (and I must get around to writing another one), I can confirm it takes at least a couple of weeks to ‘craft’. Whereas with my weblog, although generally I write long-form posts, it’s still of-the-moment and a lot of times it’s an ongoing theme I’m exploring (ie it’s not “finished”).

I would probably write more “finished” articles for my blog if I didn’t feel so much (social?) pressure to continually update my RSS feed. As it is, I only write avg 3 posts p/week anyway, but still… And same goes for my reading - to participate in the blogosphere you have to keep up-to-date with the RSS feeds in your circle of influence. Which leaves less time for reading “professional” and finished articles.

Allan MoultDec 09, 2004 at 4:43PM

Leatherwood Online has been going for nearly a year. We put new stuff online as it happens and also send out a monthly email alert to remind regulars.

We’re gradually converting the front end of each section to be run by ExpressionEngine, while keeping the main content in static pages. A combination of the old and new.

Judging by the continual growth in visitors, we must be doing something right for a totally web-based magazine.

tomcosgraveDec 09, 2004 at 4:56PM

You can’t talk about Webzines without mentioning {fray}> In its earlier form, but I think the current form also counts as a “zine”.

AndrewDec 09, 2004 at 5:04PM

Gapers Block publishes a new photo and column each day and a new feature each week, in addition to ongoing weblog and calendar sections.

RobDec 09, 2004 at 5:55PM

Red Hat just started a new online ‘zine much in the old style that you speak of, Red Hat Magazine. Articles are gathered and edited before being published on a monthly basis. It’s pretty good (although I’m a little biased - being the lead developer).

OscarDec 09, 2004 at 9:46PM

It is another design-related site, but not remotely flash-based. Design Observer publishes thoughtful essays by several of the editors of the Looking Closer series of books. They update once or twice a week.

Paul BaronDec 10, 2004 at 3:05AM

What’s also interesting is how newspapers tried to make websites look like newspapers a few years ago and how they are now trying to make the newspapers look like website to try to stop readership losses. More on that at Hypulp.com, the weblog that documents the influence of internet on print design (rather than the other way around).

PlanethalderDec 10, 2004 at 3:29AM

These are among my regular reads:

Fresh Yarn and the already mentioned Subsystence

JohnDec 10, 2004 at 8:47AM

Echoing Matt’s comments, it was time consuming and difficult to manage a growing stable of writers and put together a magazine every month online—and work your day job. Only 8 issues at my old whetmag.com.

Magwerk has three slick web magazines.

Bodybuilder AndyDec 10, 2004 at 10:47AM

I dont know why but ive never really liked the format of web magazines. The majority seem to be web design focus’s though.

AzraelBrownDec 11, 2004 at 1:46AM

A couple I have my hands in:

Kitschy-Kitschy-Coo, a site for collectors and appreciators of kitschyness. Daily content, in a Suckish format.

Sex-Kitten (NSFW) - doesn’t publish on a calendar schedule (but usually twice monthly). Usually has a theme per ‘issue’ and numerous articles, both in and outside the theme, reviews, fiction, etc.

AzraelBrownDec 11, 2004 at 1:48AM

A couple I have my hands in:

Kitschy-Kitschy-Coo, a site for collectors and appreciators of kitschyness. Daily content, in a Suckish format.

Sex-Kitten (NSFW) - doesn’t publish on a calendar schedule (but usually twice monthly). Usually has a theme per ‘issue’ and numerous articles, both in and outside the theme, reviews, fiction, etc.

JoergDec 11, 2004 at 4:32AM

I publish AK47.tv bimonthly (an art photography magazine … much like 28mm in format). I still like the format of publishing things once a month or bimonthly - even though it is a ‘quaint’ model like Matt suggested. However, it keeps the site manageable for the reader - in terms of information overload. Plus you don’t have the burden of checking up on the site every few days … you know it only comes out every two months.

The one thing that kills it, though, is the need to inform people of the new issue, which still relies on email (there is atom, though).

MiamiMaddieDec 11, 2004 at 2:48PM

YES YES, FRESH YARN — my favorite read now and one of the best ones around.

InfernoDec 11, 2004 at 6:11PM

TheBackbench.com publishes in web magazine format. It releases an issue every one or two months.

GeneDec 12, 2004 at 12:52AM

I read all the comments and even used ctrl-f before posting this: The Onion. (Just stating the obvious. :)

druDec 13, 2004 at 1:01AM

I started the Dominion with the intention of moving from the web into print.

People can print out the pdf, until we get enough momentum to regularly publish a print edition. So far, so good: we’re irregular on dead trees, regular on the web.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.