After years of cutbacks, some publications add book coverage

The New York Times | Page Views | Printers Row | Newcity

Dan Kois will edit the Slate Book Review, which bows Saturday. He tells The New York Times that despite newspapers fleeing book coverage, he thinks there's an appetite for writing about books. “Maybe the mode of doing it in print wasn’t appealing to editors or bean-counters," Kois says.

Indeed, as the Times article notes, book talk flourishes online. Look at the lively front pages of The Millions or The Rumpus. My former colleague Mark Athitakis, who writes a very good blog about American fiction, says sites like those "thrive in part because they're labors of love that don't have to compete for pageviews and ad dollars the way newspapers do."

But some newspapers are trying to find a way to keep books in their pages.

New York Daily News recently launched a book blog, Page Views. I talked with co-editor Alexander Nazaryan just after Page Views debuted last December. He told me the blog is a full-throated "defense of literature" that readers might be surprised comes from his paper.

"We are a tabloid, and it does mean something, but it doesn’t mean something pejorative," Nazaryan said. "We appeal to the common man, and at the same time we can expose writing by [Pete] Hammill and [Jimmy] Breslin."

Reached today, Nazaryan says the blog is doing well. The metrics are good, he says, and reviews from Page Views are being reverse-published into the Sunday edition. He's got two interns digging through the Daily News' archive, searching for fiction, which the paper used to publish regularly. "There's rumors that there's an F. Scott Fitzgerald story," Nazaryan says. "No idea if that's true but we're gonna find out." If he finds what he's looking for, Nazaryan says, the Daily News will explore the legality of republishing those works.

"I think the Daily News doesn’t get credit sometimes for being a very intelligent paper," Nazaryan said in December. "I think we want to exploit that and the intelligence of the newsroom." Lindsay Goldwert, a digital editor at the paper, said she and other folks in the newsroom are contributing "for the love of it."

Love won't pay the bills for the Chicago Tribune's Printers Row, a handsome new literary weekly that readers will have to pay $99/year to get with their Trib on Sundays. (For the moment at least, you can read it online, an experience so clunky you'll gladly open your wallet.) The Tribune is selling the supplement as a membership: You'll get a 24-page journal every week, plus a "bound booklet of original fiction," as well as entry to literary events.

In a letter to readers, Tribune editor Gerould W. Kern says book sections used to be distributed to all subscribers, "including those who were passionate about books and those who were not. Traditionally there isn't much advertising in these sections, so the cost became unsustainable. Most of these sections disappeared." Printers Row, he writes, is only one experiment with premium content on the part of the paper. (Related: Emma Heald on the paper's new revenue streams.)

Writing in Newcity as Hildy Johnson, Brian Hieggelke says, "if Printers Row falters, price will bear much of the blame. I have little doubt that the thing costs $99 a year to produce, nor do I think folks would not, in fact, pay that for a proven product, but the structure of their offer is fundamentally misguided. Not only is it about double the cost of a subscription to The New Yorker magazine, but it violates a practice that newspapers long ago mastered: don’t tell us what we’re paying a year."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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