I started as a Nation intern 18 years ago, and so I remember the days when the magazine lived and breathed in a print-based world. In 1997, our website, still in beta release, consisted of a few “About Us” pages and a couple of pieces from the magazine that we’d post once a week. To indicate that this was all very cutting edge, we stuck a lightning bolt next to the nameplate.
Back then, writing for the magazine was a comparatively monastic experience. You’d work for weeks on an article, defend its arguments against vigorous but loving critiques from the editors, and gratefully accept changes from fact-checkers and copy editors. Finally, the issue would ship to the printer. And then: the vast silence. If you were lucky, a few weeks later, someone might approach you at a party and say how much they liked (or hated) your piece. Some letters from impassioned subscribers would eventually come in via the Postal Service, but encounters with actual readers were rare and cherished events.
We continue to publish the print magazine under these rigorous standards, and it will remain an essential part of our identity, offering readers a considered and curated take on matters of critical interest. The digital revolution, however, has allowed us to connect to vastly more people, and to get to know them better. Today, The Nation publishes about 70 articles a week online, which go out to more than 420,000 Twitter followers, almost 290,000 Facebook fans, and 200,000 e-mail subscribers. And believe me, we always hear back from you—in comment threads, e-mails, tweetbacks, Facebook messages, shares, pins, and likes. Analytic tools allow us to see what’s being read and shared in real time, and to hazard educated guesses why.
All this data can be overwhelming and, for some publications, even dispiriting. It’s become an industry cliché to lament how the Internet rewards content mills that churn out the equivalent of digital fast food. But here at The Nation, the exact opposite has proved true: The more we learn about our readers, the more inspired we are to create great journalism for them. Last year, for example, the most-read articles at The Nation included probing long-form reports on the crisis in Ukraine, Israel’s siege of Gaza, the state of online feminism, the impunity of brutal policing, and the corrosive effect of lobbyists on American politics. The digital revolution has empowered our single greatest asset—The Nation’s readers—and you’ve responded by sharing our best work with millions of new readers every month.