In an era when magazine and newspaper publishing appears to be on the way out, the notion of a successful online publications jumping from the web to print is ripe for mockery. Or at least a nasty review. Yet plenty of new magazines are still being launched — some them even by those same online publications.
So it is that after a year full of notable expansions to their online empire — including a prerelease streaming platform and a companion film site — music site Pitchfork is launching a $19.96 print publication, fittingly titled The Pitchfork Review. Fast Company's Evie Nagy got the scoop, which founder and CEO Ryan Schreiber promptly confirmed on Twitter:
It's official: Pitchfork is going to print! http://t.co/AVopZ1Su1T— Ryan Schreiber (@ryanpitchfork) November 21, 2013
As Nagy reports, the periodical will be published on high-quality paper stock and cost $19.96, out of respect for the year Pitchfork started. It will include some articles from the website, but content will be primarily exclusive to the Review. Seemingly nudging away from the usual "news and reviews" conventions of music journalism entirely, Schreiber likens it to other "literary and cultural journals" (though the focus remains on music) and promises a longform focus to offset the site's terse news briefs:
“The price point is in line with the literary and cultural journals that exist, like Monocle and Kinfolk,” says Schreiber. “It will be substantial, printed on quality stock. With vinyl you’re paying more than a download, but it’s permanent and substantial.” [ . . . ] "We’re not trying to be what music publications have traditionally been. We’re trying to break free from this constant racing to be first, which we do online.”
That's in stark contrast to Spin and The Onion, both of which recently shuttered their print operations in favor of digital-only publishing. But for Pitchfork, it's not the first nod in the opposite direction; only last year the site took a cue from print magazines by incorporating meticulously designed cover stories into its publishing schedule. A magazine-style app followed this month. Meanwhile, Converse has apparently solved the advertising problem by signing on as an exclusive partner for the Review's first four issues.
Thus comes the familiar question: has Pitchfork finally grown up? Schreiber founded the site (then "Pitchfork Media") as an amateur webzine while living in his parents' house in Minnesota in 1996, before the dawn of music blogging. Now that's it's graduated to glossy print, with all this talk of literary journals and high-quality stock paper, it's easy to forget the site's roots or its reputation for scathing, sometime impenetrable reviews (some of which have been scrubbed from the site, while other infamous takes live on for posterity).
Since then it's grown into a premiere, sharply edited destination for online music criticism — with its own music festival, Onion parody, and about 240,000 readers a day to its name. Schreiber has bristled when compared to Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner or MTV in 1981. But his zine has quietly blossomed into a media empire of its own. And just as Jezebel has just arrived in book form, print — for a digital enterprise — is a new frontier.