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A Note from WRM
Upgrades at Our Site

As you read this, I’m on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic flying back to the States. I’ve been in Budapest for most of the week completely swamped in meetings, all the while trying to meet several competing writing deadlines. As such, you’ll have to forgive me, dear readers, if my post explaining the site changes you see in front of you is a little brief.

Via Meadia is part of a larger enterprise at the American Interest. We have been thinking for quite some time now about how to integrate Via Meadia with the broader project of the American Interest magazine, on whose editorial board I sit. Like many publishing enterprises, the American Interest began as an all-print publication, and it has gradually begun to shift more and more of its work online. 

Via Meadia began as the American Interest’s first serious effort in the world of on-line publication, and the positive response from so many readers has encouraged us to put more and more of our effort into online publishing. With Peter Berger, Francis Fukuyama and Adam Garfinkle (editor in chief of the print magazine) all blogging, we’ve tried to bring the same high standards to our online activities that we bring to print.

Now the time has come to take the next step. We’ll continue to publish the Via Meadia content that currently appears on the site, but we are going to be folding all of our online material into one feed. In the new format, you’ll see posts from the regular bloggers, material from the print magazine, and original commissioned pieces that the editorial staff believes will enhance our coverage of important trends and events. You will also see more bylined pieces from our staff writers.

We’ve worked hard to make sure the adjustment is not too jarring for our regular readers. The main difference you’ll see is that with more content in the feed, we are now treating all the posts the way we’ve treated essays in the past. The main feed will show an excerpt and you can see the full post when you click on the title. If you prefer ‘VM classic’ with all the posts’ full text on the homepage, we’ve got that set up for you here.

Apart from that, the way the posts are written will remain exactly the same. The short posts will still be un-bylined, and will still go through a strict editing process in accordance with my guidelines. I am in constant communication with our team via our instant messaging group chat, sending feedback to editors and story ideas and notes for our writers. My name is still at the top of the page, and I don’t take that fact lightly. Our young writers may be developing voices of their own elsewhere on the site, but when they’re writing for the main, un-bylined feed, the buck ultimately stops with me.

That said, one of the reasons for changing the format is to take more advantage of the developing talents of our talented staff. Jamie Horgan and Peter Blair, for example, have been our lead writers and researchers on, respectively, the environment and health care during the last year. They’ve got a lot to say, and while they will continue to work with me to put out the regular VM feed, they will be doing more original reporting, analysis and other writing under their own names.

There are all sorts of other nice things about the new site, some of which should become apparent to you over time. For example, the longer essays are much easier to read on any sized screen. The site is especially designed with tablets in mind, now that tablets account for almost 25% of our traffic. If you have one, take the site for a spin and let us know what you think.

Finally, we’re treating this as a sort of ‘soft launch’. The site is fully functional, but we’re not content to call it “done”. There are and will be bugs (though we hope nothing quite as catastrophic as!), and they will get ironed out as soon as possible. After that, we will continue to tweak the site. To do this well, we’ll need your feedback. There’s a ‘contact us’ icon in the upper-right hand corner of the site; please take advantage of it to let us know what you think both of the content on the site and the way it is presented.


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  • Anthony

    This new site looks better, but it seems a bit more complicated.

    • Damir Marusic

      Anthony, anything in particular?

      • Anthony

        First of all, thanks for the taking the time to ask.

        I can’t scroll down through all of the “mead in depth essays,” as I used to be able to do with ease on the old site.

        • Damir Marusic

          Oh, you most certainly can read all the long-form WRM posts in one place!

          There’s a special section under “Columnists” for Walter, Frank Fukuyama, Peter Berger, and Adam Garfinkle, each with his own dedicated feed. I’m sorry we didn’t highlight this more in the introductory note.

          We’ve tried very hard to preserve the old VM experience in the new skin. And if we can at all bring back something you miss without breaking anything profound, we’ll be more than happy to do so.

          • Anthony

            Very good! Thanks for pointing this out! Just remember that I wasn’t able to find this on my own.

          • Damir Marusic

            Very much noted.

          • Andrew Allison

            How about dispensing with the photos on the index page so that more than one essay is accessible without scrolling?

        • Anthony

          Sorry to disabuse Anthony but WRM’s original posts (circa 2010) created the meme.

      • Corlyss

        I liked having the stories (headlines for want of a better term) listed on the home page all in a sequence. I don’t like having to hunt about for text pointing to the next story.

  • slovokia

    One thing I don’t like about the new site is that it is no longer possible for me to dynamically adjust the size of web pages and their text on an IPAD. For older reader the new font size is simply too small and there appears to be no way to make it bigger.

    • Damir Marusic

      Slovokia, noted. Thanks for your feedback, we will do something about this.

    • Andrew Allison

      On my PC the actual text of this article uses only 50% of the width of my screen which is a frustrating waste of space.

      • Damir Marusic

        Pasted from my correspondence with Mr. Allison:

        Generally, we tried to preserve the word-count per line at around 12-16, which is a good typesetting guideline. Especially for the longer essays, which ultimately are our bread-and-butter, it’s very tiring to read lines that are up to 30 words long. This is part of the reason that newspapers have columns rather than running articles all across the broadsheet.

        On the old site, we also tried to keep the same words per line guidance. However, since we’d run out of stuff to put in the sidebar, you’d end up with a snake of tiny text running up the side of the page with a ton of whitespace on the side. This would get tedious to read, and our number-one requested change was to address readability of longer pieces.

        So… that’s our rationale for it. It’s not perfect—and more importantly, it’s not done. We’re still iterating and playing with things. We really appreciate your feedback and will take it into account.

        • Corlyss

          Nice to meet one of the Men Behind the Curtain. Howdy!

    • Kevin

      It is also more difficult (using an iPad) to open articles in tabs. From the legacy version (which prefer as I like to read the short articles in one space rather than constantly opening new pages) you can not go directly to the comments. The comment writing interface us also pretty buggy and non-user friendly – though Discus has always struggled on iPads – just writing this comment took about five tries as the Discus editor constantly crashes when writing.

      • Damir Marusic

        I hear you on Disqus. The only thing worse than Disqus is… no Disqus at all! I understand they’re actively developing a mobile-friendlier interface.

        Re: comments links on the individual posts, we plan to bring that back. There was a bug on the old site where the count wouldn’t properly sync with the Disqus server for some reason, and we’d have differing comment counts on the front page and on the article page itself. I wanted to take another crack at squashing that one before I gave up in despair.

    • Corlyss

      I guess I’ll get used to the site changes, but unless I control/- to reduce the font size, it’s like ALL CAPS screaming in my face. I still do most of my work on a desk top, but even that doesn’t help. That pic of whoever that guy is staring at me in the Ukraine post startled me almost out of my seat – like opening the draperies and finding some old guy starring at you thru your window.

  • Anthony

    I e-mailed this same message this morning: upgrades are current, accessible, manipulatable, and in line with readership and audience accessing media digitally. Commendations.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    The conversion wiped out my comment.

    • Damir Marusic

      They should all be back in time. Disqus is syncing.

  • qet

    Congratulations. Like most other such efforts by websites, you fixed something that wasn’t broken. Like the rest this is really only an exercise in Internet aesthetics. I just hope you didn’t pay too much for the redecorating (well, unless you were trying to create jobs, in which case I salute you). I await proof that the art class project will somehow mysteriously work an improvement in the content, which I didn’t think needed improvement (well, other than in specific areas like the unreasoning faith in technology as elixir). Carry on.

    • Damir Marusic

      Believe us when we tell you that this needed to happen, and that the aesthetics are not the starting point. We did work hard on the facelift, but the rationale for the redesign is in the infrastructure of our site: We were running on two separate content management systems and our overworked staff was basically putting out two publications at the same time.

      And since you ask, the web work was 99% done in-house. No animals were harmed in the retooling of this website, but no jobs were created either. OK, maybe some part-time work was created: We contracted out for one tiny bit of added functionality. Overall, we thought keeping it in-house was the right move, as it will allow us to improve the design rapidly as we need to.

  • B-Sabre

    One tiny nitpick – at the bottom of each article is a link to the next older article, usually titled “Next, Read This.” The problem is that this only enables one direction for reading. If I want to read the next higher article (as displayed) I have to click back to the index page. How about enabling me to go “backwards” OR “forwards” at the end of the article?

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