Magazines and Their Web Sites

A Columbia Journalism Review survey and report

CJR recently conducted a survey of standards and practices at magazine Web sites. The full report can be viewed here.

John Perry Barlow, a lyricist for the Grateful Dead and a founder of The Electronic Frontier Foundation, once observed that where the new (i.e. digital) media are concerned, “we are immigrants in the land of our children.” Nowhere is this more true than in the no-man’s land between print magazines (old media) and their Web sites (new media).

Virtually every significant magazine in the United States—and increasingly abroad—either already has, or is in the process of establishing, a Web site. These interactive Internet offspring speak to a new generation of magazine readers, and often reach audiences well beyond those of their parent publications. But their rise has also created a vast set of ethical, culture, legal, and business issues. Although those involved with magazines and their Web sites have varying levels of knowledge and sophistication about their métier, it’s fair to say that the proprietors of these sites don’t, for the most part, know what one another is doing, that there are no generally accepted standards or practices, that each Web site is making it up as it goes along, that it is like the wild west out there.

It was against this background, and with funding provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, that the Columbia Journalism Review undertook the first comprehensive study of online practices of print magazines. The survey had various goals: to identify some best (and worst) practices; clarify journalistic standards for new media; and guide journalists and media companies towards a business model that allow revenues not only to be allocated more efficiently, but also channeled back into the kind of news-gathering operations that are essential for democracy.

Among the questions the Columbia Journalism Review survey asked: What fact-checking and copy-editing standards apply to magazine Web sites, if any? Who oversees the editorial content of online material, and with what consequences? And what business model is applied to these Web publications, and with what consequences for profitability?

Click here to view the full report, containing complete results and a description of the survey methodology.

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Victor Navasky with Evan Lerner were the principal investigators for this report. Victor Navasky is the chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review. Evan Lerner is the home page editor at