stephen.news

hypertext, words and more

Publishing

  • Knopf Doubleday has been publishing books for nearly 122 years since its founding in 1897. During that century and a quarter’s time, there have been only 3 editors in chief at the helm, Sonny Mehta was appointed to the position in 1987:

    Today, Knopf is one of the most venerable literary publishers in the country. In its 100-year history, the company, which is now part of Penguin Random House, has had only three people at the helm—Knopf himself, Robert Gottlieb, and current editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta.

    Sadly, The Washington Post reports, the acclaimed editor passed away from complications of pneumonia:

    Sonny Mehta, a literary tastemaker and kingmaker who spent more than three decades at the helm of the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house, where he courted critical acclaim, profits and sometimes both at once with a lineup of books that included works by a stable of Nobel laureates, the memoirs of presidents and prime ministers, and page-turning crime and love stories, died Dec. 30 at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 77.

    The cause was complications from pneumonia, according to a statement from Knopf, where Mr. Mehta served as editor in chief and chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

    Mehta was a legendary leader, godspeed.

  • From Andy McNamara, Editor-in-Chief at Game Informer:

    Yesterday, as part of a GameStop restructuring plan, our parent company eliminated the positions of about 120 employees across its various offices. We lost seven members of our team – our cohorts, compatriots, and friends. They shaped us and made us who we are today, just like every member of the Game Informer team who passes through this company.

    Welp. That sucks. I haven’t visited a GameStop in years. Probably won’t visit one ever again to be honest. That’s not out of spite either. Hell, I barely play video games these days at all. Let alone buy used games or consoles. I’ll tell you what definitely do — read Game Informer online.

    I have a deep suspicion that these layoffs (or any others that follow in the coming 90 days for that matter), have to do the damned inverted yield curve:

    So for the curve to invert implies that investors are forecasting that something unusual will happen. Something that will push future interest rates down low enough to justify long-term yields being low despite the risks. Something like a future collapse in private sector investment demand that makes government borrowing cheap. Or something like a series of Federal Reserve moves to try to reduce interest rates and spur more economic activity.

    In other words, a future recession.

    And, indeed, if you look at the historical track record, every time the two-year/10-year inversion has happened, a recession has followed.

    Sigh. We’ll know if we’re in a recession in 6 months. The winds of change are pretty good that Trump will astroturf the U.S. economy in an ego-driven, exploitative ego-driven (and as a reminder, 100% totally avoidable) trade-war with China.

    Regardless, GameStop is shitty business, even if Game Informer is a great online and print publication. It’s umbilical cord to GameStop is financial poison. The parent company that manages the magazine is just absolutely terrible. The level of incompetence mismanagement is gargantuan. They closed hundreds of stores in 2012. GameStop was caught intentionally deceiving customers in 2017, and the company has been trying to sell itself to private equity firms for pretty much half a decade. Perhaps, instead of peddling snake oil — they should hire back the seven game journalists, and should spin off the publication wholesale to someone who cares. Microsoft, The Verge or shit, even Rooster Teeth are all wealthy contenders happy to expand their media empire. Literally anyone would benefit from the editorial prowess Game Informer brings to the gaming beat.

  • From Brian Steinberg at Variety:

    Editorial staffers are expected to stay with the company, says the person familiar with the situation. Most were already working for other parts of ESPN’s digital-media operations. A “handful” of employees responsible for print production could be affected, but a determination on possible layoffs has yet to be reached this person said. ESPN intends to continue publishing big magazine-type features with high-end photography online.

    The magazine’s demise serves as another reminder of how the rise of digital media has affected once-stalwart print properties. When ESPN launched its magazine in the late 1990s, it was seen as a move to counter the influence of Sports Illustrated, the powerhouse publication from Time Inc. These days, Sports Illustrated is part of Meredith Corp., and has been on the sales block for months.

    That’s really unfortunate to hear. However, I suppose the silver lining here is that Disney is migrating (most of) their staffers to their digital department. I mean, if the New York Times can post a profit on the digital subscription model, ESPN Magazine can do it too.

  • As a WordPress Guy, and advocate for online publishing — I’ve always been curious about the New York Times digital publishing “stack.” A lot has changed since the printed word.

    Text editors, paragraph blocks, header arrangements, interactive graphs, revision history, and data structures — journalists these days have a lot more responsibilities to handle than just a story. They’re more akin to data scientists or librarians handling meta-data with caution and organizational finesse than the classical depiction of journalists.

    I was surprised to read that the New York Times employs a CMS called Oak, which was built on the backbone of a simple text editor called ProseMirror. An un-opinionated open-source text editor. I was taken back by this line: 

    ProseMirror structures its main elements — paragraphs, headings, lists, images, etc. — as nodes. Many nodes can have child nodes — e.g., a heading_basic node can have child nodes including a heading1 node, a byline node, a timestamp node and image nodes. This leads to the tree-like structure I mentioned above.

    It’s neat to see their CMS take on a node-tree structure (which is ultimately a appropriation other have taken as well such as HTML/XML/JSON). It’s smart. I would have loved to see what their process and CMS looked like before.

    Did you notice the parent-nodes have a similarity to another data structure paradigm, say blocks? In WordPress-land, blocks are coming soon, and once that happens, the data-structure pandora’s box will have been opened. In the simplest, most modest comparison, Gutenberg will only have parent blocks. No children. But that could all change later down the road. 

    Food for thought: if the New York Times can transition to a successful implementation of complex data structures, modern CMS composer capabilities — surely WordPress/Gutenberg could employ similar techniques and follow in that same spirit.