Official Business — October 18, 2012, 11:16 am

Welcome to the New

Dear Readers,

Welcome. Those of you who have visited in the past are no doubt noticing some changes. These are the product of a year’s worth of work, designed to give Harper’s Magazine a stable online platform from which to better engage and assist readers, and to better highlight what we do.

This redesign is overdue, we realize—a delay not in keeping with what was once a fairly distinguished digital reputation. Harper’s was one of the first magazines to build a website, way back in 1996, and the previous two iterations of the site, both built by our former web editor and archivist, Paul Ford, were packed with nifty ideas.

Working with our partners at Point Five Design, and with Paul’s support, we’ve tried to preserve and improve upon the best parts of the old site, making them the starting point for a new site that looks beautiful and allows us to focus on substance. We expect to become a place for quality work by Harper’s contributors and editors—a website that truly speaks to the magazine’s strengths.

What’s New

• We’ve entirely overhauled the site’s design, with the aim of highlighting the magazine’s history and its remarkable artwork and typography. Much appreciation and credit, and a strong recommendation, are due Benjamin Levine and Point Five.

• The improvements we’ve made to the Harper’s Magazine archive interface should allow for much easier navigation. Within articles, the Microfiche button opens articles in a lightbox, making for a more pleasant read, especially on tablet devices.

• Passwords are now being stored in our subscriber database, so you will no longer have one set of information for the archive and another for your subscription—something anyone who has had to email us to retrieve a username or update an email address will appreciate. Current subscribers will need to create a new password in Customer Care, which has also been upgraded.

• The formerly oft-broken searchable Harper’s Index is up, running, and stable, and has been paired with a new searchable Findings page. To these, we’ve added a few innovations: mouse over any of your search results and you’ll see permalinks, sharing options, and, for the Index, sources. We hope eventually to make the Weekly Review searchable, too.

• Our new Harper’s Finest section features important and/or timely articles from the magazine’s archive. We’ve begun with the first canonical piece published by Harper’s Magazine, Herman Melville’s “The Town-Ho’s Story,” from October 1851. Other such stories are available at the archive homepage, with more to come.

• We’ve added comments, via Disqus. The hope is that the Commentary section on each page will provide a forum for passionate, intelligent discussion about culture, politics, and writing. If it turns out otherwise, we’ll reconsider. Please be cool.

• A former Harper’s intern, Ben Gottlieb, has begun penning biographies of our best-known contributors.

• We’ve chosen red dots to indicate articles that can be read only by subscribers. We didn’t want to use the now-standard locks or dollar signs—icons that combine with the term paywall to seem self-defeatingly forbidding—but we remain committed to the subscription model. $16.97 for twelve issues, we continue to feel, is an awfully good deal.

What’s Next

• In the coming weeks and months, we’ll start to build a more consistent online presence. In the short term, you’ll find an original long-form feature, “Monopoly Is Theft,” by frequent Harper’s contributor Christopher Ketcham; our Political Asylum election blog, written by contributing editors Kevin Baker and Jack Hitt; our new columnist, Jeff Madrick, blogging occasionally under the Anti-Economist rubric; a new Links feature; occasional archival releases under the Finest rubric, and other archival pieces as the moment demands.

• In the long run, expect more online pieces from regular Harper’s contributors, new web features, and a dedicated Harper’s app.

We understand that there will be bugs, criticisms, and issues to address with the new site, as well as possible directions to consider. Known issues are listed at this page; please feel free to add comments there or below, to email us with your thoughts at, or to send a tweet to @harpers.

Thanks very much. Enjoy.

Single Page
is an associate editor of Harper’s Magazine.

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  • Paul Kishimoto

    “Please be cool,” indeed!

  • Bee

    Most excellent!

  • Brussel

    As an avid, avid fan of Harper’s and other sources of the written word, i consider myself wise on matters of content functionality. As such, let me say that comments are legion and deadweight. Firstly, the very idea of comments undermines what you do. We read Harper’s because they aggregate sharp minds who work to generate careful arguments. Let us get our fill of ignorance and simple minded musings from friends, not a few inches below the end of an article. Secondly, it is well known entire industries have been build around using internet annonimity to spread disinformation and lies. This makes comments even less functional. Even with sign ins and community guidelines and author participation, comment sections are a cesspool at worst or pointless at best. The only place I have ever seen comment sections that work well is at the website “Dailykos” but even there it isn’t, for the most part, a vehicle of increased understanding or sound argumentation but for people to congratulate one another for having the same beliefs or for being in the same place.

    All this suggests something you might expect to hear from the worst kind of neoliberal, that something that allows anyone to participate and is something no one is willing to pay for is something you best stay away from.

    • robpollard

      Comment sections are often poor (e.g., WSJ, Detnews, Freep, USA Today, many sports sites) but there are a number of places where they can be quite helpful (e.g., many of the pages for the writers at The Atlantic, many parts of NYT, EDSBS, a few tech places such as The Verge).

      It’s all about forming a culture in the comment sections (often overseen by the writer, who also will interact with the commenters) and having rigorous, but thoughtful moderation. If the magazine and/or authors don’t have time to moderate comments, then there shouldn’t be any – having people post with their “real” Facebook identities solves nothing. But with diligence and curation, they can add to a site and provide a way for honest and helpful feedback.

  • Doghouse Riley

    Seems pretty great to me … with two exceptions.

    I am not AT ALL a fan of gray type. And a lot of the gray type is rather small and hard to read, and would be so even if it were red.

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    Congratulations to Harper’s. Positive changes across the board. Kudos.

  • Pilotibus

    Two typographic things: It would be much much nicer if your initial caps rested on the baseline of the third line of type, since they come somewhere NEAR the baseline (about 9 points off). They would have to enlarge a point or two…. And, your dashes would be more appealing if they were n-dashes rather than “m-.” N-dashes with a space on each side. These two adjustments would make your typography have the quality with which your writing deserves to be presented. Everything else looks great.

    • Harper

      Thank you for the thoughts. We’re indeed working on adjusting the drop caps. The em-dashes are currently styled as they are in the magazine; I suspect we’ll stick with the longer ones, but some breathing space seems like a fine idea.

  • Ermolay Romanoff

    Great vision for the new website. But I would really love to see Retina graphics support for the new MacBooks. It isn’t that hard to implement, and it doesn’t affect loading speeds for those without Retina screens.

    Thank you, Harper’s.


  • Simon Collinson

    As a regular visitor to both the front page and the archives, I’m thrilled with all the improvements you’ve made to the site

    • Harper

      An excellent suggestion



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