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

Welcome to the New Harpers.org

Dear Readers,

Welcome. Those of you who have visited Harpers.org 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 Harpers.org 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 harpers@harpers.org, or to send a tweet to @harpers.

Thanks very much. Enjoy.

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is an associate editor of Harper’s Magazine.

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