New Lines was built on a bet: that readers craved long-form essays and, given the opportunity, would gladly spend the time to immerse themselves in a topic they would not usually read elsewhere. Many questioned whether this would work; even editors who joined New Lines early on had their doubts. Many of us, including me, come from newsrooms where we were told to chop down stories and remove details to reduce word count. At the same time, screens became smaller and news snippets shorter. But we stuck by our theory and encouraged our writers to give each story the length and depth that it warranted and not to cut things out strictly for word count. We launched our long-form magazine even as many warned that the odds were against us.
Two years later, we can say we have discovered a few things: People from every corner of the world are not only reading our essays but also spending considerable time with them. Our readership has been steadily growing, reaching hundreds of thousands of unique readers every month, even though we publish a limited number of essays, typically only one a day. We have managed to build an ever-growing community of readers as we commissioned and worked with hundreds of journalists and academics, producing exceptional pieces on the topics we cover. I say this not out of bias or out of my personal admiration for New Lines but because in our first year we were nominated for a number of prominent awards for our essays and other work.
It’s in this spirit that we are going to bet on another idea: Defying the conventional wisdom, we believe print is not dying and are ready to fire up the presses. Many print publications are struggling, but we believe print has a future. And we believe that the type of audience that enjoys our essays also enjoys the sophistication of print.
Over the past many months, I have sat in meetings with marketers, printers, distributors and other brand and industry professionals who wondered why we wanted to start printing New Lines. One professional was especially curious. This person had spent the past decade helping publications shut down their print and move solely to online; now that same person was helping us, born in what for many has become an online-only era, to start up a print version. Another professional lamented that running a monthly magazine in the past had left them with anxiety they could not shake. These real-life challenges only made us more determined to succeed in our endeavor.
The reason is simple: We want to create and curate captivating pieces of work in a format that readers can enjoy, one flip of the page after the other. We want to give our readers the mobility and flexibility of taking New Lines with them anywhere they go, in hard copy, to read at their pace and forget about the distractions around them rather than allow the internet and its static to interfere with their moment of Zen. We want to give them time away from scrolling and screen lights, away from social media and the drama it fetishizes. We want them to be inspired by the work they read. We want to offer our readers not just one or two new stories a day but an entire issue of rich material.
Our essays vary in topic and approach. One takes you on a trek across Yemen; another offers an investigative report that is based on years of research and interviews in Afghanistan. Yet another introduces you to the world of Arab divas, complete with stunning photos from years past. Among my favorites are the long history essays that shed new light on the past, at times shattering long-held misconceptions. What better way is there to understand the present than to unflinchingly and expertly reexamine the past? In each issue, the stories will speak to one another and illuminate new and interesting discoveries about the world we share. In this, we aim to elevate the local viewpoint to a global perspective, not just from the reporters we commission from all over the world but from developing important and often unseen stories in our own backyard in America. Indeed, the New Lines print edition will be a tangible magazine that challenges the intellect and tantalizes the aesthete. Our design cultivates the feel of a library, a place to catch up with thoughts and ideas without distractions or clutter. The issues will drop in stores with the turn of the seasons. In late January, head over to your nearest Barnes & Noble and pick up a copy of our very first print issue.
This won’t be our first venture into print. We have just signed off on proofs for a 278-page book, a compilation of 50 essays published in our first year, soon to be available in limited quantity. This is not just another book but a work of art. It is intended to be a large and timeless coffee table book that is as much about decor as carrying meaning. Every detail of it was carefully thought out. When we set to work on this book, we knew the cover needed to be meaningful and striking, like the essays it would hold. We didn’t need to look far to find the perfect image, since it was from a story we ran in our first year about the divas of the Arab world. Our cover for this first book is a painting by our art director of a rich red curtain that wraps around the entirety of the book, with a woman peering out of it; a scene from Shirin Neshat’s film “Looking for Oum Kulthum,” about the Egyptian icon who grabbed the attention of the world with her captivating voice. The drapes are used throughout the book as a recurring theme, which we thought was fitting as a curtain raiser for our first year.
But there’s a lot more going on. Already, we have produced some of our best essays in audio format, narrated with care and attention. In addition to The Lede, we have launched a second podcast, Wider Angle, with conversations addressing myriad fascinating topics on culture and politics in societies around the globe. We are also developing a training arm aimed at scholars and budding journalists to help us produce powerful storytelling and big ideas in an accessible manner. We are fortunate to have many among our editors who inhabit the worlds of both journalism and academia; they will help lead the way in this endeavor.
We hope that you have watched us grow and that you will continue to appreciate the content we work so hard to develop and produce. If you want to know when issues are out or want to order them, please send an email to [email protected].