You really do learn something by reading the paper

And what I learned from today's New York Times is that tomorrow the Atlantic will remove the firewall that for years has applied to most articles in the print magazine and our very extensive archives.

Hmmm! The Atlantic, believe it or not, has been a serial innovator and pioneer in the web area. Back in the dimly-remembered mid-1990s it was one of the first non-tech magazines even to have a web site and to put much of its content online free. A few years ago it changed to the firewall / subscribers only model. Now, with the centrality of the web to the kinds of discussions we hope to provoke, this latest change, which should certainly continue the expansion of the site's influence and audience.

It will also do something that I think will be of even greater long-term importance:

The Atlantic Monthly, as we have pointed out oh, once or twice in the last while, is now 150 years old. In fact, working toward 151.


There is a phenomenal amount of fascinating and historically important material in our archives from those 150+ years. Not all of it is available online. (If you have seen the bookcases full of back volumes, you know what a gigantic challenge the mere scanning and OCR-ing will be.) Some of the highlights have been collected by Robert Vare and Daniel Smith in their superb recent 150th Anniversary anthology.

But a lot of unexplored material is available, and searchable, in the archives, and this will be an important journalistic, academic, and historic resource. Once again, a new era begins.

(I no longer have to say, "Subscribers Only" about some articles. Still -- subscribe! The timeless story of media-and-technology is that as new "delivery vehicles" arrive, they create additional forms of receiving information; eliminate a few old forms, like the cuneiform tablet; but mainly expand the range of choices people have by leaving most old forms in place. Despite television, we still have radio; despite radio and television and the internet, we still have books; despite email we still have phone calls; and for quite a while despite the internet we will still have something physically like a book or magazine, just because there are so many times and places where it's the best way to see what you want to look at. Eg: On my latest 13-hour plane flight, some of passengers mainly used laptops or iPods. Virtually all had some kind of book or magazine. Magazine content, words and pictures alike, looks far far better in real magazines -- though the web version is indispensable.)

In any case, another new beginning as of tomorrow.