Netly: The Third Screen

Archive for the ‘McSweeney's’ Category


McSweeney’s, the literary magazine, has just launched an app that takes us one step closer to where I think the iPhone (and whatever tablet succeeds it) is headed: Creative folks using third screens as an original platform.

We hereby announce the debut of the Small Chair, a weekly sampler from all branches of the McSweeney’s family. One week you might receive a story from the upcoming Quarterly, the next week an interview from the Believer, the next a short film from a future Wholphin. Occasionally, it might be a song, an art portfolio, who knows. Early contributors will include Spike Jonze, Wells Tower, Chris Ware, and Jonathan Ames. This material will not be available online and is pretty sure to be good stuff.

(My emphasis added)

Many, many years ago, back when you were kids, I had an idea that people would use the Web, which was then still a New Thing, for original content. I worked then, as now, at Time Inc., and we had a “portal” there called Pathfinder, which was a repository for all of our magazines. The mags were mostly screen-scraped affairs, and their contents were displayed as mostly text-based web pages. I talked Walter Isaacson, who was then Pathfinder’s boss, into letting me start a tiny, experimental website, built entirely around original content. The site would be a fresh piece of reporting a day; we would cover the nascent Internet, its technology and culture. We launched it and called it the Netly News. (Trivia: You can use those old URLs to get to ThirdScreen; just type or

Three of us started working on Netly, and were very proud of it, until, around launch time, a couple of web monkeys at Wired secretly launched Suck. It blew us out of the water before we could even launch, and in many ways was a forerunner to blogs. (You can read about our exploits here.) Suck was launched by Web natives, and we (or at least me) was just a tourist, it turned out…

In any event, I for one cannot wait for the Suck of iPhone apps to launch.

In the meantime, the McSweeney’s app gets us much closer and is pretty cool on its own terms, albeit expensive ($5.99). You get new weekly content delivered to your phone for six months. (It looks like the app alerts you when new content is ready for download.) The developers clearly took a less-is-more approach, which works in a Sucklike way. I wish the book reader they used, however, used taps rather than swipes to turn pages. Whatever. It’s an exciting start and I look forward to seeing how it evolves.

    • Steven Baker, PMP (@STEVEPMP): I just read your comment about wanting an artist to be a part of the resurrection of Netly News sometime. If you ever want to try, I have a very tale
    • Magda: If you're looking to buy these arceilts make it way easier.
    • Mikel: Such a deep ansrew! GD&RVVF