April 22, 2005

Eustace Tilley Moves On

The New Yorker magazine has launched a weekly cartoon caption contest whose winner will be determined in part by online voters.

The initiative http://www.cartoonbank.com/CapContest/ partially resembles the “Bush in Thirty Seconds” and “Bush in Thirty Years” contests staged by liberal Moveon.org that encouraged people to create ads against George W. Bush during the last campaign that would then be voted on by Moveon members. The winning ads were eventually run on TV.

This effort by the the New Yorker is a move to use the internet and its two-way capacity to convert occasional readers into magazine subscribers, subscribers into web site visitors, and participants in the caption contest into consenting participants who provide an email address to the magazine that can be used in marketing. (The New Yorker already has a weekly cartoon newsletter which emails “a sneak peek at a featured cartoon every week.”)

Who would have thought that this bastion of literary elitism would share a bit of its editorial authority with readers? The rise of the internet is changing the perspective of all kinds of institutions.

P.S. Eustace Tilley is the name of the famous New Yorker character who early-on graced the cover of the magazine with tophat and monocle and was included in stories written by Corey Ford. His image runs in the magazine every February.