November 6, 2014 Last Updated 5:07 pm

Matt Taibbi returns to Rolling Stone penning exposé on Chase

In the past, many publishers withheld their long form features from their websites, hoping to lure readers to buy their print editions – a practice that one sees less and less

The melodrama involving Matt Taibbi and First Look Media, the media start-up backed by Pierre Omidyar, is the stuff media reporter love to write about, and this site tries to avoid. After 30+ years in the business, it is hard to get excited by office politics. But if you’re interested the two best sources for the story are probably here and here.

Now, Taibbi is back with Rolling Stone, probably the place he belongs anyways – and with the latest exposé on Chase, readers appear to be glad he’s back. The $9 Billion Witness is the kind of piece Taibbi wrote regularly before bolting for a gig at First Look Media that never took off. Taibbi was to create a satirical, hard-hitting online magazine called Racket that was to be in the style of the old Spy. The feature on former securities lawyer for JPMorgan Chase was supposed to be the lead-off story for Racket, but now Rolling Stone gets it.

Matt-T-featureTaibbi, 44, had for the past few years penning snarky, investigative stories involving the fiscal meltdown, calling out bank executives, regulators, and by extension, the Bush and Obama administrations. The pieces were widely read, widely praised by readers, and widely criticized by Wall Street critics. In other words, muckraking of the old school variety,

What was interesting to me, though, was that the pieces were not reserved for the print edition of the magazine alone. Tabby’s features could be used to drive magazine sales – either in print or digital. Digital first advocates would say this is as it should be, while old school publishers might be wondering if his features were a great marketing opportunity.

Having fought many an owner about the value of building a web audience by posting editorial from the print magazine, I am not one to automatically advocate withholding stories for print (or digital) editions. Doing so is not so dissimilar to launching a paywall. Many consumer magazines used to make it a habit to offer excerpts to their main features stories online, teasing readers with just enough to get them interested in reading the rest.

The problem with this approach is probably that one can not close the deal easily. A reader, getting a piece of a story, will either be turned off by the sales approach, or want to buy and read the rest immediately.

The solution may be to offer access to an online digital edition – not necessarily a flipbook, though that could work, but preferably a digital edition similar to what the magazine is producing for the Apple Newsstand. Many digital publishing platforms are working quickly to promote these web apps, knowing that publishers want better control of the sales process, as well as avoid the cut the digital newsstand owners take with each sale.

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