Note to 'Vanity Fair': This Isn't How to Integrate Print and the Web

As some of my recent posts have indicated, I just returned form Ireland, meaning I had copious airplane time to sink into the current issue of Vanity Fair. Aaaaaaah. VF is a magazine that's meant to be enjoyed in all of its print luxury, from Tom Wolfe's new short story (see? it's not a gossip rag, it contains lit-er-a-ture) to the stealth photo taken of Ruth Madoff sitting at the desk in her (former) penthouse, taken, seemingly, from the penthouse across the street.

So, after reading about Farrah and MJ and Ruthie and Brooke (Astor), it was finally time to read the story titled "North Korea's Dollar Store." For a page, and exactly a page, it detailed a huge North Korean counterfeiting operation, producing phony dollars. Fascinating, right? And then, when i got to the bottom of the page, I was met with the following:

Continued on vf.com. To read the rest of this story, please visit vf.com/go/northkorea.
Screeeeeeech!

Perhaps the "Web Exclusive" header on the page's upper left-hand corner should have been a tipoff that this wasn't going to be a complete read, but who ever reads those anyway? And who would ever think of telling the reader, just when they're getting interested, that now it's time to jump to the nearest keyboard -- only I can't, of course, because I'm at 30,000 feet! This certainly isn't the first time a magazine has ever done this, but under the circumstances, it felt more than a little jarring.

Print and Web integration are, of course, all the rage these days, but while it's fantastic to, for instance, have additional content on the Web site -- especially elements, like video, that don't work in print -- stopping the reader short, mid-story, and asking him or her to jump to the Web site is counter-intuitive, to say the least. To put it more bluntly, it pisses readers off -- like this one. Somewhere over the Atlantic, I began to feel cheated, and, though it's not because of that, I haven't ventured to read the story on the Web. By breaking the flow, VF lost me.

Maybe this disconnect shouldn't be surprising. As much fun as I often have with a good magazine, few of them will make it into the annals of great user interfaces. If they did think of user (or reader) experience first, you wouldn't find the table of contents sprinkled lightly amidst the first 30 pages of ads, and you'd never be asked to jump to anything, even within the confines of each issue. It's obvious that as VF begins to cozy up more to the Web, it's got a few things to learn. In the meantime, I'd ask Graydon Carter & Co. to think of integrating print and the Web in more intuitive ways.