RD: It sounds like the challenges of the field have accelerated in a very short period of time. For instance, when you went to Harper’s from Ftrain, my understanding is that what you were brought in to do is not necessarily what you ended up doing, which was taking the entire … I’m doing the math in my head … 150-some year history of Harper’s and digitizing it.
PF: Right, so what happened is: I came in, and they weren’t really sure what to do with the Web. Harper’s has a very mixed relationship with the Web.
RD: With technology in general.
PF: Yeah, and the publisher was very against the Web. That’s not inside baseball, he was writing lots of articles about how much he disliked the Web, while I was there, which was complicated. Regardless, they picked me.
RD: Did you feel like it was a personal attack? Like he was saying he disliked you?
PF: No, actually, I knew him well enough, and he was very respectful to me, and he liked us having a Web site that drove subscriptions. It was just more that he couldn’t internalize what was going on with his world view, and look, in some ways, he wasn’t wrong. Like literally, people just came in and were like, “Give all your content away, and something will work out.”
PF: And then, it really didn’t.
RD: In a way, his suspicion was a bellwether for the, uh, results of that experiment that played out over the last decade or so, when people realized, you can’t just do that.