Brijit: Saving the planet, one magazine at a time

In this age of the digital you'd expect magazines, that old-fashioned idea of putting ink onto paper, to fade away. Magazines seem harder to cure than herpes.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

In this age of the digital you'd expect magazines, that old-fashioned idea of putting ink onto paper, to fade away. Magazines seem harder to cure than herpes. Once you get 'em, you can't get rid of them. The multiply, they spread, they just appear. And yet getting them can seem like such a good idea at the time. And WEEKLY magazines may be the greatest curse of all. Nobody has time to read 'em. The guilt. The frustration. All those dead trees. And that's right where Jeremy Brosowsky and his website, Brijit. want to help you.

Brijit offers you "the world in 100 words." Essentially Brijit is a global abstracting service for long-form content. There are plenty of good sites that review and catalog info on movies and TV. Numerous sites from Yahoo and Google to blogs and meta-blogs like HuffPo aggregate news in various ways. Brijit intends to fill the gap: magazines, radio and TV and websites that contain information, analysis or humor that's longer than two minutes or longer-lasting than a headline.

I recently spoke with Brijit's founder and boss, Brosowsky, on the phone. He said he realized the need for Brijit one day when he sat in his Washington D.C. home and realized he had coveted magazines that were never taken out of their poly delivery bags. What to recycle and when? When I mentioned Brijit's service to my wife, she immediately said, "Yeah, it can take up all your magazine reading time, just scanning through to see what's inside. The magazine table of contents is usually worthless, if you can even find it."

So in that random sampling of one dedicated print reader, there's a ready user base just waiting for some way to find the stuff that will be of interest. My wife, for example, is interested in food, medical research, World War II, mystery fiction, dogs, horses, movies, Paris and Greece. Any online service that can help her locate the pertinent articles, give her a sense of what they're about, save all that scanning and thumbing time... Well, we all know the most serious curse for many urbanites these days is not impending climate change or gasoline prices or even T8iger Woods NOT winning the Masters...it's the information glut that has become a brain-threatening avalanche. Brijit wants to be your St. Bernard, pulling you from beneath that heavy snowfall of white paper covered with ink.

Brosowsky has built an online service that he hopes will encourage reading of the best content, including transcripts of TV or radio, from BBC to Fox. It is not a substitute to reading, says the Brijit founder, it is an invitation to what you want most to read, by easing the search.

After you visit the site it's clear how the whole thing works. Brijit editors oversee the contributions of Brijit members who themselves read, listen to or watch the original content. Then a hundred-word abstract and rating is produced by three contributors. The editor picks the best one and it is published. Some Brijited print articles are still not available online (yes, there are publishers who still hope the Internet fad will wear off) but you get a heads-up that they exist in print. For audio and video, Brijit works only on stuff that is available in some form online.

The Man from Brijit pointed out a well known but crucial problem with magazine-style content or NPR interviews: you don't get the just in the first twenty words. You can scan a news wire story or even most newspaper pieces and know very quickly what it's about and why. Not true with many longer form pieces. They often start with an anecdote. you actually have to read a lot of it to get the drift. Thus, busy, busy, busy people like my wife may never accidentally stumble across and read five minutes worth of the one article she'd most enjoy or find useful. The Brijit abstract is designed to by-pass that pre-digital style random encounter method of finding the best content.

Brosowsky told me he currently has no inside deals with publishers. He has found them to be less than rapid in responding to ideas that would make Brijit even more useful to driving traffic to their sites. So like the original search engines over a decade ago, Brijit will continue to do her thing and link and explain and expand, regardless of what TimeWarner or CondeNaste do, or don't do.

Brijit expects to see revenue not just from advertising but from syndication of its own abstract content to other online publishers. The members who get content published on Brijit are paid a nominal fee. As Brijit expands to ever more specialized content some of those fees may go up, e.g. for medical journals or law reviews. I asked if there was some plan for expansion, say into Spanish or Mandarin or Russian? Or translation of non-English pubs into English? LeMonde? DieWelt? Not until the current service is more widely established, says the boss, but he's already getting requests for software licensing and other assistance in setting up services not in English. How do you spell BRIJIT in Hindi?

Currently Brijit is focused on more general interest English-language pubs from "The Economist" and "The Atlantic" to websites like TechCrunch, Salon, Chow and A.V. Club.

So, greentech connection? Brijit could eliminate the need for so many printed magazines that then must be recycled. More focused than a Google search, Brijit can help users find the long-form content that's newest, most relevant, most interesting...by source or author or subject or.... Well, you get it. Less ink, less paper, less trucking around thousands of magazines. It allows browsing without the one magazine copy per household model that dates back to Charles Dickens' serials. It's a tech answer to a human conundrum. And we users get it free of charge.

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