Klosterman Rock City
I’m psyched to see Chuck Klosterman (who I’ve gently raved about before) resurface (after SPIN) at Eqsuire, where he is writing of-the-moment (and sometimes controversial) stories about (pop) culture topics, such as The “Snakes on a Plane” Problem
I worked in newspapers for eight years, right when that industry was starting to disintegrate. As such, we spent a lot of time talking with focus groups, forever trying to figure out what readers wanted. And here is what they wanted: everything. They wanted shorter stories, but also longer stories. They wanted more international news, but also more local news. And more in-depth reporting. And more playful arts coverage. And less sports. And more sports. And maybe some sports on the front page.
When it comes to mass media, it’s useless to ask people what they want; nobody knows what they want until they have it. If studios start to view the blogosphere as some kind of massive focus group, two things will happen: The first is that the movies will become idiotic and impersonal, which is probably pre¬¨dictable. But the less predictable second result will be that many of those movies will still fail commercially, even if the studios’ research was perfect. If you asked a hundred million people exactly what they wanted from a movie, and you used that data to make exactly the film they claimed to desire, it might succeed. Or it might not. Making artistic decisions by consensus doesn\’t work any better than giving one person complete autonomy; both strategies work roughly half the time.
I don’t know that Klosterman is the next Gladwell; I hope he doesn’t get managed/edited into that role. He’s more about looking again at something we’ve all been looking at than in coming up with wild connections between things we didn’t know were related. And he’s (still) focused on telling stories, often about himself. The pop culture beat is an important one, and even though it shifts near-seamlessly into implications for marketing and business (umm, hello, this blog, case-in-point?), I hope Chuck can sit that part of it out and stick to what he’s done best (rather than entering the dark waters of populism that this piece focuses on).