Posts tagged “chuck klosterman”

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).

Spin story

I bitched about Spin magazine and questioned the notion of relaunch vs. loyalty vs. targeting in a previous post, only to read in Wired (in a piece by Chris Anderson excerpted from the just-released The Long Tail”) that “money-losing Spin magazine was just, well, spun off for a fire-sale sum.” Wikipedia sez

[Under the direction of new editor-in-chief Andy Pemberton] The [May 2006] issue’s format took a dramatic turn to many readers’ disgust. The new style has been compared to celebrity gossip magazines such as Us Weekly, even going as far as to have a cover story and picture on Kevin Federline. Prior to the issue’s release, much of the staff quit or were fired.


As of June 26, 2006, Andy Pemberton resigned from Spin as editor-in-chief amid much criticism of his handling of the magazine.


Vibe’s recent sale of the magazine for only $5 million, given the fact that VIBE paid over $45 million for the publication in 1997.

I left my last issue at the post office, didn’t even take it home to flip through. I didn’t even open the magazine before discarding it. Sad, really.

Meanwhile, Chuck Klosterman has created a big stir in the blogosphere with his Esquire article about the lack of criticism in the gaming scene.

You Spin Me Right Round

I’ve received my second issue of Spin magazine since a recent relaunch. It’s gone from being a youth-oriented slightly alternative music magazine that featured (one of my writing heroes) Chuck Klosterman (in an ever-declining role) to a youth-oriented slightly alternative People magazine.

I wasn’t exactly in love with the old Spin, given my rural lifestyle (i.e., Portigal Consulting world headquarters is just blocks away from an alpaca ranch), but I admit I found it strangely comforting to read about Coachella and Death Cab for Cutie even though there’s little chance I will go to the first or listen to the second. I want to say “I’m too old” but it’s really not a matter of age, I have always liked reading about this stuff, but I never felt part of it. Reading Spin a couple of years ago was an attempt to shake off the depressing feeling that Classic Rock Radio (and Rock Marketing) has been giving me for many years.

But I can’t stand this new magazine, it’s replaced attitude with vapiditude. Spin will certainly lose me as a reader. I’m not sure that’s a problem for them. I’m probably not a customer for their advertisers and therefore not a valued reader.

It does raise some interesting questions about how to “re-launch” or otherwise evolve a brand. I know this is not the first time Spin did this (at one point they were vaguely hard-hitting, big format, run by Bob Guccione, Jr., the Penthouse scion). But there’s no transpanecy in this process. Where is Klosterman? Why all the pictures of hotties? Parties? Hot parties? I’m asked to consider it as the same Spin, even though it’s not, and it doesn’t feel like it.

In this case, the entire experience has changed, it’s not a new ad campaign or new bumper graphics, old stuff is gone, new stuff is here, the editorial voice has been revamped.

Contrast with newspapers that change features all the time (newly designed stock tables, new font, new page format, you name it) and typically will explain the heck out of it, what was done, how it was done, and why it’s better. They know that when you have a comfortable relationship with a paper, you’ll be shattered if changes slightly without you knowing a little bit in advance.

A recent study we did around some commercial software that was used aggressively every day all day found that the management of inevitable changes is crucial, the software is “their” software, just like Spin is “my” magazine. The consumer/producer split has an emotional component that producers don’t always get. As one of the software users told us (paraphrase) “I don’t come to your office and change how your system works!”

That’s sort of how I feel. Spin didn’t ask me if I was going to be okay with this, and I’m not. I hate this magazine and I want my old one back. And Spin is probably all right with that reaction, but it’s easy to identify other cases where it’s not so cool to piss people off so much that they leave.

No pat solutions here, although maybe others have examples of good or bad to contribute here.


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