Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Geek-Speak Wired `Is a Really Great Take on What's Happening in the Electronic Culture'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Geek-Speak Wired `Is a Really Great Take on What's Happening in the Electronic Culture'

Article excerpt

When Louis Rossetto and partner Jane Metcalfe knocked on media giants' doors in 1991 seeking funding for a magazine that would be the "mouthpiece of the digital revolution," they were met with polite rejection.

"Companies looked at us with incredulity if not outright pity," Rossetto said.

Now the same companies are probably kicking themselves. Just 15 months after its launch, "Wired" is a publishing phenomenon, capturing a prestigious American Society of Magazine Editors award last week.

Adweek voted it last year's start-up of the year and blue-chip products such as Absolut, Dewars and Volkswagen are advertised regularly.

That track record convinced Conde Nast to invest millions for a 15 percent stake in the magazine last January, helping to boost Wired's circulation from 110,000 to around 500,000.

Suddenly, Rossetto, Wired's publisher and editor-in-chief, has had the luxury of rejecting investments from companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc., both of which, he says, wanted too much control.

A combination of passion, serendipity and hard work has made Wired one of the most talked-about magazine start-ups of the 1990s.

Unlike c PC Week or MacWorld, Wired isn't filled with paeans to megabytes and hard disks. It's about the people and visionary ideas behind the computer age - a kind of high-tech "Rolling Stone."

Its writers tell stories about techno-hippies or cyber-sex.

Contributors range from New York Times technology correspondent John Markoff to science fiction writer William Gibson, who first coined the term "cyberspace."

The late media guru Marshall McLuhan is listed on the masthead as the magazine's patron saint.

Wired "is a really great take on what's happening in the electronic culture," said Matthew Childs, a Playboy editor who is writing c about privacy in cyberspace for the computer magazine. "All the people who used to be nerds are cool now. The pocket protector geeks have created an industry."

The magazine's jarring design is modeled after a computer screen, purposefully breaking many of publishing's cardinal rules.

Articles jump haphazardly to pages with no obvious clue about where they pick up. Text is chopped or presented non-linearly. Type fades into the page or assaults the eye with fluorescent hues.

"We get an enormous quantity of electronic mail about the design," said John Plunkett, Wired's creative director. "People take it very personally. They love it or they hate it."

Wired clearly isn't for everyone. Many articles may be too esoteric for the technologically uninitiated. And some publishing industry executives privately wonder whether a technology magazine, even a hip one, can continue to grab mainstream audiences and advertisers.

Advertisers seem happy enough with the demographics of Wired, which is as popular with 40-ish White House staffers as it is with 18-year-old hackers. …

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