It’s hard to find halfways-decent magazines these days, and when,

like me, you’ve gone on one airline journey already this month,

the range of reading materials at Orange County airport can start to

look rather thin. Which is how I ended up picking up a copy of Wired

for the first time in years, paying $4.95 for the privilege – a

full dollar more than the much glossier and more enjoyable copy of W

I read on my flight the following day.

Wired, you probably won’t be interested to learn, has

had a full-scale redesign this month, and there’s even an editor’s

letter talking about how “the changes are both editorial and visual,

reflecting my own vision for the magazine”. The vision, in case

you were confused, is that of the Editor in Chief. He’s not alone

on the masthead, however: others glory in the titles of Executive Editor,

Managing Editor, Deputy Editor, Articles Editor, Senior Editor (nine

of these), Assistant Managing Editor, Senior Associate Editor, Assistant

Editor, Copy Editor (two, who look as though they work for the Copy

Chief), Research Editor, Assistant Resesarch Editor (three), Editor

at Large, Contributing Editor (sixteen of these), Contributing Copy

Editor (another two), Photo Editor, Deputy Photo Editor, and finally

the Founding Editor and the Editorial Director. Add in the 32 Contributing

Writers, 21 Contributing Artists, 29 Contributing Photographers, two

Contributing Photo Researchers, as well as the Creative Director, Design

Director, Assistant Design Directors (two), Senior Designers (two),

Designer, Design Department Assistant, Photo Editor, Deputy Photo Editor,

Photo Assistant, Production Director, Associate Production Director,

Associate Production Manager, Senior Production Artist, Production Artist,

Prepress Specialist, Editorial Business Coordinator, Assistant to the

Editor in Chief, Director of Photography and – of course –

the Special Correspondent, and it’s lucky someone has a

vision to keep all this together.

When you stop to consider that the three main features, including

the cover story, are all by people who don’t appear anywhere on

the masthead, you do pause, briefly, to wonder what all these people

actually do. I’d love to bump into Jennifer Hillner at a

party, just to find out whether “Senior Associate Editor”

means anything at all, and if so, what.

The job titles also seem to bear no relation to the structure of the

magazine. Our friendly Editor in Chief guides us through the signposts:

first there’s the Start section, then Play, then View, then Found.

Features get a subordinate clause somewhere in the middle there.

The sections all look and read exactly the same way, however, rather

defeating their purpose, at least as far as the long-suffering reader

is concerned. Magazine sections only become memorable when they stand

out from the rest of the book, but no-one at Wired seems to have

realised this.

The new design is even more depressing. After all, Wired was

always, at least before it was bought by Condé Nast, the most

visually innovative magazine on newsstands. (Raygun competed

for that distinction, but got marked down for being so innovative as

to be unreadable most of the time.)

What we have now, in any case, is lots of white space and a general

design which looks like it was lifted wholesale from The Face

circa 1989.

What we also have is a credulousness of will-sapping proportions.

The cover story, on Steven Spielberg, is as fluffy as any Vanity

Fair cover story, only without any actual writing: it’s

in Q&A format. It’s followed by a six-page blowjob for a Star

Wars spin-off video game, and later on by a similarly uncritical piece

on the new Stephen Wolfram book (“even if he is wrong, A New

Kind of Science is an incredible achievement, one that will richly

reward adventuresome readers”). Maybe Stefan

can tell me what that rich reward is – bigger biceps from lifting

the thing, perhaps?

There are two pieces worth reading in the magazine: one on computer-animated

faces by New Yorker writer Lawrence Wechsler, and one on rusting

supertankers by Richard Martin. Niether seems particularly suited to

Wired, as opposed to, say, GQ or Gear or the New

York Times Magazine. In other words, insofar as the new Wired

is good, it doesn’t have an identity; insofar as it has an identity,

it isn’t any good.

Meanwhile, judging at least from the size of the masthead, Condé

Nast is losing a fortune on this franchise. I was one of Wired‘s

most avid readers ten or 12 years ago, so it pains me to say this, but

it’s time to put the thing out of its misery. Let it be a fond memory,

rather than an embarrassing rebuke to its former self.

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One Response to Wired

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