Memo Pad: Chris Anderson Shares a Secret... Crunching Britain’s ABC Numbers...

Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson spoke before a group of journalism students at Columbia University on Thursday.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 02/18/2011

ANDERSON TALKS — AND DOESN’T: “I’ll tell you a dirty secret of magazine making,” said Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson on Thursday afternoon. He was standing at the front of a lecture hall in a gray suit speaking to a group of journalism students at Columbia University. Behind him was a stained glass window showing the Statue of Liberty standing with two globes, the hemispheres, at her feet. “We put things on the covers that sell, and sometimes its relationship to the interior is not 100 percent.” He was talking about his magazine’s “The Web Is Dead” cover story in September that he co-authored with Michael Wolff.

A Columbia professor sitting in the front row wondered if Anderson’s cover about tissue engineering showing bare breasts was another example of newsstand sales bait. “We had boobs on the cover the previous month. And actually there has never been a more editorially justified place,” he said.

But “The Web Is Dead” cover didn’t capture the main thrust of the story. Anderson explained to the students that the Web is dead, but the Internet is alive. The Web encompasses time we spend on computers, but the Internet accounts for smartphones, tablets, X-Boxes and everything Google can’t get to. He said keyboards are a barrier. In the future, he speculated, computers will be something boring we have to use at work, and we’ll spend our free time on tablets and smartphones. Anderson argued that magazines are very alive, too. “I work at Condé Nast,” he said. “We have about 20 titles. We had our best year in history last year.” A spokeswoman for Wired said Anderson was being intentionally vague and wouldn’t comment further.

Wired’s iPad app hasn’t been performing as well as it did at launch, though. Now it’s reaching about 20,000 to 30,000 readers a month, he said, showing the students a bar graph of sales through December. The first issue of Wired on the iPad sold more than 100,000 copies, but those numbers are down more than 70 percent. “I think it’s going to stay there until subscriptions are announced,” he explained. “You may ask, when is that going to happen and how is that going to happen, but I won’t be able to talk about it.

“Clearly, we’re in a holding pattern now waiting for Google and Apple and others,” Anderson continued. He mentioned that he wasn’t able to comment on negotiations with Apple over different subscription programs three times during his speech and the question-and-answer period after. He said he’d like to see the iPad app offered to Wired print subscribers at a 100 percent discount. “Lack of a [subscription] offer: number-one issue,” he said. “Drives people crazy, drives us crazy.”

— Zeke Turner

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