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Mom Gives Wired Thumbs Down

Mom Gives Thumbs Down on Wired's Editorial Decision Making
cc licensed flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

On last year’s visit, Mom was caught up in reading the Wired issue on "Vanished"

But she and I agree, the Boob issue sadly shows the poor decision to pander to low brow tastes. I have no problem with seeing boobs, but if they cannot sell magazines based on the strength of their writing, well, they have lost the game.

And they have lost the 2 subscriptions I was paying for.

It’s not the display of breasts that bother me. The editorial stretch to make it a theme of an article on bio technology was made by real boobs, and the gratuitous inside shoots just reinforced the magazine’ aim to go for an audience of drooling pre teen boys.

Wired itself is 18 years old, but acts like 12. As spelled out in SlashGear Wired Makes a Boob of Itself.

This is a textbook case of objectification. The man in this story gets a profile shot. The machine he uses is shown in its entirety. The woman? Side boob. Belly button. Cleavage. Thin arms. Red lipstick, even though she’s completely naked otherwise. The man is shown as a head, with a brain and eyes and a purple button down shirt. The woman is a collection of parts…. The other problem is that the story is sold on cleavage, and when you open the magazine you see clinical men and naked women.

And while editor Chris Anderson has jumped in with rationalizing the decision, it comes off as “people in general don’t make good covers, so we take risks which are really cheap tricks”. Yes publishing magazines is a business, but if the power of the writing is not enough to carry sales, which maybe it nostalgically was when Neal Stephenson wrote the sweeping story of undersea internet wiring, well then Wired is more than just Tired and Expired. It is very Mired.

I for one (actually two) am done, and will not renew mine nor the gift subscription I gave my girl friend last year. I will no longer pick up piles of paper subscription slips falling out of articles preaching sustainability, and I will no longer have to keep dumping those dire YOUR SUBSCRIPTION IS IN DANGER notices that start coming 6 months before the actual renewal date.

My hold out hope that maybe a magazine like Wired would boldly reinvent what a magazine is, but they are doing “Same as it Ever Was” — what we get are paywall versions of images of glossy pages on an iPad. Whatever shreds of reading are worthy (Clive Thompson, Steven Levy, Scott Brown) I’ll read later on the web (until they toss up another pay wall).

Cindy Royal’s breakup with Wired is getting a lot of mileage- unlike her, I have no qualms on severing the relationship.

Once Wired, Then Tired, Expired…. now Retired or Fired.


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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. The Wired magazine cover was a bad choice on the editor’s part. Startled when I first picked it up, I was uncomfortable displaying the publication at my workplace. 

    After thinking about the magazine’s history, though, the cover does not surprise me. I have been a regular Wired reader since 1994, its second year. In large part, the magazine’s reputation was built on shocking us. Early issues were visually stunning; some of the pages were almost unreadably colorful and complex. The magazine nearly folded after the dotcom bust, and there were only a few complaints when fashion magazine publisher Conde Nast took over in 1998. The resulting change was immediate; sex clearly figured into the mix that resurrected the publication. In a bit of a semantic twist, Wired has also become the classic example of “infoporn” – information for its own sake, designed to hold the attention of its audience.

    In view of this history I am surprised that public reaction to the Wired cover has been so swift, fervent, and negative. One of the responses featured a whole series of previous covers with similar content. Why is the new cover a unanimous concern? Are folks really surprised that Wired magazine would want to shock us? Does anyone believe all of this attention will hurt their sales?

    1. Thats an interesting perspective, Chris, especially inforporn, and really just anything that is going to sell more magazines. However, it seems that the shock is very calculated. Would there ever be a cover with, say a male chest? If they wanted to do a story on how much a public figure was a jerk, would there be maybe male genitals?

      As shock value, I am left with an issue I cannot donate to my public library. My girlfriend did not want it on the pile that her 10 year old son sees. Maybe that is a sad status on how our conservatively our society looks at the human body.

      I can think of many other shock photo approaches that could have worked for the story, other than sexy boobs. Might it have been more shocking to have a boob shoot of radical mastectomy.

      So I buy the shock theory, and it being inline with the so called “cred” the magazine attempts to portray, but it is not shock in the vein of the value of the stories inside, it is shock meant to sell, sell, sell. It is a cheap shot shock.

      I’d alos suggest that the “swift, fervent, and negative” public reaction is a sign of that fact “that we can” in ways like not available in the 90s to have our reactions actually register.

      My subscriptions remain un-renewed. My postal mailbox remains littered with paper reminders. Same old business no matter how much they try to hep themselves up as a “new” form of media, even vamped in an iPad app, its the same old stuff.

      1. I agree that the cover was a cheap shot and a bad move. I hope we will see more outrage over objectification in other areas of the tech world.

        People who feel strongly *should* cancel their subscriptions, although it would probably be more effective to boycott their advertisers.

        My point is that Wired is often juvenile, sensationalistic, and insensitive – and parent company Conde Nast makes a lot of money objectifying women. I don’t think the cover was a good thing, I’m just not surprised.

        It’s way off the mark to equate a shot of male genitalia to one where breasts are not even fully exposed. But you’re right to suggest that the reaction is due in part to Americans’ discomfort seeing naked bodies in public places. It would be interesting to know how the French are reacting to all this hubbub.

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