Finding a voice, or at least hiring one

We rant and we roar that the Internet is about specificity.

Have we unwittingly harkened back to the days when magazine editors imposed their will, leading to a grippingly specific ethos, feel, and voice?

Recent decades are rife with examples. Certainly the standard-bearer, at least in the conventional wisdom, is “Mr. Shawn” of the New Yorker. Hefner. Guccione.

(American examples. Forgive us.)

In an age of immediately obtainable global information, local focus becomes essential. In an age of globally undifferentiable online media, specificity of voice becomes essential.

Be different, in other words.

We’re just going to go away and think about this for a while. The genesis of this discourse was Michael Wolff’s piece for New York on the nouveau remix of Details (“for men”; we wrote for a previous incarnation).

[I]f you are a man in the magazine business, then at one time or another you have most likely thought, possibly obsessively, certainly enviously, about making your own men’s magazine – of having that kind of influence, that kind of cultural meaning. It’s hard to give up on this, hard to give up on wanting to get it right. [...]

[British GQ editor VerMeulen’s] was a deeply romanticized notion of not only what magazines could be but what a person working on such a magazine should be. A men’s magazine should not be a reflection of what we think men want to read but should be, he said with high romanticism, a reflection of the life the editor leads. The life. If it was an interesting life, then the magazine would be interesting.

Want your site to hold interest? Make it distinctive. Be yourself. Hire only people who have selves. Let them speak in their own voices. Don’t worry about offending people; no one has the right not to be offended. Don’t be corporate. (Pace Hissyfit.)

Don’t be like everyone else. It’s been done, OK? If you want a thriving virtual community, encourage distinctiveness. Hire larger-than-life personalities (David Lee Roth, Robbie Williams, Sinéad O’Connor, Camille Paglia... or moral equivalent) and let them go to town.

Dare to be different. Nobody else is. Nobody big, anyway.

We should probably write a grand, self-important discourse on this, but, like accessibility, we figure this is something you get or you don’t. And we beat enough vegan dead-horse substitutes as it is.

Posted on 2000-10-03