101 Ways to Save Wired

A special presentation of Stating the Obvious and The Netly News.


1. Stop making content for HotWired and turn it into a label for original content on the web. Offer enterprising young web sites server space, incredible bandwidth, a modest income, and the Wired marketing machine. In return, you get to sell ads on the site and take it into the "HotWired Network." Then, Wired should leave them alone to produce the content. The quality of the content would improve exponentially.

2. Have Louis Rossetto slain on the steps of 520 Third Street by a shadowy, club-hopping, webgeek serial killer on the lam (I nominate Carl Steadman for the job). Like Versace's clothes, Wired magazine & WiredWare wil fly off the shelves, and hits to HotWired will triple. (Note, this is a short-term fix.)

3. Have Nicholas Negroponte host a Wired Miracle Telethon. "I'm going to stand here and talk nonstop about the Digital Revolution until we raise US$500,000."

4. Three Words: Pop-Up Book.

5. Publish articles about things that actually have some meaning to people's lives, not all this mumbo jumbo digerati doublespeak.

6. Hire more women.

7. Run puzzlers, with the answer in next month's issue. Sample puzzle: "If you have 300 gallons of neon green flourescent ink, but only 220 pages to spill it on, how many ounces of ink per page?"

8. Stop relying on "the cool factor" - the fact that people will suck up whatever you produce because it's cool. Nothing cool can stay. And when the Wired brand isn't the coolest thing on the block anymore, you'd better have something else to back it up (like, say, technology that works, or insightful, innovative content).

9. Run more profiles of MIT graduates who've never actually turned their big ideas into any money.

10. Go back to the better grade of paper.

11. Hire the guy who did the Joe Camel ads for RJR. Make it very clear to him that he is not to pander to children, especially not by using any subliminal hardware imagery. Pay him with stock options.

12. Fire everyone making over $30k - let the remaining people run the company. The ex-employees could start a new magazine called Fired, all about how tough it is to get jobs in the mainstream media.

13. Utilize those little red lights in the heels of sneakers in the magazine packaging somehow. For instance, every time you throw the magazine against the wall, the spine lights up.

14. Give up on going public. Sell T-shirts instead.

15. Accept phone sex ads.

16. Stop taking yourselves so fucking seriously.

17. Get religion. Launch "The First Church of Wired," a spiritual community with both a digital gathering space and physical franchises in major metropolitan/suburban areas around the world (especially those with fiber optic networks and/or recent interactive TV trials). Seriously, churches have some of the most loyal followings and fattest coffers in the land. People feel good about belonging to a church. They look to it for guidance, fellowship, and hope -- the same things that many Usenet posters and chat addicts are seeking online. And because the church forms the spiritual/moral core for their lives, they'll happily bail it out of any financial woes it may encounter. Churches are amazing for their viral properties, too: no matter how unlikely the premise, somebody out there is willing to believe and conform to the views the parasit- um, I mean "pastor" puts forth. And the virus is replicated ad infinitum. Come to think of it, isn't this what Wired already is? They might as well just come forward and claim the tax-free status. Plus, think of how beautiful a WiredChurchTM franchise would look! With Plunkett + Kuhr designing the space, it would be stunning, and just different enough from other churches to make a few nonbelievers really angry (just like the magazine!) -- bonus negative PR!

18. On the flip side of that coin, open Wired University. Same premise as above, except priests are replaced with professors and the audience demo is shifted slightly (more frat boys, fewer middle-aged upper management types -- offspring of current Wired subscribers will be considered "legacy" admissions and thus are automatically accepted). Possible majors include: bionomics, digi-economics, techno-economics, eco-economics, Rossettonomics, jargonomics (note to self: send that in to Jargon Watch!), cybersocial dynamics, IPOing, entrepreneurial studies, and snotty writing.

19. Find the next big thing. When you first came out, you were preaching a new gospel to people who hadn't heard it all before. Now, we've all heard it. A million times. Impress us again. Find something new.

20. Start a urinal ad campaign.

21. Publish Wired For the Blind, a braille version of everyone's favorite mouthpiece for the Digital Revolution. It may even become popular with those who like the articles but can't stand the design.

22. Scandals. They work for soap operas, right? Here are a few ideas: a) Get Brock Meeks arrested for hiding National Geographics from his children. If he doesn't have kids, well, there's another opportunity for a scandal. b) Unmask Negroponte as a Sony mole, who dictates his pieces to offshore Filipino typists. c) Switch to Unicode. Nobody will know what it means, but they will surely raise a fuss.

23. Rather than putting Negroponte on cover, put the first issue of Wired on the cover. Write an article about the founding of Wired. Wacky!

24. Hire Roseanne as guest editor.

25. Create a new channel on HotWired titled "Crick and Crack," which discusses the relationships between technology and experience, especially as it relates to psychopharmacology. It should be hosted by Crick of "Watson and Crick," and the entire series will be written under the influence of mindbending drugs. Irreverent commentary, with humorous, but pragmatic, monologues. A thought-provoking laugh riot.

26. Buy Apple. Redesign the boxes.

27. Play off your strongest brands and introduce a new print title: Wired Sucks. With art direction by Terry Colon and content provided free by WELL posters, it's sure to be a smash hit -- and co-opt those pesky critics, too.

28. Stop blinding (and therefore losing) readers with the cornea-damaging neon-on-neon color scheme. Legible type will most likely translate into more people reading the magazine. And more people reading the magazine will most likely translate into more revenues.

29. Scratch 'n' sniff articles.

30. Face reality: libertarians are a niche market.

31. Hire some industrial designers and use your existing talent to begin a new division: consulting on design and marketing of aesthetically appealing versions of consumer technology products for existing technology companies who only know about shades of gray.

32. Realize that women make most home technology purchasing decisions.

33. Wired has yet to do what any self-respecting con artist does to save a sinking ship: pull a stunt as outrageous as it is illegal. Do you need to convince your advertisers you can get through to people? I've got one word for you: SPAM. Or get some |<-R4|> hacker D00dz to help you send an ASCII art masterpiece to every pager in the US. Or a prerecorded message with the aural equivalent of your graphic design to every cellphone in the US. Look, everyone already hates you -- the only way out is more.

34. Java. It can fix anything.

35. Start packaging secret decoder rings with magazine.

36. Come up with something in bigger print and less jargonized for the huge market of 40-55 year olds who feel they have to figure something out about this Internet/computer thing in order to stay fiscally current and employable.

37. Realize that boys' clubs are passé.

38. Create a little Mr. Wired cartoon character and license the shit out of him.

39. Open a chain of Wired cybercafés.

40. Start a dance channel that broadcasts endless hours of stylish music. Wait, you already tried that.

41. Prozac.

42. Siphon a little petty cash to order Don Lapre's complete system for making money through buying, selling and placing tiny classified ads. Use initial revenue to set up his bonus program "starting your own 900 number."

43. Pay Suck contributors much, much more.

44. Place Honor Boxes at CompUSAs around the country. Repurpose HTML coders into change counters.

45. Go back to the basics: black and white.

46. Redesign "Webmonkey" to be a pay-for-play porn site. That way all the little web hipsters can spank their monkeys with that "avant garde" Wired-style background design.

47. Host a "Wired Aid" mega show featuring bands playing to "save the Internet as they know it" (most don't know it). Feature a big Soundgarden reunion, and get FSOL to actually show up and play, not just broadcast it from their basement via ISDN like they usually do.

48. Brighter colors and bigger words. Place more emphasis on your look and style, instead of letting content overshadow design, as it has in the past and continues to do now. The staid and sensible look of Wired is too forgettable, too regular, too ho-hum, and too boring. The only way to fix it is through bigger words and brighter colors. Like red. And green.

49. Instead of "Geek of the Week," have a "Hacker of the Week." To be selected, all you have to do is hack your way into the HotWired server and put your page up. Hell, if Universal Studios can get lots of free exposure for hacking themselves, so can you.

50. Sow confusion. For every successful "visionary," there's a thousand failed ones face down in the gutter: not only is it a shaky business proposition, but it isn't the source of what little rewards Wired has actually seen. So face facts, bag the future, and turn to the past. And, above all, embrace something no one understands -- French theory. Start mangling Foucault, Althusser, Bourdieu, de Certeau, Lyotard, Serres, Canguilhem, Dumezil, Ricoeur... You'll wow your critics, charm your investors, and open up a whole new demographic.

51. Gold-leaf your next issue and sell it for $49.95.

52. Scrap HardWired and start a movie company. After all, publishing books has never seen more than a 4% return -- but movies, on the other hand, are a winner. Since putting that little thingie on Mars cost about as much Batman and Robin, the obvious next step is to make the opposite of Capricorn One: a big-budget movie for which the studio actually puts some actors in space. There's no shortage of kooky investors who'd pony up for that piece of PR, and you would finally get what you want: to Make Money Fast and go down in history.

53. Have the mothers of all your employees make something special for a big Bake Sale.

54. Stop tooting their horn, and instead start listening to those cypherpunks. Sure, they're a total pain in the ass, but they aren't stupid. Utilize them to turn your publishing business into a front for a money-laundering operation. Oh, the places you'll go...

55. Test readers' wits: in your next issue include a little GBN-style "Earth" Tamagotchi with buttons for "expand world wealth," "take care of the environment," "stop this war," stuff like that. Make sure it only gets one life, though.

56. Get Ouija Muriel Cooper to design the next issue. (Uh, you know, the woman who designed all those early MIT books like Negroponte's Architecture Machine. You did know that, right? Good.)

57. Put your money where your mouth is and move the production schedule way up and print the magazine in India. After all, if you were really so smart, your "Long Boom" predictions would be sure to work out, right? Hey, it'll take five years to get an issue off press, but you'll save a serious bundle on printing costs. And when your clairvoyant editorial content hits the nail on the head anyway, all those doubting Thomases will eat crow and your, uh, stock will go up in a big way.

58. Do a self-parody issue and see if anyone gets it. In fact, see if you get it.

59. Go public anyway.

60. Get out of the software development business. Sell off NewBot to the highest bidder, and scrap internal development of the content management system. It's time to focus, and managing code gets in the way of managing content.

61. If you can convince Joey to write three days a week, you should at least try to convince Carl.

62. Adopt a yellow table-of-contents stripe down the left-hand side of HotWired. Don't laugh -- CNET's selling more ads than you are...

63. Stick a server in Belize and launch HotWager, the HotWired sports gambling engine.

64. Hire Gil "Like a Surgeon" Amelio as the new CEO.

65. Gather all the phone numbers of your Wired and HotWired subscribers, and make telemarketing calls to them at home during dinner.

66. Hire creative people from bOING bOING and MONDO 2000 to inject hipness and street cred into the magazine... oh, wait. Never mind.

67. Sell the whole thing off to the Global Business Network, which can officially fold it into their operations as a corporate newsletter and value-laden brand identity for think tank conferences.

68. Restructure the operation as a PAC. Announce that Louis will be running in the next gubernational election as a Libertarian.

69. Fake a hostage standoff, get lots of press. Hire some ex-Japanese Red Army types to take the Wired Offices, along with Jane Metcalfe, hostage. Louis Rossetto will look suave and in control as while he spends the first few hours negotiating, but when it comes time to storm the building (as it must for CNN's sake) send in Joey Anuff, Kevin Kelly, and Chip Bayers to take the terrorists down. With a little luck and confusion, one of the three might accidentally get shot, and so much the better.

70. Stop having interviews with AI developers, and just try to have Keanu Reeves on each cover.

71. Bring back the drugs of choice section in the back. You know it's time to drop a subscription when the item you read first gets cut.

72. Become fervently anti-Microsoft. Sure, Redmond has money to throw around, but once you really start singing the praises of Netscape, Sun, and Oracle in print ("Marc Andreessen's a snazzy dresser! Larry Ellison really does make sense! Java really will change everything!") the ad revenue from the Holy Alliance will just roll right in. And because you're Wired, you won't even mention this arrangment, unlike those wusses at CNET.

73. Pay cartoonist Scott Adams $10 million to have Dogbert start quoting from the Tired/Wired list.

74. Finally figure out what the hell kind of a magazine you are. Details for geeks? The New Republic for geeks? The Wall Street Journal for geeks? Conde Nast for geeks? Mondo 2000 for yuppies? Scientific American for designers? Computer Life for the less-than-fully-clueless? Life for the 21st century?

75. Rename the company Weird and begin an aggressive fetish marketing campaign.

76. Use bleeding-edge features on HotWired that run only on near-beta browsers. Crow about them.

77. Have done with history's longest throat-clearing, and say goodbye, Gutenberg. Consign the written word -- that troublesome, Second Wave holdover -- to the dustbin of history, and dive off the deep end into the heady depths of postliteracy. Like the Extropians, you're forever reminding us that the body is dead meat; why not heed the argument implied by your Mighty Morphin migraine-making typography -- namely, that the body copy is obsolete? As your designer John Plunkett memorably observed (in a quote calculated to inspire a thrill of terror in Wired's long-suffering stable of freelance hacks), "I sometimes have to sacrifice readability when I'm pushing the edge of the envelope on design." Linear reasoning and rational thought are so over, anyway, as managerial gurus like Tom Peters are always telling us.

78. While you're at it, why not morph into the mail-order catalog for commodity fetishes and designer mindstyles you've always dreamed of being, wordlessly hawking supercomputing cufflinks, The Daily Me, and other Media Lab gewgaws -- the perfect products for an age of Merchant-Ivory noblesse oblige and Bill Gatesian cybermansions. In fact, following Negropontean logic, why not make the leap from atoms to bits to pure quintessence and pedal vaporware -- virtual products obsolete before they're realized, the ur-product being Virtual Reality itself, a technology dead on arrival, suffocated by an avalanche of cyberhype.

79. Hire back Derek Powazek of The Fray and give him carte blanche to design HotWired 5.0.

80. Appoint Suck's Heather Havrilesky CEO and watch the fur fly.

81. Position yourself for a takeover by Rupert Murdoch, who will certainly put Carl Steadman in charge.

82. Since Wired has already has a pair of search engines, why not build a browser? Since Joe Briefcase never changes his default homepage, Netscape-like hits are only a few million dollars in R&D away!

83. Why would anyone WANT to save Wired?

84. Spray LSD on the back cover.

85. Wired continues to be the most accurate roadmap for the emerging digital landscape, blazing the trail through an erupting future at the dawn of a new millennium. If Wired failed to exist, it would be necessary for Time-Warner to reinvent it.

86. Less cool. More real.

87. If you're pandering to the male demographic, why not go all the way: every February, publish the Wired swimsuit edition.

88. Piggyback on Apple's search for a new CEO. You're using the same executive recruiting firm, and you could share job descriptions: "Your workplace: a cultish, zeitgeist-defining startup. Your boss: the mercurial founder. Your job: convince Wall Street that capitalism is part of the corporate culture."

89. Follow Suck's advice and have Wired News live up to its name. How can you go on letting the ever-expanding hordes of Wired-bashers launch careers with Wired-bashing books, parodies and web sites? Why let all these clowns capitalize on the brand you busted butt to create? No, beat them at their own game. Be the first with news of who's in and who's out at Wired HQ, whose contracts have been broken, which Wired Ventures projects have been cut or allowed to whimper to a slow death. Because people care a lot more about that sort of trivia than they do for your ideas. Besides, if we want news and commentary on this industry, there's always News.com.

90. Launch "Orson." The parenting magazine for digital revolutionaries getting on in years.

91. Launch "Confessed Sins of the Digerati." We've already secured www.csotd.com for you.

92. Launch "The Digital Reformation." Because it's time. Seriously, the ranks at the revolutionary front are thinning fast, so cut your losses and go for the bold about-face. Nail 95 PCs to the door of the MIT Media Lab and catch the real next wave before it's too late.

93. Launch Netizen TV II: Long live the new flesh.

94. Get Martha Baer a prominent spot on the magazine masthead. Oops. You've already tried that. Never mind.

95. Louis and Jane should crawl on their hands and knees to Si Newhouse and say "Please, we really didn't mean to turn you and your money down."

96. Follow the money and rehire Anthony Perkins instead of its pale successor, Michael Murphy. Perkins' performance managing The Wired Interactive Technology Fund was much better. TWIT$ rose 66 percent in the 13 months Perkins had it. Murphy gained a mere 28 percent in his 16 months. Maybe that's because Perkins's writing performance was so much better as well and his columns and sources so much funnier.

97. Stage digital show trials against counterrevolutionaries. Use HotWired to host Web-based trials with confessions about active involvement in a conspiracy against the Digital Revolution by the likes of Will Kreth or Justin Hall.

98. Install a digital tcheka. What is a revolution without a Secret Service? The Electronic Frontier Foundation would be a great name for such an entity.

99. Build a digital Hotel Lux for the foreign Wired employees, where they are all stuffed together waiting to get hit by the next roll of intrigues.

100. Have a contest where everyone submits their ideas on how to save Wired. Pick the best 100 or so, and implement the serious ones. Be sure to ask the best and brightest of both the digital and nondigital worlds, to even up the biases a little.

101. Don't worry, you'll survive. It's Apple we should really worry about.