A Different Breed of Geek; Or, Why Mainstream Media Sucks, Part 843,007

by anna on September 16, 2008

Mr. Right-Click left a copy of the latest Wired magazine on my vanity this morning. He claimed that there were some things of interest in it for me, and while flipping through it, he said, “See, they’ll have all this cool stuff, and then they bust out with something like this:
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. . . and then their credibility goes down the toilet.”
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Wired seems to forget that all geeks are not the same. And while this little how-to feature is presumably meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it just ends up being stupid because it doesn’t have a target audience. It makes the mistake of thinking all geeks are the same.
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One would assume that Wired readers could care less about having spent their “formative years favoring the Vulcan salute,” right? Because now, they’re all grown up. And they became software millionaires. Or dot com millionaires. Or web 2.0 millionaires. And, geek or not, they’re laughing all the way to the bank, right?
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Well, not so much.
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Because people who care about Vulcans and technology entrepreneurs are not the same group, are they? I mean a real geek-gone-rich is somebody who has business sense AND just happens to be gifted with computers and technology, and/or knows who to hire to do what, when, like any gifted entrepreneur. Perhaps if Nancy Miller, a former Entertainment Weekly writer who lives in LA, spent some time in Silicon Valley or–hey, just some time on the internet–she would realize this.
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A geek of the Star Trek variety is not necessarily going to be the most gifted businessman, generally speaking. Because nobody wants to buy their apps or databases–or whatever the hell it is that these people do–from someone who insists that Klingon is a real language. They want somebody who maybe is a little nerdy, but still is personable and has their eye set on technology, the future, AND the market. Look at the Klingons’ website. It’s a word document uploaded on the interwebs View definition in a new window. These geeks don’t even know CSS!
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The true geeks, the ones that people are addressing here–are the most extreme kind of geek. These are geeks who CARE WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF THEM, which means they might not even realize that they are geeks. No, worse, this is a magazine printed for geeks who are good in business, but also read by people who are just plain old geeks, who aren’t good at business, and aren’t funny–and we have staff writers, who are neither geeks, good at business, nor funny, NOR in touch with what unfunny geeks like . . . and these are the people coming up with the idea for a story.
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So, how much would a 3/4 ad cost in the printed issue of Wired? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly in the tens of thousands at the very least, no? Is this story worth tens of thousands of dollars or more in reader enjoyment? And people wonder why the publishing business is in the toilet! I am trying to picture the pitch session for this thing.
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Nancy Miller: So I have an idea. A nearly full-page, complete with graphics humor piece.
Wired: Sounds great!
NM: So, basically, what we do is, we teach people how to high-five.
W: Right.
NM: We do it with lots of demographically appropriate references to popular culture and kicky retro graphics. They’ll eat it up.
W: So, the premise is that you would be teaching people how to do a high-five–
NM: Properly. How to do it properly.
W: I’m having a hard time picturing this.
NM: Look, Wired readers want to be cool, just like everyone else.
W: Right.
NM: So we make this graphic up, and we sort of appeal to their uncoolness, like that is a source of cool–say something about Star Trek. And 21 Jump Street.
W: I’m not sure that–
NM: And we’re doing a public service, too, because, really–it’s embarrassing to do this incorrectly
W: People do it incorrectly? Really? Wasn’t 21 Jump Street more of a chick show?
NW: Geeks like to watch Scrubs. We’ll piggy back off their characterization of Todd–he’s always high-fiving people.
W: People want to be like Todd?
NW: No! That’s the joke.
W: Oh.
NW: And then we’ll spice up the copy with catchphrases and hot terms like “bogie,” “mitts,” “wingman,” “fist bump.”
W: Isn’t “fist-bump” some kind of Obama thing? I’m not sure that we want to appear as though we are favoring one side or the other.
NW: Well, it’s tongue in cheek, you see.
W: Right, but where’s the tongue, and who’s cheek is it? I’m lost.
NW: Listen, I used to write about celebrities. I think it’s safe to say I know what’s HOT.
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This is the problem with writers going from one magazine to the next–sure, the basic raw skills are the same, and a good writer here is a good writer there. But readers are having a hard time giving any credibility to anyone anymore, because the writers are so divorced from their topics that they don’t seem to even understand audience anymore. This is why people like blogs, Wired and all you other magazines* out there who can’t seem to remember who your readers are.

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*Domino, I’m looking in your direction. Your audience needs to know how to remodel on a budget–not how to make your house look fantastic with $3,000 table lamps.

{ 6 comments }

weezy September 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm

But what if the article is aimed at uber-geeks to make fun of nerd-geeks? The nerd-geeks are pissed that someone would write an article in Wired demeaning their social abilities, while the uber-geeks are laughing at the nerd-geeks being pissed.

anna September 16, 2008 at 12:39 pm

So it’s operating at a meta-geek level? Possible. But I feel like it’s somebody who wanted to target geeks, but doesn’t even know about their culture enough to do so. Would uber-geeks laugh at nerd geeks? I don’t know. I think they would find that to be like kicking puppies or arguing with retarded people.

weezy September 16, 2008 at 2:04 pm

But don’t you suppose they want someone to laugh at farther down the same foodchain than they are?

Allison September 16, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I’m totally with you on the Domino mag thing. I love the things they put in there and then I look down and go, “HOLY CRAP! $700 FOR A FLOOR VASE?!” You have the power to read my mind.

Michelle September 16, 2008 at 2:20 pm

I would’ve renewed my subscriptions to Marie Claire and Glamour if they got rid of all the features and blurbs on makeup and fashion. (Granted, the entire magazine would drop to about twenty pages, but at least I’d read them all.)

J. September 17, 2008 at 10:19 am

Generally dislike “women’s” magazines because I feel like all I’m doing is buying glossy ads for stuff that I either don’t need or can’t afford. Used to like Wired a lot, but that was in the ’90′s and haven’t read it much since. Occasionally, I pick up a trashy tabloid, usually when they feature articles about celebrities’ plastic surgery or their unvarnished faces.

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