In April 2001, the publisher Condé Nast, the wholly owned subsidiary of Advance Publications, asked AMO to look at Wired, post boom. Where to locate a new mission, how to position a magazine previously based on the relentless narcissism of Silicon Valley?
Fashion magazines adhere to a rigorous formula—a focus-group-tested melange of cleavage, airbrushed skin, and exclamation points. Wired’s strategy for techno-single mission: eulogize the old and herald the new. This formula served as an ever-renewable font of optimism for a monthly package perpetually promising the next big thing.
In the beginning, the Word The Wired Dictionary emerged out of a hunch: that a magazine’s vocabulary can be as glossy as its paper stock. The simplest way to understand Wired’s message was to strip its language of grammar, catalog every word it had ever published and record the frequency of its use. The dictionary made apparent the invisible fin-de-siècle lexicon that Wired both chronicle and helped produce.
And so tracing Wired’s history was no longer a matter of following shifts in ownership, tracking world events, or chronicling editorial regimes. We found that a simple and consistent rhythm punctuated Wired’s seven years of existence: on average, Wired proclaimed a revolution every three months. A new future generated before other futures had time to be verified.
What happens to a magazine that proclaims prophecies if only its worst-case scenarios come true? Wired captured a moment of historical change with iconic perfection–the advent of the internet, the triumph of the market economy, the optimism for a technologically enhanced world, and the promise of a digitally-fueled political revolution: all found their voice in Wired’s alchemy of four distinct audiences. The geeks that ruled the ’90s can be classified into 4 typologies, and Wired consistently identified the fronts on which all could unite.
How can NEW continue to be Wired’s favorite word when the cycle of newness has changed? How can Wired’s rhythmic consistency help calibrate its agenda to the apparently chaotic field of events that seems to regulate the world? Can NEW and GLOBAL combine to create unexpected adjacencies?
Wired’s readership aged in perfect synchrony with the magazine–what if Wired staged an Oedipal confrontation confrontation between two generations and their respective revolutionary ideals? Isn’t it time to reveal who is a sell-out and who isn’t?
Wired’s demographic profile is punctured with holes—as if the impact of technology had impacted the lives of only wealthy, white, middle-aged men. What would happen if Wired tailored its message to…women? seniors…teenagers?…blacks?