After we linked to Vanity Fair's blog matrix graphic earlier today, our inbox filled up with links to other, similar grids. Not surprising, since the format has been around for years and has spread widely. New Republic, to take but one example, published a "Bush Apostate Matrix" earlier this week. New York runs them regularly, here's the May 19 "Approval Matrix." Where/when did the first one of these grids crawl out of the primordial media ooze? (At Spy, probably. Of course.) And is anyone keeping track of their numbers in the wild? With Google and the rest of the internet turning everyone into short-attention-span clickmonkeys, it's only a matter of time before these random-access smorgasbords steal the listicle's place in the hearts of magazine editors everywhere. UPDATE: Two possible answers on the origins of magazine grids below!
From one longtime magazine editor:
Listicles: Back in the 1970s (maybe earlier too), Esquire did occasional
spreads called "The Red-Hot Center," in which they'd map out their hierarchy
of, say, Hollywood, or the publishing industry, etc, in discs of saturated
color at various removes from the aforementioned center. They were
considered definitive and brilliant, though hard to say if that was really
so without seeing one again. I can't give you an exact date, but maybe David
Granger has one on hand.
We'll look into that!
From an anonymous email tipster:
For an early prototype of the approval matrix, check Spin's front-of-the-book, Exposure, circa 1997-1998, when Michael Hirschorn was editor. The now-familiar dots-on-a-grid concept ran just about every month for a while. Not as pretty as VF's, but arguably a lot funnier.