At a party thrown by Wired in June, I teased Wired.com editor-in-chief Evan Hansen for eschewing the online publication's mid-1990s bravado in favor of his just-a-journalist aw-shucks routine. I fear the man has taken my jibes seriously, to his employer's peril. He is talking up Wired as a software developer, competing with Google, and thinking about the launch of a sports blog. Remember Adrenaline? Exactly. Neither does Hansen, or anyone else at Wired, the magazine which spawned the ill-fated sports website, which shuttered shortly after Wired Ventures' failed attempt to go public.Hansen shows that Wired is reprising all of its mistakes from the last bubble. "Our vision is to not just be a magazine publisher covering technology, but to be a developer of these things," he says. Of a photo-gallery tool for the website, he says: "We’re hoping to have something to show that will blow people’s minds." Has he been eating Wired founder Louis Rossetto's chocolate? If I sound like a grumpy old fellow who's seen this all before, it's because I have, first-hand. The sports venture isn't the only repetitive pattern I've spotted. In 1996, Wired bought Suck.com, giving the cultural-critique website enough of a budget to hire unskilled 24-year-olds as copy boys. In 2006, Wired bought Reddit, which lets anyone build their own version of Suck.com (except not as good, because none of Reddit's users are as funny as Joey Anuff, Carl Steadman, or Ana Marie Cox). What's different now? Oh, sure, we can talk about Internet adoption, broadband, open-source software. Whatever. What has really changed is that now, instead of public shareholders funding Wired's wild experiments, advertisers are willing to foot the bill. And that is perhaps the biggest reason for Hansen's newfound enthusiasm. He's looking forward to putting ads for sugary electrolyte drinks on his new sports blog. Which only makes us think of OK Soda.
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