*During the course of reporting this story, The Verge's parent company..
July 9, 2015 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Website, profiled While the rest of the content industry on the web coalesces around platforms, The Awl chases a small, "indielectual" readership. Why are the most important people in media reading The Awl?
Founded in 2009 by Choire Sicha and Alex Balk, The Awl stands counter to the prevailing trends in the media industry, commenting skeptically on the conventions of the wider web while running a mix of stories that are both wide-ranging and unabashedly specific: writerly reviews of the previous day’s weather, deconstructions of minion memes, tirades against negronis and the Moon, personal essays, deadpan lists, poetry. The site’s tone, knowingly smart and aloof from the news cycle, is especially popular among people who work in media, and it has become a farm team for larger publications. Lately, under the editorship of Herrman and Matt Buchanan, it also publishes some of the most incisive criticism about the ongoing collision of media and technology.
Marginally related.

The best part is the kicker:
"*During the course of reporting this story, The Verge's parent company, Vox Media, acquired Recode and the Code/Media conference."
posted by General Malaise (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
So "indielectuals" are middle-brow millennials, then?
posted by ryanshepard at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2015


Why are Metafilter readers so damn good looking and witty?
posted by benzenedream at 11:21 AM on July 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


Founded in 2009 by Choire Sicha

Mefi's own, for those who didn't know.
posted by rtha at 11:27 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


You'll note the last tag.
posted by General Malaise at 11:29 AM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


The article has a good summary of the Awl's tech industry coverage:

Soon cities will be stratified into classes of on-demand laborers, Herrman says, "app playgrounds" zoned by service radii. It’s going to get more interesting when you replace those people with robots, Buchanan says, adding that everyone will be eating soylent while the rich eat solid foods in surge-priced restaurants. "I can’t wait for the progressively priced food market," Herrman says, with genuine enthusiasm, "that’s going to be great." Struggling to keep a straight face, Buchanan describes college lectures with professors delivering sponsored native ads indistinguishable from the course — environmental science brought to you by Exxon. "In-app purchases for college! College premium! I can’t wait!" Herrman says. "The future is going to be amazing," Buchanan says, dryly. "I’m so glad I’ll be dead."

Oh, Lordy.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I do now!
posted by rtha at 11:32 AM on July 9, 2015


"The future is going to be amazing," Buchanan says, dryly. "I’m so glad I’ll be dead."

That was almost going to be the title until I got to the end and caught the hilarious coincidence.
posted by General Malaise at 11:32 AM on July 9, 2015


In 2003, Gawker’s Nick Denton hired Sicha to run Fleshbot, the company’s now-abandoned porn site, then Gawker itself. Meanwhile, Balk was in advertising and writing a culture blog on the side; he landed at Gawker a few years later. Sicha left for The Observer after a year, then returned briefly in 2007. The style that he developed at Gawker, conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves, exerted a deep influence on the voice of the early web.

The … the early web, you say?

Sigh.
posted by kenko at 11:36 AM on July 9, 2015 [43 favorites]


~The style that he developed at Gawker, conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves, exerted a deep influence on the voice of the early web.

I don't think Firefly was influenced at all by Gawker. Time travel not having been invented yet.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fleshbot, the company’s now-abandoned porn site

Oh? I see I haven't been keeping up with the porn news.

The style that he developed at Gawker, conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves

But I was reading Choire when he was a nobody with a blog and he's always been conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:00 PM on July 9, 2015


So "indielectuals" are middle-brow millennials, then?

Just oxymorons.
posted by srboisvert at 12:08 PM on July 9, 2015


So "indielectuals" are middle-brow millennials, then?

Kind of a silly portmanteau, but I think the idea is like what they used to say about the Velvet Underground: Only ten people listened to them, but those ten people started bands.
posted by General Malaise at 12:10 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Somewhat related: I've been wondering what's going on with The Awl's sister site/ladyblog The Hairpin, which seems to have been a bit hollowed out lately? I hadn't read it for a while and then came back and it just seems a lot ... thinner. For instance, right now on the first page, almost half of the stories seem to be written by Choire as opposed to a Hairpin staffer or contributor, there's a lot less volume than there used to be, and what's there isn't as good as it used to be. (the latter, of course, is subjective)
posted by lunasol at 12:18 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm fascinated by this. I hope they make it, I'd love to be able to create something similar but it seems almost impossible to actually get paid to create an indie publication on the web these days.
posted by cell divide at 12:23 PM on July 9, 2015


I've been wondering what's going on with The Awl's sister site/ladyblog The Hairpin, which seems to have been a bit hollowed out lately? I hadn't read it for a while and then came back and it just seems a lot ... thinner.

Agreed. I think the Hairpin started going downhill when Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg stopped writing there and the Toast began to find its groove. I liked the Hairpin because I needed refuge from the hysterics of Jezebel, but they lost me when features like "Ask Baba Yaga," which does an absurdity thing similar to what Mallory Ortberg has mastered but it's neither funny nor relevant, so. But still: the Hairpin and also Billfold have been really enjoyable for the most part.
posted by witchen at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot about the tension between being responsive to current events and holding true to central goals and thoughtful about what one writes and says in terms of my own blog. There's this huge emphasis on being first - on somehow being ahead of an unpredictable curve - but from what I've seen its the people who are able to disengage from what "everyone" is doing to take a longer view as part of a cohesive worldview who produce things which are thought provoking instead of reactive.

Ironically, there is a similar issue at play in the heart of commenting as well. Does one simply respond to what is presented, or does one weave it into an ongoing ribbon of thought and allow it to affect future thoughts? And if the latter, how does one guard against becoming a one-note musician, turning every topic in to one's hobby horse?

I am fascinated that female voices came into the story on the second gen, and how incidental The Toast is to the overall focus on these two white men and what they have helped make, given I am far more aware of the Toast than I am of the Awl. Perspective really can be all consuming.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:50 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


> But I was reading Choire when he was a nobody with a blog and he's always been conversational with bursts of enthusiasm and ironic swerves.

Hey, I was reading Choire before he even had a blog.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:51 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


We like both of you and you're both cool, so don't worry.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:53 PM on July 9, 2015


> So "indielectuals" are middle-brow millennials, then?

Not all of them; some of them shave between their eyebrows.
posted by scruss at 12:57 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


> So "indielectuals" are middle-brow millennials, then?

The middle brow is the one over the taint, right?
posted by chavenet at 1:01 PM on July 9, 2015


A lot of Sicha and Balk’s advice involves encouraging editors to do what they want and ignore traffic. "Hot takes are epidemic," Sicha says, referring to hasty opinion pieces spun up to harness the inertia of a viral story. "Nobody should ever have to write X posts a day. That’s when you end up writing something you regret. You become someone else’s hot take."

Love this. Lord save us from the hot take epidemic.

In the wake of The Dissolve dissolving yesterday, half of this piece unintentionally reads like a eulogy for a death that hasn't happened yet. I don't trust anymore that anything with integrity and a faith in readers' intelligence will actually, y'know, survive. And it seems like Choire Sicha et al might be wondering the same, or at least saying "fuck it, we'll have fun for a while and whatever happens, happens."
posted by naju at 1:01 PM on July 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot about the tension between being responsive to current events and holding true to central goals and thoughtful about what one writes and says in terms of my own blog.

I wonder if there's a space for a really nicely-researched delayed current events kind of site. Like, let's say today the moon turned blue. Maybe a month or two from now (they'd have to have a schtick I guess, like only report on stuff six weeks later or whatever) they'd do some massive in-depth piece on the moon being blue, having spent the last month looking at everyone who was doing the hot take/viral thing. Does that make any sense?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:52 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been wondering what's going on with The Awl's sister site/ladyblog The Hairpin, which seems to have been a bit hollowed out lately? I hadn't read it for a while and then came back and it just seems a lot ... thinner.

I started worrying about The Hairpin when founding editor Edith Zimmerman left. The next editor, Emma Carmichael, had the helm for a year or so, and now it's a couple of other women. I guess I just prefer Edith's direction, on the whole.
posted by rewil at 1:59 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been wondering what's going on with The Awl's sister site/ladyblog The Hairpin, which seems to have been a bit hollowed out lately?

It felt to me like when The Toast started up, the entire comment section of The Hairpin picked up and resettled. Like, sure The Hairpin had a revolving door of editors for a bit there but the site has consistently produced very good work and the way the commentariat basically vanished seemed very odd.

(and this is just speculation but I would imagine that it receives fewer pitches these days as writers are probably pitching The Toast first)
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:13 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I realize that sounds like I'm putting The Toast at fault here or pitting the sites against each other and I don't intend to, I really love both of them. They have similar readership, I think, but The Toast has a little more splash right now, which affects readers and writers.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:18 PM on July 9, 2015


I wonder if there's a space for a really nicely-researched delayed current events kind of site.

I think, based on what Klein said when he was starting it, that's what Vox was kinda supposed to be, but best laid plans, etc.
posted by General Malaise at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was good to read. The Awl is very cool and I don't have one negative thing to say about it. I'm excited that they're going to start a parenting wing because as a parent who is wildly alienated by everything parenty out there, I would like to read something that resonates for me.

I had also noticed that the Hairpin, which really crescendoed right before The Toast/Edith/Mallory took off, hasn't been grabbing me as much lately, but I think it's OK for it to not be constantly in peak form. I should take another look - maybe I just am out of the loop.
posted by latkes at 3:25 PM on July 9, 2015


If the content apocalypse comes, Herrman is cautiously optimistic that The Awl will survive it. "We’ll be the cockroaches who don’t die but who are and will remain cockroaches," he says, laughing. The company was founded in a recession and to a large degree still runs like it’s in one. Over the years, it’s slowly built up a loyal readership large enough to keep it afloat, which alone is a feat.

Perhaps less the cockroach, and more the horseshoe crab.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:43 PM on July 9, 2015


Pretty good essay about Always Coming Home on The Awl today, so there's that.
posted by ovvl at 5:00 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wonder if there's a space for a really nicely-researched delayed current events kind of site.

I feel like this is The New Yorker.
posted by The Minotaur at 6:06 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


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