How Wired’s editor Thompson keeps the magazine attractive to readers
Nicholas Thompson is the editor in chief Wired, which he rejoined in January.
He is also a contributing editor at CBS and CNN International, which means he appears on air to talk about tech stories and trends.
Thompson is also a co-founder of The Atavist, a digital magazine and publishing platform. Prior to starting at Wired, he was a senior editor at The New Yorker and then the editor of newyorker.com.
He published a book in 2009 called “The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War.”
Thompson spoke by email with Talking Biz News about the changes he has made at Wired and his future plans. What follows is an edited transcript.
What motivated you to come back to Wired?
It’s the most important publication covering the most important topic in the world. And they were asking me if I wanted to run it, which is pretty good motivation!
As you read Wired before you came back, what did you perceive as its strengths?
Wired has always had brilliant writers, and it’s the kind of publication you read and just know that it’s been edited carefully. Also the design was and is beautiful.
What did the publication need to improve upon?
Oh, I loved Wired before I started here. So it’s not like there are things I really wanted to improve upon. It’s more that I just want it to do as well as it possibly can at publishing stories that help the world understand how it’s changing. As our founding statement said: “Tell us something we’ve never heard before, in a way we’ve never seen before. If it challenges our assumptions, so much the better.”
How do you tell the story of technology in a magazine and on a website, which seems to be two different audiences?
The audiences aren’t that different demographically, or maybe even geographically. The key difference is in what people need when reading a Website versus a magazine. With print, they want to relax and read something timeless. Online, they’re more inclined to want to read something that’s at the front of their mind right then and there.
We also, when operating digitally, have all kinds of other options for telling stories — like with video, a part of Wired that’s booming right now.
You’ve made some staffing changes. What do you want to accomplish with those?
I’ve just been trying to find the best possible people I can for all the open positions. And I’m trying to bring in as many talented writers as I can afford.
Who is the core Wired reader? Do you see that changing?
The core Wired reader is someone deeply interested in how technology is changing the world. And I think you can find these people all over the world. The only change I hope to see is that I hope to figure out how to reach them in ways we haven’t before, and through platforms and devices where they haven’t been able to easily read Wired before.
There are a lot of tech publications and websites. How does Wired distinguish itself?
Well, I like to think of us more of a publication about change, which is one difference. We also have a long history of being the place where people come to learn about big ideas—not just the latest news. And I want that to continue.
Can you explain the design changes for the magazine, such as eliminating jumps?
Yes! That was the first change I made. I feel like a publication like Wired can only succeed if people read stories from the beginning to the end and fall in love with what they’ve read. If you put a jump page in between someone and the end of the story, there’s a chance they’re going to put the magazine down and go and get a beer.
We’ve also made a few other small tweaks: we got rid of the editor’s note, because it’s not a format I like, and we’ve added a bit of padding around images to make everything easier to parse. But the big changes will be coming down the line!
Wired experimented in the past with a lot of different things, such as a fiction edition. Will that continue? If yes, what’s up your sleeve?
Hah. Yes. We do have some interesting ideas in the works, and I promise I’ll tell you all about them when they’re ready to come out.
How do you get non-Wired readers interested in checking it out?
We’re going to try to come to them where they are: whether that’s through Snapchat or Instagram or watching on TV. And I hope that anyone who’s reading you right now will give us a chance and head over to Wired.com.