Wired – You’re Fired

There’s been a lot of rumblings around the latest cover from Wired Magazine over the last couple of weeks. I read Wired every month and was appalled instantly when I saw it. So I complained to the editor. Didn’t get a response but was pleased to see that somebody did. Here’s the blog from Cindy Royal (with he infamous cover shot) and the response from Chris Anderson – the Editor of Wired.

Here’s his response:

Cindy,

I’m the editor of Wired, and thank you for your post; I take your points. This is an issue we wrestle with all the time, and it reflects a combination of things, ranging from not enough high-profile women in the tech industry who are recognizable to sell a cover (every month we cover test a list of names to see which ones people know well enough to want to read about them), to your sense that if we go outside the tech industry for women that this somehow doesn’t count.

First, I have to correct one point: this cover story was not about tissue engineering, it was about *breast* tissue engineering. Of all the covers with cleavage out there, it’s hard to find one more editorially justified than that.

Second, this problem goes beyond women: we have trouble putting *people* on the cover. It’s the same reason: they have to sell, and what sells for us is either big ideas (sans people) or well-known, likable people with interesting things to say. The problem is that there aren’t enough geek celebrities, so we often end up going with celebrity geeks instead. Our Gates and Zuckerberg cover didn’t sell as well as our Will Ferrell cover. I’m glad we did both, but at the end of the day, we have to work on the newsstand to be a profitable business.

But we do take risks with people we really admire. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Martha Stewart, both as a businessperson and media innovator, to say nothing of her presence in the DIY movement. So we put her on the cover, heading an issue focused on her passion, and included . I knew that it would’t sell well (it didn’t), but did it anyway, including a Q&A with her. But you don’t count that one, because it’s “jokey, thematic”.

So when we put women on the cover, it must be only be for serious profiles? Okay, then I could use some help with suggestions. We love up-and-comers, but they don’t sell magazines if they don’t already have a relatively high profile and are leading a company people want to read about. For instance, Carol Bartz is a great CEO, but I just don’t think a “wither Yahoo” cover would work right now. I know this sounds like a chicken-and-egg situation, but the time is long gone since people needed magazine covers to become famous. Witness our Julia Allison cover, which was entirely about her accomplishments in self-promotion, which we applauded as a key 21st Century skill. But you don’t like that one because she has “come hither looks.”

Finally, I’m glad you liked our feature on Caterina Fake, but do you really think it would have worked as a cover? Hunch is still a small startup, yet to prove itself, and Caterina left the company a couple months later. I think if we had put her on the cover, we would have been accused of hyping Hunch beyond its due in the first month, and then clueless the next month when she left.

In other words, suggestions please!

This was my response to Cindy’s blog:

Dear Cindy

I was so pleased to see your blog re Wired and the cover they have chosen this month. And I am completely in agreement with you.

I also wrote a stinking letter to the editor the moment I saw the cover – in fact I didn’t even read the article – I don’t care if it’s about boobs and boobs only. I just think the cover is wrong and gratuitous and offensive.

So I was ‘pleased’ that the Editor has finally decided to grace us with a response. I am sure we are not the only ones who have complained. I found at least one other woman on Linkedin who felt the same.

So, his response. Well I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I am disappointed.

“this is an issue we wrestle with all the time” – what? Whether or not to put some tits on the cover??

“it reflects a combination of things, ranging from not enough high-profile women in the tech industry who are recognizable to sell a cover” – great so let’s put some tits on the cover shall we that will sort things out!!??

“Of all the covers with cleavage out there, it’s hard to find one more editorially justified than that.”

It’s like saying – we’ve done an article on child porn so that justifies putting some child porn on the cover!

Or we’ve done an article on torture victims so let’s put some torture on the front cover. Good grief!

I can’t really be bothered to go on with it but I guess you might feel slightly the same. My relationship with Wired is hanging on a tiny thread and it might be dead. I am shocked that so called ‘intelligent’ people still don’t see the point.I  publish a magazine in the UK for charities. We too have a nightmare with our cover shots. We have about 50 quid to sort ours out. I reckon Wired’s budget must be about 100 times that.

I’m still so insulted by this.

Sadly I was of the opinion that Wired magazine offered us information, entertainment, education on an equal basis (although even before this cover that’s debatable). The editor’s letter just confirms that we have a million miles to travel yet before we can actually realise that dream.

I currently can’t find the energy to ‘give him suggestions’. Except perhaps use your brain and earn your money. And stop making excuses for degrading women and alienating your readers.

Would be good to hear your thoughts on how to respond. Thanks so much for your blog.

Cindy then responded as follows:

Thanks for your email. Based on the comments I have been getting, most people, both men and women, thought the cover was inappropriate and a cheap shot.

I agree that Anderson’s response was initially off-putting. In an email, after my response, he said this “In the meantime, I’d love to brainstorm some names with you. I can’t promise we’ll get them on the cover, but just commissioning more features about women would be a start. This is a chronic problem in the the tech industry, but I agree with you that we should work hard to fight it. You’ve got the Editor’s ear, so I suspect your time won’t be wasted.”

So, at least he acknowledges that they have to try harder. But my experience is that they already have pat answers to why they will or won’t do certain things. I’m skeptical at best.

But I am encouraged by simply the attention that this is generating. That’s got to be good… right? While I have gotten a few mean-spirited comments, for the most part, the discourse has been civil and overwhelmingly supportive.

I love what you said below, that Wired should use their brains and earn their money. It’s such an easy thing to throw it off on someone else, only to shoot down every idea that someone sends. I don’t have the time or energy for that either. But, you are doing great work with your publication, and that’s where your energy needs to go.

Thanks so much for writing and supporting the piece.
Cindy

And then the group called Women That Tech are also on the case.

Hey There:
I have boobs and I’m proud of them :). But when magazines like Wired, who focus on technology and innovation, Photoshop a pair of perky boobs to highlight their lead story on tissue regeneration, it irks me. Does it irk you too?

I feel like Wired is just using our boobs to sell their magazine to their target audience – men. And hey T&A sells, right? Putting men’s genitals on the cover would never have sold. I wonder how many times this photo was cropped under the watchful eye of Wired Editor Chris Anderson, to find just the right angle to ensure that the issue did not have to be covered in plastic before it hit mailboxes? I understand that Wired needs good covers to sell their magazine so that they can stay in business, but this was a lame move by Wired.

Wired, like many other tech focused magazines and blogs, often ignores their female readership and takes very few steps to cultivate us. I’m tired of it. Will you help me compile a list of suggestions to WIRED Magazine Editors about how they can connect with more women in tech and women entrepreneurs? Just hit reply and email me your ideas and suggestions. Easy peasy!

Chris Anderson over at Wired has asked for suggestions of women in the space they should cover. But I think he needs extra advice like how Wired should engage and connect with more women readers in our space. There’s a ton of us out there, but Anderson and others at Wired clearly have not gotten it. Let’s help them out a bit. He says he’s ready to listen. Email me ideas and I will compile them, credit you (or if you prefer, you can remain anonymous), and send it directly to Chris and the other editors at Wired. I will also post an article that includes our collective ideas.

You can find out more about Women Who Tech on Facebook.

My suggestions however to Wired – really? They need suggestions do they?? How hard can it be!

1. Stop using degrading images of women on your covers

2. Have some respect for your women readers

3. Try harder and earn your money

Apologies for the length of this one but it’s so important to challenge this kind of lazy and damaging journalism. The more of us that do, the better chance we stand of making any changes.

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One response to “Wired – You’re Fired

  1. Thanks for flagging this up. I don’t read Wired simply because the covers put me off and I can’t be bothered to actually open the magazine and see if it’s worth reading. I also think it’s incredibily lazy for the editor to throw the problem back at you and ask for your suggestions. If he and his staff don’t know who to feature and how to extend their coverage of women in technology then a) what is he paying them for? and b) why should you do their work for free?

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