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Why Wired is still putting out a print magazine in 2018

One year into the job, Editor in Chief Nick Thompson has thought a lot about the power of print — and what has to change.

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Nick Thompson has been Wired’s editor in chief for just over a year now and he’s started to make some changes — including a $20/year paywall on that went live this morning.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said $20/month.)

But Thompson, previously the editor of and co-founder of The Atavist, isn’t overeager to do everything differently. Case in point: He’s convinced the medium of print magazines isn’t going to disappear imminently.

“Will Wired still be putting out a magazine in 10 years? I don’t know,” Thompson said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “Will Wired still be putting out a magazine in a year? Yeah, absolutely!”

A harder question is how to square the 25-year-old magazine’s techno-utopian roots with the realities of what tech means to society in 2018.

“The founding principle of Wired was that it would be optimistic — change is good,” Thompson said. “‘We report from a country west of California called the future and it’s awesome.’ And I like that.”

“You can’t have a clear-eyed look at the effect of technology on society and completely believe that anymore, or at least I don’t think you can,” he added. “That’s been a hard thing because it’s not as though I’m a pessimist. In general, technology is definitely making the world a better place.”

Wired’s old slogan was “where the future is realized.” These days, Thompson jokes, he wishes it were, “where the future is realized and the present is fixed.

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On the new podcast, Thompson talked about the benefits of print, including the guaranteed delivery mechanism of the U.S. Postal Service, which brings Wired to 800,000 readers monthly.

“On the internet, if you get lucky, you can reach more than 800,000 people,” he said. “But you can also put out really good stuff that’s seen by nobody because it doesn’t actually work in the algorithms.”

But on a more abstract level, writers and editors do their work differently when they have the constraints of a physical magazine that has to be delivered on time, he added.

“There is something about the process of creating the magazine version of a story — being limited in time, because there’s a real deadline, being limited in space because you have a certain number of pages, being limited in all the ways you’re limited — that makes the stuff better, usually,” Thompson said.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcastor wherever you listen to podcasts.
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