Hello, my name is Smith.
And with the launch of this blog-a-zine, SMITH magazine’s small and scrappy team enters into the public part of what’s been until now a private obsession to start a magazine celebrating the explosion of personal media and the personal stories that celebrate the brilliance in the ordinary — brilliance that is now available in every form ever imagined. Here’s a letter I wrote about what we’re about, some version of which I figure will end up in our debut print issue, which we hope will be out the first half of 2006.
Why launch today? It is, of course, National Smith Day, the details of which can be found here.
SMITH magazine has been germinating, marinating and ruminating in my world for more than three years now. The concept remains largely the same as it was when Robert Priest turned our Word files into works of magazine prototype art in early 2003: the explosion in technology has fueled a golden age of storytelling, from blogs to iTunes flirting to movies on cameraphones to every other form of storytelling under the sun. For three years I’ve been running from publishing house to publishing house telling this story.Back when I was trying to explain this to Time, Inc.’s blunt and brilliant Isolde Motley, she looked at me like I was an ostrich speaking Yiddish when I told her SMITH magazine “had a blog energy.” Click here if you’re the type who wants to read a three-year-old, albeit sort of interesting, blog entry on a meeting with a magazine maven.
There are so many stories from what I like to call my Magazine Luminary Tour. This tour involves me begging my way into the homes, offices, favorite cafes, and bars of dozens of people who have been doing this for a while and have sage wisdom and others who are newer are figuring it out as they go along and implore me to “Just start, man.”
One of the many inspiring things about this business is that if you’re someone with energy and what sounds at least like a half-decent idea, almost everyone will hear you out. From his home in the hills of Berkeley, Clay Felker looked at some of the very first layouts we cooked up and advised me to go younger and more fun. Publisher Don Welsh told me I reminded him of a “young Jann Wenner” (with all that implies…) and told me I needed to go find myself a “young Don Welsh.” Jann Wenner replied to my email about a meeting with this utterly confounding reply, “I’d be delighted to take a look at your prototype, but have no interest at starting or financing start-ups. Call me on Sept 10th if you must,” which made more sense to me one year later when I went to work as the articles editor of Men’s Journal, a magazine he owns. (I never did show him the prototype but grew to like Jann from the distance I was afforded him during my one year + one month in his building).
In a funny coincidence, I dragged my 40 pages of prototype on black boards in an oversized blue portfolio case to midtown to meet one Spy co-founder (Graydon Carter) and then downtown to meet another (Kurt Anderson) in the same week. Graydon suggested we launch on the Web; Kurt thought SMITH would make a wonderful weekly insert to a London daily newspaper. (Some of my ruminations from these meetings have been pulled from the private blog I kept over the past few years and can be found below).
When Adam Moss (who, btw, said he’d see the prototype but then flaked—what’s up with that?) commissions the story of the making of an independent magazine from me, I think it has to be called “You’ll Never Eat Launch in this Town Again.”