In your first editor’s letter, you said that you were planning to “blow some stuff up” at Wired. What did you mean?
This is a place that really thrives on change, progress and transformation. That means that we get to experiment, talk about the future and live those changes as they happen.
You’re known as Condé Nast’s iPad guy. Does print still have an important place in magazine publishing?
Absolutely. Magazines are an enduring form of media, whether they’re on paper or pixels. I liken it to a movie: We can watch a movie on our phone, we can stream it through Netflix, we can go to the theater, it can be in 3-D, but at the end of the day, it’s still a movie. We look at magazines in a similar context. The substrate may change, but the fundamental notion of a collection of thoughts and ideas that’s well designed and carefully curated is something that’s built to last.
Steve Jobs actually showed the cover of Wireds iPad edition during his iPhone 4 unveiling. What was that like?
That was an extraordinarily gratifying experience. Steve is a personal hero of mine. We had gone to Apple in the summer of 2009 and shown my vision demo to a group of executives, and I know that it had gotten up to Steve at one point. The fact that we were working on [a tablet edition] a good while before Apple had even introduced the iPad publicly was amazing.
How did you know Apple was planning to develop a tablet?
The writing was on the wall. The iPhone was a breakout success at that point, and they had the technological know-how, they had the interface know-how, and they had the supply chain in order to [create a tablet]. It was an educated guess on our part, but that was part of the advantage of being at Wired. We lived this stuff and had access to the ideas as they happened here in San Francisco.
You were the creative director of Wired in 2007 when it published the article (“How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran”) on which Argo was based. How has it been seeing that story become an Oscar-nominated movie?
So, so cool. I remember reading the pitch letter and thinking, “This has got to be a movie. I can’t wait to go see this in the theater.” In fact, we presented it as storyboards. So if you go back and look at the article, we’re almost priming the pump, because we sort of mapped out the tale as it unfolded in the pages of the magazine.
You’ve been credited with raising the style bar at Wired. Have you tried to move the office away from the hoodie-and-jeans uniform that we associate with Silicon Valley?
You know what? Wired is actually a stylish place. There are quite a few gentlemen who dress up in ties and ladies in dresses. And I think that maybe I’m wearing jeans a few more days a week than I used to.
You also spoke in your editor’s letter about the importance of using “wrong theory” during your first tour at Wired. Is that something you still follow?
There are some interesting things that happen when we push past our comfort zone. For me, the idea of the “wrong theory” sort of butts against my more controlling nature. I have a bit of OCD—I like to arrange my books in color order and things have to be just so. I’m sure I drive my wife crazy with it. I found that I was happier with the work I was doing in the long term when I was uncomfortable with it in the short term.