Magazine Hot List 2009: Web Site of the Year, Wired.com | Adweek Magazine Hot List 2009: Web Site of the Year, Wired.com | Adweek
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Magazine Hot List 2009: Web Site of the Year, Wired.com

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Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired, was stumped. The man who coined the now-ubiquitous “long tail” metaphor wasn’t struggling to unravel the next universal truth about the digital economy, but with something much more nuanced and elementally complex.

“He said, ‘I want to spend time with my children, but everything they want to do bores me and everything I want to do bores them,’” recalls Evan Hansen, editor in chief of Wired.com.

“‘There has to be some way to meet in the middle.’” So what else would a technophile dad do in this situation but start blogging?

The end result of Anderson’s faceoff with his conundrum was the launch of the GeekDad blog back in 2007, where he discussed cool science and tech-related activities fathers could do with their kids. GeekDad took off, and Anderson realized it was becoming a serious drain on his already-packed schedule.

So he turned to the site’s audience. “He basically opened the door and said, ‘I need somebody to run GeekDad,’” recalls Hansen. “‘Send me your posts and tell me why you should run the site.’” After hundreds of responses, Ken Denmead, a San Jose, Calif.-based urban planner, father and self-described geek, got the gig last July. These days, Denmead has a collection of roughly 20 volunteer contributors who in aggregate produce at least four or five posts a day. Among Wired.com’s nine active blogs, GeekDad is one of its more popular.

A recent user posting—one that would strike unmitigated terror in most dads but illustrates what makes Wired.com a magazine site like no other—reads: “Help Me Survive a Hannah Montana-themed Sleepover.”

“When I started at Wired News, we were very much not a kid-friendly site at all,” says Hansen, whose tenure goes back to a somewhat bizarre period (1998-2006) when Condé Nast owned Wired magazine but didn’t own Wired.com. “We assumed our readers were sophisticated urban adults … hipsters. So the idea that we’d suddenly be catering to Saturday projects with little children was a little bit out of left field. But at the end of the day it really suits who we are as a brand. It’s grassroots editorial bubbling up literally from the readers themselves.”

That’s a common theme at Wired.com, and one of the key reasons it’s been named AdweekMedia’s Magazine Web Site of the Year for 2008. Clearly, Wired.com’s readers are seriously into its content. So much so that user-generated content isn’t shunned but rather woven throughout the site and crucial to its makeup. (It’s occasionally even a moneymaker.)
The site publishes real blogs—not random, occasional musings by print reporters, but continuously updated blogs with a point of view and clear reason for existing. And Wired.com’s editors and publishers are an adventurous lot, willing to experiment with just about anything if it might help make the site better.

While the long tail-preaching, book-touring Anderson may be the public face of Wired, it’s Hansen and Wired Digital executive director Josh Stinchcomb who’ve steered Wired.com into the innovative, money-making Web publication that it is today. Both executives’ tenures date back to the pre-Condé era, and each has survived various rounds of ownership and strategy changes to emerge as the stewards of a site that is considered an authoritative read among the tech crowd as well as a rare, magazine-led Web business that is able to command premium rates.

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