I’ll eat my oysters with ketchup

Plenty of people told David Granger that magazines were going to die. That was 1982.

The editor-in-chief of Esquire took an unpredictable route to his current position.

Along the way, some of his employer publications closed, or he was fired (from such venerable titles as Muppet magazine), but various circumstances led to the fortuitous situation of forced career advancement, he says.

When he finally landed at GQ, he found himself in a job with no work. He explored the office on the first day and found a file of killed stories.

One article grabbed him. It was about oysters.

The story viewed southern oysters as a representation of post-industrial America. “We’ve done everything to destroy it,” Granger says, “but it’s still pretty damn good.”

Granger called the writer and told him the story was back in the publishing schedule.

“And that’s how I met Tom Junod.”

There’s a little luck involved, admittedly, but one of Granger’s main points is that failure should not be personal. It’s OK to be wrong.

“It may be my fault, but it’s not prescriptive.”

In other words, Granger is a smart investor in himself. Any good financial advisor will tell you that past performance is not a guarantee of good future results.

To think creatively, Granger attempts to state the most implausible situation and then prove it. The title of his talk: “My modest attempt to prove anything is possible.”

A few years ago, Granger says he had an epiphany. He gathered his writers and gave them a test. A glass bottle of ketchup and a squeezable bottle, what he called “the greatest consumer innovation” in our lifetime.

Then he pulled out an original issue of a 1933 Esquire and the current issue. The writers agreed that each was a indeed a magazine.

So what?

At that point, Esquire was the same glass ketchup bottle 75 years later.

The publication had not progressed. It had not innovated.

Since then, the magazine has redesigned the TOC, assigned fiction, and loaded covers with more words than this blog post. The cover has sported e-ink moving words and augmented reality pieces.

Esquire is launching a men’s fashion site, Clad, where readers can purchase styles similar to those featured in the magazine.

Granger, like the late Steve Jobs, is a media innovator, but only Granger could make you believe that with magazines, anything is possible.

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