To: All Awl Staff
From: Alex Balk
Re: Year One And Beyond
One year ago today exactly we were all giddy with anticipation for the launch of The Awl. (I was also giddy with liquor, which continues to be the case even up unto this moment.) I can recall the mixture of pride, anxiety, and perhaps a bit of arrogance as we gathered together around that Herman Miller conference table in Meeting Room B of the Awl offices and prepared ourselves for the endeavor we had pledged to undertake.
We were younger men, then, a bit more naive and excitable, but we were men with a dream: a dream that the world was ready for-nay, craved-a smart, well-crafted website that refused to pander for traffic. We all earnestly believed that there was a readership out there hungry for the kind of intelligent takes on New York City, politics, knife crime, bear videos, gay gripes and corrupt Italian prime ministers which they were not at that point being served. One year on, has that dream been realized?
Well, how would we know? Because we built this site instead. But I am happy to pretend that all our dreams have indeed come true. And while this project has been remarkably successful from a financial standpoint, thanks to our unbearably sexy audience of city-dwelling professionals with graduate degrees who Tivo at least 4.5 hours of TV a day and screen more than 40 movies a month, I am tired of David holding up the conversion of the diamonds and rubies with which we are paid by our fine Brand Partners™ into cash.
Sure, our extreme awesomeness hasn’t come easy. The site is a work in progress, and sometimes we’ve veered off course. Sometimes we have been guilty of the same traffic-baiting we decry in others. (I am thinking particularly of our coverage of the foliage of Washington Heights.) We have occasionally been too passionate about certain subjects, fraying our own relations with each other, which have resulted in fisticuffs (Choire) and crying jags (me). And the frequency with which we turn down David’s exhortations to be more esoteric and focus less often on issues that might appeal to those under 23 has caused him, I know, much hurt and distress.
Even though we have suffered those tribulations, I feel as though we have earned the right to point to this site with something somewhere between “shame” and “glee.” This is in no small part due to the efforts of our contributors, whose generous offers of free content have kept the site humming during those moments when Choire and I were at each others’ throats over whose turn it was to not mention that famous golfer who got in trouble with his wife. I’m especially thankful to Dave Bry and Maura Johnston for picking up the page and putting it on their shoulders, as well as that traitorous crazed wonder-skank Mary HK Choi who ditched out on us for her dream job, but this has indeed been a group effort for which its two main editorial staffers can claim only but a small bit of the blame and/or credit.
As we move forward into Year Two of The Awl, what changes should we be looking at? I’ve been hard at work coming up with several verticals to expand both our demographic reach and topic selection. They are, in no particular order, as follows:
Awlchick: Our female-skewing vertical will lean heavily on stories about menstruation and makeup. I mean, more so than the main site usually does. There’s a lot of advertising out there that I want a piece of. Plus, you know how the broads like to yak. Pageviews are gonna skyrocket!
The Awlple: All Steve Jobs, all the time. Can’t miss!
AwlBall: Our sports vertical. All we need to do to make this work is find someone who knows anything about sports. Can you feel it?
AwlBalls: A site written from the perspective of testicles. This will both help us make further inroads in the male demographic and prove the perfect solution to the knotty problem of My Cock being considered the intellectual property of Gawker Media.
NotAwlForWork: Boobies, blowjobs, you name it. Nudity. There is money to be made in porn, especially if we add the same nontraditional take we bring to the subjects we approach on the main site each day. Let’s see if Chris Lehmann is up for a column called “Jizz People Things.” I see possibilities.
In fact, I see so many possibilities that I am more encouraged about the success of this project than ever. I only regret that I will not be there to see it through with you both. That’s right, suckas, I am OUT OF HERE. I’m gonna put on a dress and stealth-market personal data devices to unsuspecting drunk dudes. Good luck with your esoteric little blog posts, schmucks! It’s Balk Time now.