Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Meet The Awl

For the past five years, we've operated this website in a public beta. We've been working out some of the implementation. Next month, around the time of our fifth anniversary, The Awl will finally launch. (April 20th is our anniversary, if you're thinking of gifts. Hold on to your 4/20 jokes, though, we are full up.) We have gathered some data and done some user testing and think we're ready for this big step.


Who will run The Awl?

The Awl will be run by John Herrman, currently of BuzzFeeᴅ, and Matt Buchanan, currently of the New Yorker. We'll introduce them in more detail down the road, but they're really lovely, thoughtful, curious and smart—and also they're total weirdos.

Wait a minute, I Googled, and they're, like, tech bloggers? They both worked at Gizmodo! I don't… What?

After careful consideration and an in-depth analysis of where the market is moving, we're iterating toward an all-Samsung news format. The tractional synergies of this pivot are just too good to pass up. Love you, Samsung!

(For the suspicious: that's a joke. Not the Samsung part, we totally do love Samsung. But there will be no tech blog here.)

No, but seriously, will the site continue with its tradition of publishing longform writing, criticism, poetry, reporting and commentary by radical lesbians, witty frat bros and feminists, women and men of color, crazed gay dudes, and also emerging and already emerged writers of all ages, classes and backgrounds, even sometimes the faintly somewhat conservative? Will it remain a place for thoughtful, intelligent observation and unexpected points of view? Will it retain its commitment to never wasting your time and never treating you like an idiot, or, even worse, a number?


Will the original two, what's-their-faces, still write on The Awl?

Yes, Alex Balk and Choire Sicha will absolutely continue to write here, when not attending to matters of finance or corporate planning or whatever founders do all day.* Like, getting writer checks out faster, for one thing. But they'll actually do better writing work once they have real editors focused on running a real site. It is way past time that there was someone in charge around here who actually went to college.

What about the quick, tiny fun stuff? Internet etiquette, self-mocking listicles, bear videos? What about BEAR VIDEOS?

Think of it this way: If you actually like The Awl, the things you like about it will get better. If you are cool to The Awl, the things that put you off will get likely better or even go away. Choire and Alex are tired, broken men who have taken this thing as far as it can go. An injection of fresh young blood can only help the whole project grow and change in the best ways.

Hey, wasn't there a third one when you started out?

Good memory! David Cho is currently the publisher of Grantland. John Shankman has been The Awl's publisher for the last two years. He's really excited about this launch and its "positive implications for building the brand." Hashtag business. Hashtag crushingit.

Who really owns The Awl and its other publications? I heard it was some stealth VC guy who made his money from spellcaster spam.

The Awl is entirely owned by the people who work here. That is also true at our other publications. We have taken exactly zero dollars in seed or investment money. We've let a couple of people buy us lunch though. If you want to buy us lunch, it's partners@theawl.com.

Hey, where does The Awl live, anyway?

The Awl lives burrowed within the beating hearts of everyone who looks at the Internet and still sees the dream of a better world buried deep down below, but in a more concrete sense we are currently in lease negotiations for a new office in Downtown Brooklyn, or DoBro, as they apparently call it.

Hahaha, they call it that?

Not really, not yet they don't. It could happen though. Say it out loud. Now remind yourself how stupid "DUMBO" sounded at first, and then think about the last time someone told you to meet them in Dumbo and you actually gave it a second thought. (How stupid the name sounds, I mean, not actually going to Dumbo, which, let's face it, is a huge drag.) Laugh at DoBro now, but when you're coming to see us at the office in a little bit, that's where you'll be telling people you're heading.

The Awl's current aesthetic has been referred to as "garbage," "visually offensive," "a giant pile of stinking refuse" and "uggo." That whole anti-design element was cute at first, but it has been five years, how long are you going to keep that up? Reading you on mobile makes me want to claw out my eyes with my keys. It's like you're actually trying to drive readers away.

Okay, well, harsh, but also you are not wrong. Good news: The site is going to work better, for sure. For the last nine months or so, Awl head of technology Dusty Matthews (late of Vox and, before that, Curbed) has been rebuilding things from the bottom up. (Remember how we used to crash all the time? Remember how our page load was laughable?) That process now proceeds to the front. So there'll be changes, yes. There might be a bit of radical change even, but we won't make it suddenly all like "Wait, where am I?" It'll be more like, "Huh, why don't my eyes hate me and themselves anymore?" We'd link to Dusty's Twitter, but he deleted it. (Tempting, right? Think about how much better your life would be with no Twitter. You could actually make a website look appealing, for instance.)

I don't know what I think of this.

Change is always scary but that never keeps it from happening anyway. Here's the thing: It's an adventure! It'll be fun! Nobody knows how it will turn out! And even if it's a total disaster, remember this (and it's a maxim with considerably broader implications, so maybe write it down): It's just the Internet. Seriously. It's just the Internet.

103 Comments / Post A Comment

bmichael (#213)

You're in Carcosa, now.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

@bmichael the Balk Stars…

KarenUhOh (#19)

Balk signed the DNR, didn't he?

Rod T (#33)

Who will reject my unwritten pitches?

listen, lady (#245,976)

@Rod T and will they still do so by saying "haha i don't know! i guess you could improve this! but i don't know!"???

@Rod T: I've been carefully composing my listicle without commentary "Canadian people of Jewish descent, as identified by Wikipedia category" for five years. Can't rush these things.

brianvan (#149)

@Rod T
Who will awkwardly ignore my unpitched pitches?

wtf alex balk and choire sicha ARE the awl…WTF IS HAPPENING?!?! (face melts into puddle of confusion)

way to bury the reveal that the awl is being taken over by GINGERS in the tags.

"The Awl is entirely owned the people who work here."

That's obviously a typo, but which is it?
Is the Awl owned BY the people who work there or does the Awl entirely OWN the people who work there?

theheckle (#621)

Well, does this mean I have to fall in love with these new people? I don't think my commenter number is low enough to speak dismissively of "the new people."

Astigmatism (#1,950)

@theheckle Tell me what it was like when the Awl began, Papa.

sunnyciegos (#551)

I'm going to go ahead and say this sounds terrific. I know some creative types who run their own companies and it is pretty much the worst. Much better to free yourself of the grind so you can get back to creating.

Br. Seamus (#217)

But I like being treated like a number.

@Br. Seamus : In before pitiful chorus of "DO WE KEEP OUR NUMBERS?"

libmas (#231)

@Br. Seamus Well, sure. Everybody below 220 does.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@libmas I would miss my number, that's how self-deprecating I am.

djfreshie (#875)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose

If I lose my number I'm out of here. It's the only reason I keep coming back here. Seriously, the instantly gratifying feeling of superiority to the 200k'ers is pretty much free happiness any time of day.

C_Webb (#855)

@djfreshie I thought your number was my number so I have to reply to you to remind myself who I am.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@djfreshie Superiority inherent, perception of sharply critical comment by number: witty tongue-in-cheek < 50k < situationally agreeable < 200k < unfunny/jerk < 300k < where did you come from to waste my time?

djfreshie (#875)

@whizz_dumb Haha, exactly.

djfreshie (#875)

@C_Webb We are the eight hundreds

mathnet (#27)

You are broken, tired, and delightful! I've enjoyed being treated like my number. So much that one time, I bought The Awl a piece of plastic for lunch!

Dave Bry (#422)

@mathnet "No. 27 in our scorecards, no. 1 in our hearts…"

hockeymom (#143)

Does this mean I'll finally get that newsletter?

@hockeymom No, I've heard that the newsletter has been staked in the heart with its head cut off.

jbsquare (#793)

@hockeymom in the same grave with the podcast and the calendar.

I, for one, have enjoyed your 5 year beta test, but also welcome our new Ginger Overlords. You guys are tired – Balk needs time to go whiskey shopping and Choire needs to spend with felines (RIP Cat never forget).
Just keep your promise to not turn into Gizmodo.

jfruh (#713)

Hey there's no footnote to go with the asterisk on "whatever founders do all day". I guess I'm going to assume it's "roll around in big piles of money"???

Dave Bry (#422)

@jfruh Pretty sure they just sit around at the bottom of the ocean, half-buried in sand, while one of their eyes migrates to the other side of their heads. Creepy, man.

@jfruh – Hyperlink, yo. (I suppose it might not have been there earlier, though.)

stuffisthings (#1,352)

Speaking of treating us like numbers, right now I'm seeing ads for Rick Snyder and Sotheby's International Realty so some algorithm somewhere is clearly going haywire.

Rod T (#33)


What ever happened to the marijuana site? Wasn't there going to be a marijuana site? Did I dream that? I have a pitch for it in my drafts folder: Places to Walk Around While Stoned in New York.

Site will now be partly run by someone from Buzzfeed- a trolling site where they shame people for innocuous tweets, comments, posts, etc. so that they can have their 'hits', without any remorse or apologies. You've gone a long, way, Awl. Long way down. Site should be renamed The Troll.

I like that new name! That's a great idea. Maybe we can get one of those funny urls, like TheTro.ll or something.

turingcub (#2,987)

@Choire Sicha I misread this as TheTheatro.ll, hoping against hope for a new sister site focused on Broadway.

melis (#1,854)

you have missed an obvious opportunity to go with 'the trawl.com' lance

@melis But .net is so hot right now.

saythatscool (#101)

@Clarence Rosario Hyphen-five!

@Choire Sicha Motto should also now change to "Be More Stupid".

Regina Small (#2,468)

But where do I send my list of cheap happy hour deals in DoBro? To Choire? To STRANGERS?

cinetrix (#47)

Congrats, gentlemen. (Hell, I figured if the other low-number folks were coming out of the woodwork, I should, too.)

gregorg (#30)

@cinetrix registering quickly for The Awl is the best thing that's happened to me since 2007, personal branding/social media persona-wise. [cries into hands]

rzokeefe (#152)

@gregorg Yes!

The heck with this, bring back Carrie.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

they did. the buckets of blood were, honestly speaking, "kinda meh" to us. still, 9.3.

Also: I heard when they fly the awl upside down like that it's a distress call.

IS THIS A CALL FOR HELP? Are you guys stuck in Simferopol?

C_Webb (#855)

@Clarence Rosario We need a team called the Flying Awls. Is anyone any good at anything other than this?

Mr. B (#10,093)

If you switch to Buzzfeed-style Facebook commenting, though, we're going to have problems.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

Hey Moon, thought you were out of the woods huh? You're still in the cross hairs mutherfucker.

Bitzy (#1,913)

@whizz_dumb No aspect of this website makes me happier than the moon hatred. .

dailyny (#3,326)

I might really miss you, though.

HereKitty (#2,713)

You know who else's birthday is April 20th?

ejcsanfran (#489)

The Awl Finally Went Out of Beta – And What Happened Next Will Shock You.

pmc (#3,742)

@ejcsanfran 34 reasons why you'll still love The Awl, etc.

Bittersweet (#765)

@pmc I'm very excited to take a personality quiz to find out which Awl founder I'm most like.

brent_cox (#40)

We're commenting again?

SkinnyNerd (#224,784)

@brent_cox If things go sour after this, I'm blaming all the low numbered commenters for not commenting for the longest time.

brent_cox (#40)

@SkinnyNerd Internet is spotty in the old folks' home.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

@brent_cox Don't listen to him. He's been here all along, he just uses a fake number.

Congratulations, guys. And I primarily mean Choire and Alex, but sure, Matt Buchanan and John Herrman too. I know they wouldn't have picked you if you didn't have something great to do here.

Obligatory : Will the new people put an awl on the main page? WOULD IT EVEN BE A VICTORY IF THEY DID, etc. etc.

Alternate, also obligatory : The Awl staff needs a Mad-Magazine-staff-style sobriquet so that they may be addressed en masse. Get working on that, new gang of idiots.

NeonTrotsky (#2,249)

Wait, so if this has been a beta test all along, will we commenters be compensated for our services? Perhaps in amounts of Dogecoins inversely proportionate to our commenter number???

Ziggy (#529)

Congrats, guys.
PS: The more gingers the better, I say. And bring on some female gingers!

allyzay (#321)

They will never call it "DoBro" because "Bro" is what realtors have taken to calling the Bronx, it is way too confusing to call Downtown BK "DoBro" and south Bronx "SoBro," please get it together guys.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)


automaticdoor (#11,521)

@Ralph Haygood too soon. #fatdog

carpetblogger (#306)

Low number weighing in with conditional support for changes mentioned herein.

libmas (#231)

Easter 2014: Awl changed, changed utterly / A terrible beauty is born

NinetyNine (#98)

Two white dudes hired two other white dudes to run their website? Cool 2014 bro.

Brad Nelson (#2,115)


BoHan (#29)

Congratulations. How wonderful for you.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@BoHan Is it a good idea to re-tool this website? Sure, why the hell not.

Bittersweet (#765)

@BoHan My Awl website! My Awl website is so smart but I'm scared about my etc.

davidwatts (#72)

Honestly, this sounds great, and while I am nervous to meet my two new dads, I'm sure we can still watch TV together and go for fries and things will be basically the same, right??

oh btw y'all getting to downtown bk just in time for the chipotle to open, congrats.

slowernet (#75)

Awlhead of technology lol

Kevin (#2,559)

Congrats and enjoy your new-found freedoms.

Annie K. (#3,563)

I don't know, it's just not going to be the same. But Nature's Law is Adapt or Die. So I guess, you know.

SkinnyNerd (#224,784)

April 20? I thought you guys started April 6: http://www.theawl.com/2009/04/geno-shh

Leon (#6,596)

Yo, shrimp tho? I feel it's probably the most over-rated food of the sea.

As long as John, Matt, or both bring along proper amounts of existential dread/ennui, we can work with this.

Hez (#147)

With the awkward pre-school years coming to an end, will those of us with low commenter numbers still be able to come here and eat paste? (PS: HI BALK, CHOIRE AND ESPECIALLY KUO!)

narnio (#38)

Bring back Balk!

Aatom (#74)

It's Awl good.

Uncle Grambo (#579)

I take it Maer Roshan wasn't available?

Awltimate Blogging Championship

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

So the last five years was all just a beta test in Tommy Westphall's snow globe or something?

I've always known that Wirecutter was nothing more than a fantasy in the mind of an autistic child, but even Hairpin is but a dream?

hockeymom (#143)

Seeing all the old numbers is weirdly like seeing old friends.

Heneage (#591)

@hockeymom When does Sheila get fired?

HonoriaGlossop (#1,247)


KarenUhOh (#19)

Too insidiousery.

sventurata (#4,205)

I'm not sure that we can muster up the appropriate pre-crash level of optimism here. But, for the greater good of the Western English-speaking Awl-commenting world, we will do our utmost.

Will there still be spambot comments? Please let there still be spambot comments.

liznieve (#7,691)

It's been so long since I have commented I have forgotten my number. I just had to write this to rememeber.

liznieve (#7,691)

@liznieve ah. not nearly as low as I thought I was. Dammit.

Heneage (#591)

@liznieve I just did the same

Heneage (#591)

@Heneage Huh, significantly lower than expected – I must be part of the Gawker old guard

zidaane (#373)

Someone is going to check on Balk every day right?

propertius (#361)


@propertius Propecia

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