“Magazines may be a dying breed,” says Jon Kelly, a former Vanity Fair editor who founded its politics, business, and technology website, Hive, in 2015, after working as a staff editor for The New York Times Magazine and as a founding team member at Bloomberg Businessweek. (His career in media began at Vanity Fair, as an assistant to the legendary editor Graydon Carter.) “But magazine-style writing is always in vogue.” With this conviction in mind, Kelly teamed up with a trio of industry veterans—Joe Purzycki, co-founder of the Luminary podcast network; Max Tcheyan, a digital media executive; and Liz Gough, former senior vice president and U.S. commercial lead of Condé Nast’s creative agency, CNX—to create Puck, a subscription-based website where elite writers tell insider stories that lie at the nexus of Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Washington, D.C.
Since its launch last September, the platform’s seasoned contributors have consistently used their deep knowledge of their respective beats to create whip-smart, long-form content. (Recent headlines: “Putin’s Talk Therapy,” “Elon vs. the Libs & Media Asset Moneyball,” and “The Great Post-Trump Cable News Correction.”) Puck’s journalists expand on their reporting on episodes of its new podcast, The Powers That Be, on which they discuss topics such as the state of digital media, Succession’s season three finale, and Silicon Valley’s top political donors in a similarly quick-witted, intelligent manner.
To better understand how Kelly keeps his finger on the pulse of new media trends, we asked him about what he’s reading and watching now. In discussing his go-tos, he reveals how he envisions the future of media, and what makes for great writing in the digital age.
How do you start your mornings?
I have two young sons, so most of my media attention—in general, but especially in the morning—is on my phone. I wake up to twenty-five or thirty email newsletters and digests, about five or six of which I end up reading deliberately every day.
I read everything on Axios AM/PM—it’s my version of The New York Times’s front page. I read a newsletter called Robinhood Snacks, which is a sort of bro-y digest of pop business stories about big market companies like Amazon, Robinhood, or Netflix. I also like Andrew Ross Sorkin’s DealBook newsletter for the Times, and Dan Primack’s Top of the Morning newsletter. I’m almost always asleep before Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter comes out, so that’s probably the first thing I read in the morning. Brian’s really smart in that he realized, years ago, that the news cycle actually begins at about nine or ten p.m. the night before.
I also skim through Twitter, Barron’s, and see what’s trending on [Business] Insider. I go to the homepage of Condé Nast and the homepage of WWD. And I do a pretty thorough read of the politics section of The New York Times.
Then I take a look at Bloomberg, I open the Times app, and look through the [Wall Street] Journal alerts. At that point, I’m really just scrolling for headlines. When I look in my inbox, I tend to notice that most newsletters are variations on the same topic. My tendency is to skip those, and to go for the options that are either esoteric or slightly more provocative.
You read a lot of newsletters. What draws you to them?
A newsletter can mean a lot of things. But what it’s starting to mean, in a positive way, is a kind of article delivery on-demand. That’s interesting to me, because when I started my career in the magazine business, there was something called “column writing.” You had a great journalist like James Walcott write a couple thousand words about a topic that the reader already had some institutional knowledge of. And they wrote it in a way that was insiderly, dishy, accessible, but also added a lot of new context with not-new information. It often explained how the real pros were thinking about things.
That was really lost in the last generation, on the internet, in the battle for clicks. Now, the business models are changing, and valuing engagement and subscription and attention. There’s a return to a lot of great writing that is much more personalized.
Ben Thompson, who writes the subscription-based newsletter The Stratechery, was early in seeing this. He writes five articles a week, of varying length, in which he offers his analysis of the news. A big part of what you’re paying for is not just his ability to aggregate what’s important, but to put a real filter on it. It’s a really creative way to work, and in the world we live in now, it’s exciting to see writers—many of whom, like Ben, didn’t go to journalism school—who have a creativity that is unteachable, that allows them to take big, well-worn topics and make them totally fresh in new ways. That’s the stuff that works best for me.
Any go-to magazines?
I love magazines, and I love the art of making magazines. But about seven or eight years ago, it was very clear to me that the art form was eroding. I think I experienced the feeling that people who were on TV experienced when the industry moved from network to streaming, when you realize that a new platform offers a whole lot more creativity and opportunity. So I’ll be very honest: The only magazines I consume now are my college alumni magazine [Columbia Magazine] and In Touch Weekly, which I sometimes get out of habit when I go on a plane. Otherwise, I never read magazines or print newspapers.
What about books?
I’m not a fiction and novel reader, but occasionally I find myself drawn to the big, late twentieth-century authors. Sometimes, I’ll reread one of John Updike’s “Rabbit” books. Right now, I’m rereading Richard Ford’s Bascombe series. And every year or two, I reread the short Saul Bellow novella Seize the Day. I reread these classics, in part, because they’re all great books in which absolutely nothing happens. They’re just about people growing older and becoming dissatisfied with their lives. The greatest gift of writing is being able to make absolutely nothing incredibly interesting.
What podcasts are you listening to now?
Like most people in my world, I live and die by Pivot, my favorite podcast in human history. I have tremendous respect for Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, its hosts. They’re serial entrepreneurs and trailblazers, and they inspire me every time I listen.
Favorite TV shows?
I watch most of the popular, trending shows you’d expect. I’m obsessed with Succession, just like everyone else. I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dopesick, and The Crown. I also watch a ton of utter trash. I love Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Occasionally, if I’m at the gym when The View is on, I’ll watch that, because I think it’s hilarious.
Any other guilty pleasures?
When I’m just noodling in front of the television, I occasionally turn on Fox News to see what the alternative media narratives are. We are moving further and further away from the standardized media diet that our parents’ generation grew up in. It’s helpful to see how facts can be distorted, and it’s going to be a burden in our generation to try to combat that.
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When attending runway shows, stylist Kate Young keeps her eyes peeled for premiere dresses—gowns to be worn by actressesOn the sixth episode of her YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, Young talks about her process for selecting and securing premiere dresses, and highlights f
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In 2018, when writer Amitav Ghosh appeared at the Brooklyn Public Library to discuss his book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Joel Whitney, who manages arts and culture programs at the institution, took note. “I was surprised by Amitav’s main iClimate Reads book club, a yearlong digital initiative launched by Whitney’s department and the advocacy group Writers Rebel NYC earlier this fall, suggests otherwise, with climate-focused fiction titles including Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad, The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel, and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk on its roster. The club plans to tackle a handful of nonfiction books, too, such as The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming by the late Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, and Why We Swim—the focus of next month’s meeting—by swimmer and surfer Bonnie Tsui.
Sometimes—especially in moments of political strife, pandemics, hurricanes, or all of the above—a television plotline caWatch a train wend its way around the fjords and farms of the Norwegian countryside over the course of seven hours, or see a sweater get made, in the time of a typical work day, from A to Z (beginning with shearing a sheep’s wool), set to the tune of cheery foldogs frolicking on a beach, a meandering stroll among flowering cherry blossoms in Japan, and a sailing trip to Tobago, accompanied by the soothing sounds of waves lapping against a boat’s exterior. The format can arguably be traced to n1963 film “Sleep” consisted entirely of his lover, the poet and performance artist John Giorno, napping. Regardless of its subject matter
For those of us who are lucky enough to have a full plate right now, consider helping those who don’t. One avenue for alCoalition for the Homeless, forced to cancel its annual fall fundraising gala due to the pandemic, is launching the Artist Plate Project, a limited-edition collection of porcelain platters depicting works by 50 legendary artists, including Tauba Auerbach, Ep. 25 of our Time Sensitive podcast). The series will be available on the organization’s website beginning Nov. 16. Profits from the heirloom-worthy tableProspect, will go toward serving the 59,000 New Yorkers who currently live in shelters or who struggle to survive on streets andA recent study by Columbia University predicts that homelessness will increase by 40 to 45 percent within the next year due to Covid-19—making the coalition’
Durham, North Carolina–based journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala has been particularly productive of late: In addBecoming America anthology, he’s host of the TED podcast Pindrop and a mentor to emerging Asian and Asian-American filmmakers through a new fellowship program called The Sauce.
This year has been a blur, but many hard truths remain crystal clear. By now, the Trump administration’s glaring and conthe U.S. hit the 9 million mark in virus cases. While President Trump has continued to shirk responsibility, scapegoat other countries, and callously state that it “is what it is”—even as the White House itself has become a hot zone, seeing two waves of infections in the span of a single month—we kTotally Under Control, director Alex Gibney, along with co-directors Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan, bring sharp-eyed clarity to t
At age 3, Spencer Bailey, writer and editor (and co-founder of The Slowdown), survived the crash-landing of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 19, 1989. In the wake of the tragedy, he found himself the subject of a memorial sculptureIn Memory Of: Designing Contemporary Memorials (Phaidon), examining the power and potential of memorials designed over the past 40 years, from Maya Lin’s Vietnam VeteHere, he describes the process of working on the book, and tells us why the power of abstraction may help us all to heal You began working on this project nearly thirty years after the Flight 232 crash. What has it been like to process and
Japanese artist Makoto Azuma is known for creating poetic botanical sculptures, but the medium in which he works most inFlower Punk, an award-winning film about his work and life, now available for viewing as part of the The New Yorker Documentary series. In just under 30 minutes, director Alison Klayman captures the artist as he creates spectacular arrangements, a“Exobiotanica.” Rigging a camera and a flower bomb to a weather balloon, documenting his terrestrial creation as it soars through the s
Museums and galleries are reopening in New York, and one of the most compelling shows of the season is primed to take plen plein air. Organized by the nonprofit Art at a Time Like This, in collaboration with Save Art Space, “Ministry of Truth: 1984–2020” will reclaim a common component of the city’s visual real estate—the billboard—to display works by an international ran
In 1617, German artist Jobst Harrich completed an oil painting on a copper canvas. The work, which depicts a flaxen-hairposted Harrich’s painting to her feed and tweeted, “maybe if I take my tit out they will stop explaining my own joke back to me.” She applied this tactic to“Conversation in a Park,” depicting a gent gesturing toward a stoic lady (“you would be so much prettier if you smiled”), and a 1959 Norman Rockwell cover for the Saturday Evening Post, which portrays eleven men ganging up on a lone woman in a jury room (“thanks I’m gay now”). The thread went viral. A fMen to Avoid in Art and Life (Chronicle Books), sold out within days of its release. It features more than 90 artworks accompanied by wince-worthy c
An art critic, curator, and author, Antwaun Sargent has become a leading voice for a rising class of Black contemporary The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion (Aperture), Sargent is serving up his next, as the editor of Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists (D.A.P.), highlighting the works of Black artists from the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art. An exhibition of the same name is currently on view at the Lehmann College Art Gallery (which is temporarily closed due to Covid-19)
New York–based artists and brothers Steven and William Ladd have been creating together for 20 years, using their comple“The Other Side,” on view through Oct. 17 at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood, the Ladds have welcomed. Offering visceral and emotional depth to a population of society so often silenced and anonymized behind closed doors, t
Election season is upon us here in the U.S., and with all of the anxieties circulating around—pandemic-related risks, poThis is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot (Princeton Architectural Press), a new book by Alicia Yin Cheng, a founding partner of the Brooklyn-based graphic design
Brooklyn-based writer and artist Edith Zimmerman served as the founding editor of The Hairpin—the former general-interest women’s website that defined a generation of online journalism, with pieces like the perenn“Women Laughing Alone With Salad”—and has gone on to contribute to outlets including The New York Times Magazine, The Cut, and the podcast This American Life. These days, you can find her work in Drawing Links, a frequently published newsletter of comics and musings. We recently polled Zimmerman about her current media diet. He
You are what you Google and “like.” This is an eerie truism of 21st-century life, where our experience of reality is larThe Social Dilemma, a new docu-drama premiering on Sept. 9 on Netflix, delves into the dangerous human impact that social networking has oCenter for Humane Technology (and our guest on Ep. 35 of At a Distance), says in the trailer: “If technology creates mass chaos, loneliness, polarization, more election hacking, [and] more i
Our summer quarantine days have far too often been spent gazing at web browser windows—far and away from vacation views,Window Swap, a mash-up of the virtual and physical. Designed as a “quarantine project” by creatives Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Bala
For the past five years, as one of the co-founders of the annual “JONALDDUDD” exhibition, designer Lydia Cambron has put on one of the most consistently surprising and challenging presentations of
School’s out forever—or at least for the immediate future, depending on what city you live in—and it’s certainly taking hands-on lesson plans, open-sourced and free to download, that are inspired by artists and objects from its permanent collection. “Fashioning
There’s a formula for homicide news stories: Place a TV anchor at the scene of a crime, and state that a victim was shotfatally shot in the U.S., including suicides and accidents. The sheer volume of incidents makes them easy to tune out: We don’t know
Five months on, living in a pandemic has become a new liminal normal, shifting our gaze toward the familiar sights, soun“Pandemic Objects,” an ongoing editorial project that highlights and reflects upon everyday objects (defined in the broadest sense) that hathe gaze of the drone, which has seen a surge in use worldwide in recent months, with people dispatching them in their hometowns—even to takejump rope that gives her pause as she riffles through the museum’s archives, uncovering photos, artworks, and accounts about the
The Internet Archive is one rabbit hole we’ve willingly jumped into more than a handful of times since the quarantine beWhole Earth Catalog, the 1960s counterculture print publication often referred to as “the web before the web existed”—its iconic, jam-packeElectric Whole Earth Catalog, now available on the site. Originally launched in 1998 on CD-ROM (how quaint!), the lo-fi “electric” edition offers a
Home is where the heart is—but, on the silver screen, it can be a bit forlorn. In his recently published broadside publiSad People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films, Los Angeles–based designer and art director Benjamin Critton explores the much-maligned trope of the Modernist home in popular culture, with contributing essays from writers Erik BSad People—the long-awaited follow-up to his 2010 edition, Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films—and what filmic mood may strike him next for volume three of the ongoing project.