“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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Bernie Krause and United Visual Artists Translate Nature’s Sonic Landscapes Into an Emotive Spectacle
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According to business coach Holly Howard, those looking to run a flourishing enterprise should begin by taking a deeper Ask Holly How, in 2012. Since then, she’s worked with more than 500 businesses and founders, guided by the belief that effective entr
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When Goodnight Moon was first published, in 1947, the chief children’s librarian at the New York Public Library didn’t like that its story—Goodnight Moon’s honest presentation of sleep and solicitude still resonated with readers, who’ve since purchased more than 48 million
According to celebrity stylist Kate Young, anyone can figure out the look that works best for them by creating a mood bosecond episode of her new YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown. While her mood boards take various forms, including Pinterest boards and entire books of ph
Kate Young, the stylist for red carpet luminaries such as Sienna Miller, Margot Robbie, and Michelle Williams, grew up iVogue, and later, after several years in the Vogue fashion department, as fashion editor-at-large of Interview magazine. On her new YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, Young provides an inside peek, through her own distinct, high-low perspective, into the world. In the weekly series, which premiered on Tuesday, Young highlights the quality, craftsmanship, and enduring value of cthe debut episode, Young talks about how she and actor-singer Selena Gomez, a client of hers since 2014, created their latest project togRevelación. In addition to detailing the various looks—including a Valentino haute couture dress—Young FaceTimes with fashion iconHello Fashion as a whole. How did Hello Fashion come about? Why YouTube?
How Spanish Culture and Color Informed the Styling and Art Direction of Selena Gomez’s New “Revelación” Album
New York–based stylist Kate Young, one of Hollywood’s most highly sought-after, is known for putting the women she dressVogue. This week, Young debuted her new YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, where she dives deep into the ins and outs of her trade, and the superior craftsmanship of first episode of the weekly series focuses on how she created a series of photographic art for musician Selena Gomez’s new album, “Re
Earlier this month, Francesca Johanson, editor of the Architectural League’s online publication Urban Omnibus, launched Memory Loss,” a new series with Guernica magazine. These essays seek out sites of remembrance in New York City, addressing a “continuum between private and publ
In the era of Covid-19, you might think that Julia Cooke’s book Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), out this week, was inspired by a longing for air travel, but you’d be wrong. “What I reall
How Snøhetta Translated the Ethos of Bronx-Based Chef Collective Ghetto Gastro Into an Experimental Kitchen
Three years ago, on New Year’s Eve in Havana, artist José Parlá introduced Craig Dykers, a founding partner of the archiSnøhetta, to Jon Gray, one-third of the Bronx-based chef troupe Ghetto Gastro. The two began what would become an ongoing converBurnside, an intimate, flexible café and culinary event space for the Tokyo creative agency En One. (Health restrictions have pr
Blackness as a color and, in some ways, as a culture often finds itself in close proximity to death. Despite the vivid b
In 2019, Madrid-based designer Jorge Penadés founded Extraperlo, a nonprofit exhibition platform for unorthodox work andCurating Curators,” on view Feb. 18–20 at Penadés’s warehouse-like studio as part of this month’s Madrid Design Festival, upends the conv
Hanna Nova Beatrice is the founder and editor-in-chief of The New Era, a recently launched independent Scandinavian design publication. “It grew out of a strong belief in the [power of] priResidence magazine, prefers to consume media the old-fashioned way, with an eye toward periodicals that innovate on physical page How do you start your mornings?
As the world adapts to pandemic life, we’ve seen creativity heroically emerge, in nearly every sector, amid limitations.Kei Truck Garden Contest in Osaka, which brings nature closer to city-dwellers in the form of compact, foliage-filled creations. (The date for t
For most of us, the urge to bring smartphones into our bedrooms is too strong to resist—even when science, and firsthandattest to the habit’s harmful effects. One way to curb the temptation: Loftie, an alarm clock designed to transform sleep spaces into phone-free sanctuaries. Calibrated for the digital age, the dev
Those visiting Japan’s beloved gardens during the winter might be struck by the sight of trees confined within mysteriouyukitsuri—the term for these intriguing rope webs—is a traditional Japanese gardening technique intended to protect trees’ long b
Design can be a powerful tool in times of crisis, when creativity is a crucial element for survival. At the start of theDesigners Against Coronavirus, and in the fall, took the project a step further by documenting 272 of the works in a book of the same name. Nearly all the resources to publish it, from the paper to securing the copyright for each image, were donated, and the
Formgivning, the Danish word for “design,” serves as both a thesis and a call to action in a new book, Formgiving: An Architectural Future History (Taschen), by the Copenhagen-born architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). This is no project-by-project compe