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Wired (magazine)

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The logo for "Wired". The text "Wired" is seen on a black and white checkered pattern, with the color alternating for each letter. Each letter is colored in the inverse to its background color.
Global Editorial DirectorKatie Drummond
Former US editors-in-chiefLouis Rossetto, Katrina Heron, Chris Anderson, Nick Thompson, Gideon Lichfield
CategoriesBusiness, technology, lifestyle, thought leader
Total circulation
(December 2023)
FounderLouis Rossetto, Jane Metcalfe
FoundedFebruary 1991
First issueJanuary 1993, as a quarterly
CompanyCondé Nast Publications
CountryUnited States
Based inSan Francisco, California
Websitewired.com Edit this at Wikidata
ISSN1059-1028 (print)
1078-3148 (web)

Wired (stylized in all caps) is a monthly American magazine, published in print and online editions, that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy, and politics. Owned by Condé Nast, its editorial offices are in San Francisco, California, and its business office at Condé Nast headquarters in Liberty Tower in New York City. Wired has been in publication since its launch in January 1993.[2] Several spin-offs have followed, including Wired UK, Wired Italia, Wired Japan, Wired Czech Republic and Slovakia[3] and Wired Germany.

From its beginning, the strongest influence on the magazine's editorial outlook came from founding editor and publisher Louis Rossetto. In 1991, Rossetto and founding creative director John Plunkett[4] created a 12-page "Manifesto for a New Magazine,"[5] nearly all of whose ideas were realized in the magazine's first several issues.[6] During the five years of Rossetto’s editorship, Wired's colophon credited Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan as its "patron saint." Wired went on to chronicle the evolution of digital technology and its impact on society.

Wired quickly became recognized as the voice of the emerging digital economy and culture[7] and a pace setter in print design and web design.[8][9] During its explosive growth in the mid-1990s, it articulated the values of a far-reaching "digital revolution" driven by the people creating and using digital technology and networks. It won the National Magazine Awards for General Excellence in its first year of publication, and others subsequently for both editorial and design.[10][11] Adweek acknowledged Wired as its Magazine of the Decade in 2009.[12] SF Gate called Wired “the magazine that led the digital revolution.”[13]

From 1998 to 2006, Wired magazine and Wired News, which publishes at Wired.com, had separate owners. However, Wired News remained responsible for republishing Wired magazine's content online due to an agreement when Condé Nast purchased the magazine. In 2006, Condé Nast bought Wired News for $25 million, reuniting the magazine with its website.

Wired’s second editor Katrina Heron[14] published Bill Joy’s “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” breaking with Wired’s optimism to present a dystopian view of the technological future.

Wired's third editor, Chris Anderson is known for popularizing the term "the long tail",[15] as a phrase relating to a "power law"-type graph that helps to visualize the 2000s emergent new media business model. Anderson's article for Wired on this paradigm related to research on power law distribution models carried out by Clay Shirky, specifically in relation to bloggers. Anderson widened the definition of the term in capitals to describe a specific point of view relating to what he sees as an overlooked aspect of the traditional market space that has been opened up by new media.[16]

The magazine coined the term crowdsourcing,[17] as well as its annual tradition of handing out Vaporware Awards, which recognize "products, videogames, and other nerdy tidbits pitched, promised and hyped, but never delivered."[18] In these same years, the magazine also published the story, written by Joshuah Bearman, that became the movie Argo. In more recent times, the publication became known for its deep investigative reporting, including a long story about Facebook—"Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook and the World"—that became the publication's most read article of the modern era. It was written by Fred Vogelstein and Nicholas Thompson, the latter of whom was the publication's editor-in-chief and had also been the editor on the piece that became Argo.


Wired building located in San Francisco

The magazine was launched in 1993 by American expatriates Louis Rossetto and his life and business partner Jane Metcalfe. Wired was originally conceived in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, when they were working on Electric Word, a small, groundbreaking technology magazine that developed a global following because of its focus not just on hardware and software, but the people, companies, and ideas that were part of what they called the language industries.[19] Whole Earth Review called it “The Least Boring Computer Magazine in the World.” This broader focus on the social, economic, and political issues surrounding technology became the core of the Wired editorial approach.[19]

Initial funding for Wired was provided by Eckart Wintzen, a Dutch entrepreneur. His Origin software company extended a contract for advertising and bought the first 1000 subscribers.[20] Rossetto and Metcalfe moved back to the United States to start Wired, finding the European Union not a cohesive enough media market to support a continent-wide publication.[19]

Origin’s upfront payment[21] was the seed capital which saw Rossetto and Metcalfe through 12 fruitless months of fundraising. They approached established computer and lifestyle publishers, as well as venture capitalists, and met constant rejection. The Wired business concept was a radical departure. Computer magazines carried no lifestyle advertising, and lifestyle magazines carried no computer advertising.[5] And Wired’s target audience of “Digital Visionaries” was unknown.[22]

Wired’s fundraising breakthrough came when they showed a prototype to Nicholas Negroponte, founder and head of the MIT Media Lab at the February 1992 TED Conference,[23] which Richard Saul Wurman comped them to attend. Negroponte agreed to become the first investor in Wired, but even before he could write his check, software entrepreneur Charlie Jackson deposited the first investor money in the Wired account a few weeks later.[24] Negroponte was to become a regular columnist for six years (through 1998), wrote the book Being Digital, and later founded One Laptop per Child.

By September 1992, Wired had rented loft space in the SoMa district of San Francisco off South Park[25] and hired its first employees. As Editor and CEO, Rossetto oversaw content and business strategy, and Metcalfe, as President and COO, oversaw advertising, circulation, finance, and company operations. Kevin Kelly was executive editor, John Plunkett creative director, and John Battelle managing editor.[26] John Plunkett's wife and partner, Barbara Kuhr (Plunkett+Kuhr) later became the launch creative director of Wired's website Hotwired.[27] They were to remain with Wired through the first six years of publication, 1993–98.

Rossetto and Metcalfe were aided in starting Wired by Ian Charles Stewart, who helped write the original business plan, John Plunkett, who designed the “Manifesto,” Eugene Mosier, who provided production support to create the first prototype (and later became Art Director for Production), and Randy Stickrod, who provided Rossetto and Metcalfe refuge in his office on South Park when they first arrived in San Francisco.[25] IDG’s George Clark arranged nationwide newsstand distribution. Associate publisher Kathleen Lyman joined Wired from News Corporation and Ziff Davis to execute on its ambition to attract both technology and lifestyle advertising, and delivered from the first issue. She and her protégé Simon Ferguson (Wired's first advertising manager) landed pioneering campaigns by a diverse group of industry leaders such as Apple Computer, Intel, Sony, Calvin Klein, and Absolut. Lyman and Ferguson left in year two. Condé Nast veteran[28] Dana Lyon then took over ad sales.

Cover of the June 1997 issue.[29] The main article was about Apple Computer's NeXT acquisition, Steve Jobs' return as an "advisor" to then-CEO Gil Amelio, and Apple's dire straits at the time.[30] It depicts the iconic Apple logo with a stylized "crown of thorns". The tagline "Pray" is a nod to the company's Apple evangelists and "devout" followers.

Two years after they left Amsterdam, and nearly five years after they first started work on the business plan, Metcalfe and Rossetto and their initial band of twelve Wired Ones launched Wired as a quarterly on 6 January 1993 and first distributed it by hand at Macworld Expo in San Francisco and, later that week, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.[31] Copies arrived on newsstand two weeks later as Bill Clinton took office as President, with his Vice President Al Gore touting the Information Superhighway. Due to the work of John Battelle’s fiancée, ex-CBS producer Michelle Scileppi, feature pieces on Wired’s launch appeared on CNN and in The San Jose Mercury News, Newsweek and Time magazines.[32]

Circulation and advertising response was so strong that Wired went bi-monthly with its next issue, and monthly by September with the William Gibson cover story about Singapore called “Disneyland with the Death Penalty,” which was banned there. In January 1994, Advance Publications’s Condé Nast made a minority investment in Wired Ventures.[33] And in April that year, Wired won its first National Magazine Award for General Excellence for its first year of publication. During Rossetto’s five years as editor, it would be nominated for General Excellence every year, win the design award in 1996, and a second General Excellence in 1997.

Wired’s founding executive editor, Kevin Kelly, had been an editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, Co-Evolution Quarterly,  and the Whole Earth Review. He brought with him contributing writers from those publications. Six authors of the first Wired issue (1.1) had written for Whole Earth Review, most notably Bruce Sterling (who was on the first cover) and Stewart Brand. Other contributors to Whole Earth who appeared in Wired, included William Gibson, who was also featured on Wired's cover in its first year.[34]

Wired co-founder Rossetto claimed in his launch editorial that "the Digital Revolution is whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon",[35] a bold statement at the time, when there were no smart phones, web browsers, and less than 10 million users connected to the Internet around the world, barely half that in the United States.[36] Bold also describes John Plunkett’s graphic design, and its use of fluorescents and metallics. Uniquely for magazines, Wired was printed on a new, state of the art, high-end, six color press normally used for annual reports.[19]

The first issue covered interactive games, cell-phone hacking, digital special effects, digital libraries, an interview with Camille Paglia by Stewart Brand, digital surveillance, Bruce Sterling’s cover story about military simulations, and Karl Taro Greenfeld’s story on Japanese otaku.[37] And while Wired was one of the first magazines to list the email addresses of its authors and contributors, the column by Nicholas Negroponte, while written in the style of an email message, surprisingly contained an obviously fake, non-standard email address.[38]

That was remedied in the second issue. Wired first mentioned the World Wide Web in its third issue,[38] after CERN put it in the public domain in April. Subsequently, Wired focused extensively on the networking explosion, carrying cover stories on Yahoo’s origin story, Neal Stephenson’s 50,000 word, epic essay on the laying of the fiber optic datalink from London to Japan, and Bill Gate’s media strategy for Microsoft.

On October 27, 1994, 20 months after its first issue, and following the introduction of the first graphic web browser Mosaic, Wired Ventures launched its Hotwired website, the first with original content and Fortune 500 advertising.[39] Inventing the banner ad, Wired brought ATT, Volvo, MCI, Club Med and seven other companies to the web for the first time on websites built by Jonathan Nelson’s Organic Online.[40] Among the launch crew of 12 was Jonathan Steuer, who led the group, Justin Hall,[41] a pioneer blogger who ran his own successful site on the side, Howard Rheingold as executive editor, and Apache server co-creator Brian Behlendorf, who was webmaster.[34]

Convinced the Web was the future of media,[19] and using Condé Nast’s investment, Wired bet its future by quickly expanding Hotwired into a suite of websites to include Ask Dr. Weil, Rough Guides, extreme sports, even cocktails. In 1996, it introduced its search engine HotBot in partnership with Berkeley startup Inktomi. Hotwired pioneered many of the features and techniques that would go on to define online journalism and online content creation in general.[42] The web was so new at the time, Wired hired forty engineers to write the code for its edit and ad serving software. By the end of 1995, Hotwired ranked sixth among all websites for revenue, ahead of ESPN, CNET, and CNN.[43]

The New York Times commented, “Wired is more than a successful magazine. Like Rolling Stone in the 60's, it has become the totem of a major cultural movement.”[44]

With Wired magazine and Hotwired’s explosive growth, Wired expansion accelerated. By 1996, it had launched a book publishing division (HardWired), licensed a Japanese edition with Dohosha Publishing, created a British edition (Wired UK) in a joint venture with the Guardian newspaper,[45] and had signed with Gruner and Jahr to do a German edition to be headquartered in Berlin.[46] And it began work on Wired TV in partnership with MSNBC,[47] as well as three new magazine titles: a shelter book called Neo to be edited by Wired Editor-At-Large Katrina Heron and designed by Rhonda Rubenstein; a business magazine called The New Economy; and a concept magazine with New York design star Tibor Kalman focusing on the countdown to the new millennium.[48]

In 1996, reacting to the IPOs of web competitors Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, and Infoseek, Wired Ventures announced its own IPO. It selected the leading East Cost investment bank Goldman Sachs and the leading West Coast bank Robertson Stephens as co-leads, with Goldman managing. Scheduled to go out in June, the IPO was postponed when the market declined days before. When it finally went out in October, Goldman was unable to close the round following another market downturn, and Wired withdrew its IPO.[49]

Fingerpointing followed. Some observers claimed the market rejected Wired’s $293 million “internet valuation,” as too rich for what was a traditional publishing company.[50] Wired replied that its valuation was confirmed by savvy private investors who put $12.5 million into the company in May[51] at just under the original offering stock price. They also argued that the offering price was set by the bankers, and was merited since it pioneered web media, and its revenue at Hotwired was greater than Yahoo when it went public at a higher valuation than Wired’s.[52] For their part, Wired executives blamed Goldman for mismanaging their IPO, and then failing the company by not closing the round which already had investors booked.[49] The Goldman executive who managed the IPO is quoted as saying “Had the market not been so volatile, I believe the offering would have been quite successful."[49]

Goldman’s failure left Wired Ventures cash-strapped. It turned to its current investor Tudor Investment Corporation. Tudor brought on Providence Equity Capital, concluding a private funding at the end of December 1996.[53] Wired then proceeded to cut costs by focusing on its US magazine and web businesses, shutting its UK magazine, its book company, and its TV operation, and terminating work on new magazines. By June, Wired magazine was profitable. The web company, now rebranded Wired Digital, was growing.[54] Wired execs wanted to try to go public again in 1998, catching what was to be the second runup in internet stocks which resulted in the 1999 dot-com bubble. In 1996, Wired Digital made up 7 percent of the company's revenues, and in 1997 it pulled in 30 percent. The unit was expected to contribute about 40 percent of revenues in 1998.[55]

Providence and Tudor had other plans, and hired Lazard Freres to shop the company. Rossetto and Metcalfe lost control of Wired Ventures in March 1998. The Street.com commented that a “company that started out as one of the more promising bastions of the digital revolution lost control to old-fashioned vulture capitalism.”[56]

Providence/Tudor quickly cut a deal to sell the magazine to Miller Publishing for $77 million. When Wired Ventures investor Condé Nast heard about the deal through a leak to a Silicon Valley gossip columnist,[57] they peremptorily outbid Miller and bought Wired magazine for $90 million dollars. The month of the sale, Wired’s magazine and web businesses became cashflow positive. Condé Nast declined to buy Wired Digital. Four months later, Providence/Tudor sold Wired Digital to Lycos.

The deal almost didn’t close. Wired Ventures’s founders and early investors threatened lawsuits against Tudor and Providence for breach of fiduciary responsibility, claiming they were engaging in unfair distribution of proceeds from the sale amounting to $50-100 million. Ultimately, the controlling investors relented, and the deal closed in June 1999 for $285 million.[56] At that point, Wired Digital was also cashflow positive. Combined proceeds of the two sales exceeded the Wired Ventures valuation at the time of its failed IPO.

Rossetto’s penultimate issue was five years after his first, in January 1998. Appropriately, the issue was entitled “Change is Good,” Wired’s unofficial slogan.[19] In his last issue in February, he ushered in a complete redesign of the magazine, the first since its start.[58] Katrina Heron became Wired’s second editor-in-chief with the March 1998 issue.

Wilco at the Wired Rave Awards in 2003

Wired magazine’s new owner Condé Nast kept the editorial offices in San Francisco, but moved the business offices to New York. Wired survived the dot-com bubble under the business leadership of publisher Drew Schutte who expanded the brands reach by launching The Wired Store[59] and Wired NextFest. In 2001 Wired found new editorial direction under editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, making the magazine's coverage "more mainstream".[60] The print magazine's average page length, however, declined significantly from 1996 to 2001 and then again from 2001 to 2003.[61]

In 2009, Condé Nast Italia launched the Italian edition of Wired and Wired.it.[62] On April 2, 2009, Condé Nast relaunched the UK edition of Wired, edited by David Rowan, and launched Wired.co.uk.[63]

In 2006, Condé Nast repurchased Wired Digital from Lycos, returning the website to the same company that published the magazine, reuniting the brand.

In August 2023, Katie Drummond was announced as the new editor of Wired.[64]

Website today


Wired’s web presence started with its launch of Hotwired.com in October 1994. Hotwired was the first website with original content and Fortune 500 advertising. Hotwired grew into a variety of vertical content sites, including Webmonkey, Ask Dr. Weil, Talk.com, WiredNews, and the search engine Hotbot. In 1997, all were rebranded under Wired Digital.The Wired.com website, formerly known as Wired News and Hotwired, launched in October 1994.[65] The website and magazine were split in 1998, when the former was sold to Condé Nast and the latter to Lycos[66] in September 1998. The two remained independent until Condé Nast purchased Wired News on July 11, 2006.[67] This move finally reunited the Wired brand.

As of August 2023, Wired.com is paywalled. Users may only access a limited number of articles per month without payment.[68]

Today, Wired.com hosts several technology blogs on topics in security, business, new products, culture, and science.

Wired NextFest

From 2004 to 2008, Wired organized an annual "festival of innovative products and technologies".[69] A NextFest for 2009 was canceled.[70] In 2018, Wired hosted "Wired 25" a celebration of its 25 years, an event which included Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey, and many of the other founders of the tech industry.


The Geekipedia supplement

Geekipedia is a supplement to Wired.[71]



Wired's writers have included Jorn Barger, John Perry Barlow, John Battelle, Paul Boutin, Stewart Brand, Gareth Branwyn, Po Bronson, Scott Carney, Michael Chorost, Douglas Coupland, James Daly, Joshua Davis, J. Bradford DeLong, Mark Dery, David Diamond, Cory Doctorow, Esther Dyson, Paul Ford, Mark Frauenfelder, Simson Garfinkel, Samuel Gelerman, William Gibson, Dan Gillmor, Mike Godwin, George Gilder, Lou Ann Hammond, Chris Hardwick, Virginia Heffernan, Danny Hillis, John Hodgman, Linda Jacobson, Steven Johnson, Bill Joy, Richard Kadrey, Leander Kahney, Jon Katz, Jaron Lanier, Lawrence Lessig, Paul Levinson, Steven Levy, John Markoff, Wil McCarthy, Russ Mitchell, Glyn Moody, Belinda Parmar, Charles Platt, Josh Quittner, Spencer Reiss, Howard Rheingold, Rudy Rucker, Paul Saffo, Adam Savage, Evan Schwartz, Peter Schwartz, Steve Silberman, Alex Steffen, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, Kevin Warwick, Dave Winer, Kate O’Neill, and Gary Wolf.

Guest editors have included director J. J. Abrams, filmmaker James Cameron, architect Rem Koolhaas, former US President Barack Obama, director Christopher Nolan, tennis player Serena Williams, and video game designer Will Wright.

See also



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Further reading