This is my challenge: I need to tell you about the fifth issue of Cartel, the e-magazine I edit, run, and write for. I need to do this quickly, because if I do not do it quickly, your attention will turn to Twitter, a Deadspin article, or the truly dreadful news on your Facebook feed, which is that that girl you hate, Kelsey, got engaged last week.
So quick is what I will be.
The biggest obstacle in convincing people to buy an e-magazine is this one: they don’t want to pay for content they think can get online.
And that I understand.
I, too, browse the articles my friends send me – on Slate, or Jezebel, or – what’s that one – FlipCollective. I read them, or I skim them, or I give them the same cursory glance I’d give a motorcycle accident. And then I move on.
If Cartel were like this, I would assume that no one would ever buy an issue or take out a subscription. But Cartel is not like this.
Here’s how Cartel works:
Step One. I find writers I like, respect and can’t stop reading. I pester these writers with unsolicited emails that express my hope that they will relent when I tell them that, for Cartel, they can A) write about whatever they want and B) expect to make upward of $40 to do so.
Step Two. I set up an editing schedule for these writers. What this means is that Steven Hyden, who writes about music for outlets like Grantland.com and Rolling Stone, edits Eric Nusbaum, who writes about sports and travel for Outside and GQ, and who in turn edits Gabe Muoneke, who is a petroleum engineer in Nigeria.
Step Three. These writers return to work on their pieces before sending them to me for a final edit.
Step Four. The writers send me an audio version of their pieces, which I compile into an “album.” Graphic designer Scott Shaffer uses the brilliant photography of Van Ditthavong in the creation of the PDF version of Cartel.
Step Five. We, the contributors, attempt to explain why you should buy our work.
Step Five-A. You, the reader, buy it. (FINGERS CROSSED!)
Step Six. I distribute the earnings to the contributors, equally.
The point is this: Cartel isn’t like most writing on the internet. It’s better. It’s not better because the people writing on the internet are worse writers than we are. It’s better because those writers are rushed; they have to churn out a piece about the funny face Kristin Stewart made at last night’s awards show because if they wait, no one will care about the funny face Kristin Stewart made at last night’s awards show because Kristin Stewart will already have made a funny face at another awards show tonight.
We take our time with Cartel. From start to finish, one issue takes six weeks to produce. I think the result is something you’ll be happy to read (or hear), because the result is an e-magazine full of artfully considered, thoughtful pieces.
Pieces like a meditation on The Who, classic rock, and death by Steven Hyden; the careful deconstruction of a trip to Cuba and the romance he encountered there by Eric Nusbaum; the reflection on a month of silence in an LA-bound car by Arianna Schioldager; the telling of the story of a trip through down-and-out Navajo Nation by Peter Harrison; the explanation of all John Hughes’s faults by Paul Merrill; a tale of what Nigeria is really like by Gabe Muoneke; my own discovery about everlasting life – a discovery that requires no belief in ghosts, phantoms, or deities; and hilarious graphics by my brother, Matt Shirley.
Here’s what that looks like:
And here’s what that sounds like:
Cartel isn’t a blog. It isn’t immediate. Cartel is thoughtful and careful and old-fashioned. It comes in formats external to the internet (PDF, Kindle, MP3), meant to be downloaded and read or listened to when you have the mental space to appreciate it.
It takes time to build, and it takes time to consume.
And if that doesn’t sound like your thing, no problem, Uproxx awaits.
But if that does sound like your thing, take a look, have a peek, come on inside and give it a read. We’d be glad to have you.
And, hey, if you’re not into reading, the T-shirts ($15, free shipping) looked pretty damned good, too.