When Joel Stein began writing for Time Magazine in 1997 he represented a fresh voice that injected a dose of irreverence and fun into the then 74 year-old print publication. Yet, he was skeptical of the digital revolution nipping at Time’s heels.
In fact, on episode 72 of The Wolf Den podcast he tells host Adam Sachs that, “I’ve been avoiding new media a very long time.”
Before joining Time full-time, he had an assignment for the quarterly Time Digital supplement to profile weird websites. “I remember thinking: enjoy this while you can, because the big corporations are going to come in and take over the web, just like they do everything else,” he says.
“And I was totally wrong.”
Joel is actually a happy consumer of new media, including podcasts. But as a writer he says online “you get less eyeballs and less money,” than with old media. The problem is that old media is a sinking ship, but, “it’s hard to jump ship.”
In part that’s because, “If you write something for Time Magazine that nobody sees–people think it’s lame and old, and probably not very good–you still get more credit for it,” than publishing something online.
At the same time Joel says he feels more energy and excitement when he’s around new media, like coming to the Earwolf studios for this interview. By comparison, at so many print publications the years of downsizing have created a “culture of fear,” where risk taking is avoided. “It’s just depressing,” he laments.
Joel has been a guest on plenty of podcasts, and has been approached to do his own. He jokes with Adam that he’s working on a “podcast about podcasts about podcasts,” doing heavy-meta coverage of The Wolf Den and the StartUp podcast. But would he seriously consider doing one himself?