What Evan Smith Learned at Texas Monthly: Kelly Clarkson Doesn't Move Magazines

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It's been two months since Texas Monthly's president, Evan Smith, announced he was leaving the magazine to go into the virtual newspaper business as CEO of Texas Tribune. In the October issue of the Monthly, Smith offers his adios: "What I've Learned." And among those myriad lessons is this one: The magazine's audience is "middle-aged" (ooof!) and "elite" (pow!) and therefore not inclined to buy issues whose covers feature American Idol winners from Burleson, even if the story was written by Skip Hollandsworth:

Our readers also tended to be well -- educated and well-to-do, with tastes that were sophisticated but fell short of obnoxiously rarefied. That's not to say they didn't enjoy popular culture (Willie Nelson always sells), but at the end of the day I knew I was serving the elites rather than the masses.

Is it any wonder, then, that when we occasionally gave in to the temptation to pander to the masses, we almost always pulled up short? See Clarkson, Kelly, May 2005, and NASCAR, Popularity of, February 2007. Our profile of the former ("Since She's Been Gone") and our piece on the latter ("EEEEEEAAAOOOOWWW!!!") were terrific journalism, but as cover stories, they were just awful. We couldn't give copies away. They inflicted the kind of commercial wounds you spend the rest of the fiscal year recovering from.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

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Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.