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

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.

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