Last week, Read It Later—the site and app that, like Instapaper, allows readers to “save” articles for later revisiting—released a series of charts in conjunction with long-form writing aggregator LongReads detailing statistics they had gathered over 2011. The first chart was of the “Most Saved” authors on the internet.
The second chart was far more telling: Those whose articles were both saved and eventually revisited by those who had saved them. In other words, they build a chart of some of the most actually-read individual writers on the internet, and at the top of that list was Deadspin blogger and columnist Drew “Balls Deep” Magary, whose cult following netted the (in equal measures, profane and profound) writer a book deal and bylines with the likes of GQ.
We wanted to know: What’s it like to be the most actually-read* author on the internet? So, we asked. And he answered:
Congratulations Drew. You’re the most actually-read “Read Later” author on the internet. How does this feel?
I FEEL SO PRETTY. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that people are putting off their work by putting off reading something I wrote and then going to straight to Redtube to fap. Also, I want more money from everyone.
Note that the first of the two charts released by Read It Later is loaded with Lifehacker readers who save their articles, but never read them. That’s probably why they’re reading Lifehacker. What do you think it is about your writing that brings them back post—”Read Later”?
I do that with Lifehacker too, by the way. I’m always like, “Holy smokes! Eight ways to turn your toaster into a wireless router? I’LL DO IT!” Then I end up following through on none of their advice.
I don’t quite know why I’ve been able to retain readers, or do whatever it is that the study says that I’ve managed to do. I’m sure it’s precious like a robin’s egg, and just thinking about it now will likely cause it to all fall apart. All I try and do every week is write whatever I think people will find entertaining. And I think the easiest way to lose those readers is to spend any long amount of time blowing smoke up my own ass.
How do you decide what to write about? Do you run your ideas by [Deadspin editors A.J. Daulerio, Tommy Craggs, and Tom Scocca], or shoot first, ask later?
Well, there are a couple of things I do that are weekly columns, so those are already set in stone. Within those columns, I usually get ideas from whatever has happened in sports or from something someone wrote to me (which is really lazy on my part). With other pieces, I usually write it first and then just file it. Unless I’m not quite sure of it, and then I’ll run it by Tommy or A.J. before I spin my wheels. Other times, I’ll have NO ideas, and ask them if there’s something I should do. I don’t mind being directed.
Do you have a specific writing process? Wear any special garters/Spanx/etc?
I stand up, because my doctor told me sitting all day was bad for my back (I’ve had three back surgeries). Otherwise, it’s fairly routine. I write stuff from 8:30 to 4:30 every weekday, only stopping to eat or hit the gym. I used to be able to write with music playing but I can’t anymore. I’m one of those lame “total silence” people. I don’t have much process beyond those physical trappings. I just try and take the best idea and pound it into the ground.
Are you finicky about your copy? Do you ever give editors notes about what needs to stay versus what’s flexible? You’ve also done writing for outlets other than Deadspin, like GQ. Do you prefer the process of writing for one format/outlet over the other, moneys aside?
Well, I’m not the most heavily edited guy in the world. Usually, my stuff at Deadspin (and at NBC, for that matter), passes through unscathed. But when Tommy or A.J. or whoever does have a comment, I’m fine with it. They may tell you otherwise, but I don’t think I get my panties in a bunch over editing. I don’t have much right to complain when my boss openly lets me curse and call Lebron James terrible names. At GQ, stuff is more heavily edited (often for space), but it needs to be because it’s a print magazine. It needs polish and it needs to be concise. Deadspin is meant to be much rawer and looser.
Books are a whole other thing. Those things get worked over like a tomato can. It’s not always fun, but it beats a real job.
Speaking of moneys, now that your value above all other editorial web monkey slaves is out in the open, are you going to gouge some of the respective pursestrings for a higher rate? Remember: Michael Lewis has [something like] a $1M/year* contract for Vanity Fair, and he’s nowhere on this list.
Does he really get paid $1 million a year? HOLY CRAP. That’s amazing. I want that. He earns that, by the way. He’s awesome. And he does, like, research and stuff. That’s like DOUBLE writing. I can’t do that.
Anyway, I’m like anyone else in that I’m always interested in more money. But I figure if I do my job well enough that’ll take care of itself.
Four Deadspin writers—yourself, Tommy Craggs, Barry Petchesky, and Emma Carmichael – made that same list as you. So did a few other Gawker Media writers. What do Daulerio and Nick Denton have to do with your writing? What do you think their roles are in cultivating this success?
Well, they provide the platform, which is pretty much everything. Without Nick’s support and financing, there is no Deadspin. Without A.J., Deadspin doesn’t have five zillion viewers a month or whatever. They let me do what I want to do, but they provide the bullhorn. Also, Deadspin gets the RIGHT audience, which sounds weird but is really important. Go read a Yahoo blog post sometime. They get more readers, but most every commenter is an idiot. Put me over there, and suddenly there’s a vast disconnect between me and the readership. It would just be 1,000 comments saying YOU CALL THIS JOURNALISM?!!!
You’ve written a book, which we will plug shamelessly with a link here. Now that you’ve done ‘The Book Thing,’ you think there’s more to come? Do you enjoy having escaped the Blogging Routine, or do you miss it?
I love to blog, because of the instant gratification. You think of an idea and BOOM! Thar she blows. But you have to evolve if you want to have any longevity, and books let me do that. So yeah, more on the way.
Are your parents proud of you, or do they still think you use the word ‘fuck’ too much?
I didn’t tell my folks about my blogging career until I’d secured my first book deal. And they were so proud of the fact that I had a book that they didn’t care that it was loaded with penis photos. Also, I get my sense of humor from them, so it’s not like they don’t enjoy their fair share of ribald jokes.
Deadspin has a wonderful history of consistently getting journalism and writing traditionalists in a tizzy as it moves forward. You and your opinions have largely been a part of this. Do you think there’s still a boundary to push? What does it look like?
It’s in constant flux, and you only really know if you’ve crossed the line when you get a visceral, unanimous reaction telling you that you screwed up. It’s not a good feeling when that happens. All I can do is go by my own sense of what’s funny enough to get away with and what isn’t.
[*According to these charts, or at the very least, actually-read 'Read Later' writer on the internet.]
[**Clarification: Michael Lewis' last word rate before he was at Vanity Fair was reportedly $10/word. At 12,000 words for his August Vanity Fair piece on Germany's financial state, he would've made $120,000. Michael Lewis wrote five articles for Vanity Fair between 2009 and 2011. You do the math, we obviously can't. -ed.]
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