The Observer Gives Conde Nast Digital Good “Blowie”


Yesterday, New York Observer editor-in-chief Kyle Pope squeaked out on Twitter: “Running an unabashedly positive story on the front of tomorrow’s Observer. When’s the last time that happened?” He won’t find anybody who remembers when, because “unabashedly positive” stories aren’t exactly the New York Observer‘s forte. Or weren’t, anyway. Because “unabashedly positive” implies a certain kind of compliance with a narrative.

As it turns out, that compliance was demonstrated in today’s profile of 34 year-old Conde Nast digital guru Scott Dadich — — by any publication’s standard — as giving someone a shameless, epic oral servicing.

Long story short, John Koblin profiled Scott Dadich, who’s the guy who told Conde Nast to get going on an iPad app for Wired. Here are some of the ways he’s described in the piece:

  • “Savior”
  • “It Boy of the Mag World.”
  • “Saved Conde Nast.”
  • “An overnight star.”
  • “Some sort of combination of Jesus and Pele.”
  • “A combination of charisma and seriousness of purpose.”
  • “A bigness about his ambition.”
  • “The spark that ignites a conflagration.”
  • “A hit.”
  • “The first bona fide success in publishing’s transition to digital apps.”
  • “Celebrated.”
  • “Scary-smart.”

It gets worse.

  • “Wearing a perfectly tailored blazer.”
  • “Perfect posture.”
  • “Well-groomed sideburns.”

Quotability from others?

  • Famed Esquire art director George Lois: “With a talent like Scott, magazines will never die.”
  • New Yorker editor David Remnick:”He just has it.”

But then you get to Dadich himself, who is somehow deserving of all of the hyperbole you just read for deep thoughts like this:

“The only reason magazine design looks the way it does is because it’s the literal, physical limitations of two pieces of paper,” he said.

I’d hate to use the clichéd “NO! Really?” but given the silliness of this entire enterprise, it’s more than called for. Are you kidding, New York Observer? Has anyone in New York who works in media seen a blowjob so explicit since The Brown Bunny? At least Vincent Gallo wasn’t artless.

Sure, some negs on Dadich come in, although pretty late in the piece — 24 paragraphs in, for those counting — where you’ll find the fact that Wired and their chosen developer Adobe had to rebuild their first iPad app from the bottom-up after Apple revealed that Adobe’s software wouldn’t inherently comply with the iPad’s. Or that all Wired‘s app turned out to be were mostly massive image files that took an enormous amount of time to download with “little holes for interactive elements.” Or that Wired‘s app numbers for July haven’t been released because it probably sold poorly (a number we heard was at 20,000, as opposed to June’s 100,000 downloads). All that is followed by the Observer with “but it was enough to fool consumers” and “but at this point, people seem happy with the direction of things.”

Those are two significant “but” asides, no? Even so, you won’t find the fact that Wired is still losing money, that Dadich supposedly spent $60,000 of Conde’s money producing the five-minute internal infomercial that sold Conde Nast on an iPad app, that Conde supposedly bought Dadich his apartment in Manhattan, or any thoughts on the fact that if these are the expectations placed on Scott Dadich, is there any way he can realistically fufill them? Is there no doubt?

Not in the Observer‘s piece. The piece’s writer, John Koblin, isn’t one prone to absurd hyperbole on this level. Given the pride Kyle Pope took in it, one can’t help but wonder just how heavy a hand he had in this. After all, the Observer‘s digital strategy has been struggling for years, their offices just made the move to Times Square (thus putting them in shoulder-rubbing proximity to Conde Nast both geographically and figuratively), and it reads almost as marked by the kind of questionable editorial slant rumored to have shaded certain Observer stories since Jared Kushner took ownership of the paper. This is the guy who told Conde Nast to get an iPad app a year ago, which is basically akin to, say, telling Noah that he might need something that floats because this rain just isn’t letting up. Does anybody remember that (pre-Kyle Pope) time the Observer found Conde Nast chief Si Newhouse ranting about Orangina? What happened to that?

Of course, there’s no evidence of shadiness in front of us. Maybe the guy really is just that great.

Or maybe an unabashed editorial blowjob that (against character) doesn’t question the hyperbole fed to it while supplementing it with a writer’s own out-of-character hyperbole is…just that.

At the very least, did they have to make the Minority Report reference? Really? Lesson learned: expect less.