Recently, Cracked hired Jay Pinkerton from the National Lampoon to consult on their burgeoning website. Pinkerton has done some great stuff online. I first became aware of him when his silly-filthy remixes of the Spider-Man comic strip went viral last year. He’s definitely a great hire, like previous acquisition Neal Pollack, though I’m not sure exactly where their two sensibilities intersect (save for each writing for McSweeney’s).
Though supposedly focusing on the web, Pinkerton posted on Cracked.com’s message board and asked visitors what they wanted to see in a humor magazine. To give some context, later in the same thread, Pinkerton classifies humor magazines into four categories: Lad (Maxim, Stuff), Catty (Spy, Radar), Ironic (McSweeney’s) and News (Onion), different directions from the one Cracked once was - Comic-based (Mad). The responses to the thread are interesting and I’m hard pressed to see much of a concensus other than a fair amount of calls for a redesign and the dropping of the mascot, Sylvester P. Smythe.
Print humor magazines have been pretty difficult to maintain in the marketplace… the only one with any longevity has been Mad and, arguably, Cracked, simply because their audience has always been younger kids, a constantly renewing resource that doesn’t have aspirational expectations from a magazine, nor the fickleness of hip. When they’re older, a fair amount grow out of it and the next set of kids discover the mag.
The Comedy lifestyle approach that Cracked has talked about taking is a real smart one - hopefully they can find a line that appeals to both the layperson and the comedy nerd. An argument might be made for focus grouping something to death, but I think getting insight on what’s appealing to the most interested/obsessed (afforementioned comedy nerds) is a good start for something that seems a fragile as a print humor mag. If you know what will make you plunk down $5 at the newsstand for the humor magazine, you should definitely post on their message board. The revamped magazine’s first new issue arrives in January.
Full disclosure: I was a former editor at Cracked in the 90s and have talked with the new management about working with them, but with no real agreement. I do plan on submitting material to the publication.