HOW-TO: Read WIRED Magazine

Due to an unfortunate subscription renewal incident and a rift in the space-time continuum, I have been subscribed to WIRED magazine since three seconds after the universe was created. Though it has not been scientifically confirmed, I have long suspected that the stacks of back issues in my garage are the cause of Earth’s axial wobble.

My subscription expires in February of 2008, so I thought it was high time I passed on a few tips to help future generations of WIRED subscribers.

The first thing you will notice about WIRED magazine is that it is shipped to you in a condom. Initially, I suspected that this was mandated the U.S. Postal Service (or perhaps the World Health Organization) to prevent the transmission of disease, but the shipping condom—which appears to be a simple plastic bag but is actually a +3 Bag of Holding—has another, more sinister purpose: to temporarily shunt the bulk of the advertisements contained between the magazine’s covers into another dimension.

When removing the plastic wrapper, be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions: you may want to wear gloves and safety glasses, and for God’s sake don’t do it around children or small animals. If at all possible, place the magazine in a protective vault and use robotic manipulator arms to remove the shipping bag; this will reduce the risk of severe paper cuts as a portion of the three hundred reduced-rate business reply mail subscription inserts escape from betwixt the magazine’s glossy pages. These inserts should be burned immediately, lest anyone lacking sufficient willpower be tempted to renew your subscription at the low, low rate of just 17 cents per issue. This is the last thing you want, as your ultimate goal should be to reduce the number of issues of WIRED entering your home to zero.

Once the magazine has been removed from the plastic wrapper, grip it by the spine (bend at the knees), hold it over the nearest trash receptacle and give it a firm shake. ((A better approach may be to simply drop the magazine at this point and be done with it, but someone paid for this thing and you should read it on principle.)) This should dislodge most (but not all; never all) of the remaining subscription inserts.

Now look at the cover. It is very likely bright and colorful and holds the promise of a plethora of interesting, insightful and oh-so-geeky articles. The November 2007 issue, for example, sports a busty, pink-haired cartoon pseudo-schoolgirl and threatens that “Manga Conquers America”. Above the lass’ gravity-defying coiff is another headline: “Cannonball Run! Coast to Coast in 32 Hours!” Finally, off to the right: “Plus cloned meat, space hotels & the world’s best conspiracy theories”. Wow, that’s a lot of content!

Your first inclination might be to flip open the cover and consult the magazine’s table of contents, maybe to locate that story about the cloned meat. Don’t. It’s a trap.

Yes, WIRED has a TOC, but you’ve got to flip through eighteen pages of advertisements for vodka, cell phones, menswear, luxury cars and inkjet printers to find it. Even if you’re willing to do that, you’re quickly going to discover why consulting this ostensibly handy guide is pretty much useless: roughly eleven-fifteenths of the pages in WIRED magazine aren’t numbered. Those first eighteen pages of ads aren’t, nor is the six-page Zune ad. Oh, and that fold-out Porsche ad on page 60 counts as seven pages even though it’s only two pages when you’re flipping through the magazine. Trying to apply logic and reason to utilizing the Table of Contents is like attempting to push Jell-O uphill with a steamroller.

The trick to navigating WIRED is understanding that four-fifths of the articles you want to read are in the last third of the magazine. Of the five cover stories in the November 2007 issue, only one (“The Best Conspiracy Theories”) is found before page 190. So here’s what you do: use the inserts, Luke. You might think that you successfully removed all of those pesky advertising inserts, but those were just the loose ones; there are plenty of WIRED subscription cards, fold-out vodka ads and stiff, cardstock cigarette ads welded to the magazine’s spine, and these will guide you to the hidden treasure. Simply riffle through the magazine, back-to-front, until you find one of these inserts, then open the magazine to that page. ((Do not try to remove the insert at this time. At best, you’ll be able to tear about 80% of the blasted thing out and be left with a ragged piece of cardstock that will annoy the hell out of you. At worst, you’ll wind up ripping the ad out, along with part of the ten adjacent magazine pages on either side.))

Now begin paging through the magazine as normal. Remember this tip for finding what you want: if it looks like an article, it’s probably a “special advertising section”; if it looks like an ad, but you’re not quite sure what for, you’ve found actual content. Only the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant are more elusive discoveries, so give yourself a pat on the back. Well done!

When you have finished reading the articles (and yes, some of them are worth reading), be sure to properly dispose of the magazine. The stacks of back issues in my garage are ultimately destined for recycling, ((Provided they don’t collapse in on themselves and form a singularity.)) but you may be tempted to pass the issue on to a friend or take it to work. While both options may seem charitable and generous, I would encourage you to reconsider. You simply do not want to be liable for the multitude of injuries or awkward situations that could result from passing the magazine on to a friend or co-worker. The risk of hernia or ruptured vertebrae alone is significant, but there are other, subtler things to consider; the scented cologne inserts, for example (the November 2007 issue is mercifully free of these) will have your office or cubicle smelling like Christian Dior’s prom night. No, it’s best to just dispose of the thing and be done with it.

This concludes my guide to reading WIRED magazine. Next time, I’ll cover a less painful topic: home dentistry.

10 thoughts on “HOW-TO: Read WIRED Magazine”

  1. So what you’re saying is, it’s a magazine?

    Well, it certainly purports to be. However, in my experience, it bears little resemblance to the other magazines I’ve read over the years (People, U.S. News & World Report, Entertainment Weekly, even PC World), the bulk of which are easy to navigate, have plenty of content that isn’t prettied up to look like more advertisement, and weigh less than your average cocker spaniel.

    WIRED is like Cosmopolitan with a penis.

  2. I generally can’t find the ToC at all, so I just give up.

    But what IS the deal with refusing to number the freaking pages?

  3. What you should do it what I do every time I receive a new PC World Magazine. (I subscribe to Wired, and as far as ads PCM is worse)

    You page through, tearing out every page that’s an ad on both sides. There are plenty of ads you can’t tear out because there’s legitimate content on the reverse side of the page, but after you’re done, you’ve got half the magazine you had, and it’s easier to read.

  4. I generally can’t find the ToC at all, so I just give up.

    But what IS the deal with refusing to number the freaking pages?

    I really couldn’t say. I suppose the policy is that they don’t number ad pages, but the ratio of content to advertising is such that the policy renders navigation nigh-impossible.

    Said ratio is also, I believe, an imaginary number.

  5. What you should do it what I do every time I receive a new PC World Magazine. (I subscribe to Wired, and as far as ads PCM is worse)

    You page through, tearing out every page that’s an ad on both sides. There are plenty of ads you can’t tear out because there’s legitimate content on the reverse side of the page, but after you’re done, you’ve got half the magazine you had, and it’s easier to read.

    I haven’t subscribed to an actual PC magazine in several years, but I do seem to recall that the advertisements in PC World and its ilk were at least PC-related, whereas an unfortunate percentage of the ads in WIRED (let’s say 82.5%, just to make something up) are for vodka, cigarettes, fast cars and cool clothes. If I was looking for that, I’d read GQ or Redbook.

  6. During my stint of “Itinerate Automation Programmer”, I’d give these artifacts the once-over in airport magazine stalls. Subscribing never seemed optimal to my goal of finding interesting content. I’d only purchase an issue if they met two criteria:

    1 – there were two (2) articles that I wanted to read in them

    -and-

    2 – the specific copy I was looking at had no plastic wrapper (this allows the majority of subscription cards to fall out into the rack where I’d picked it up initially)

    Giving WIRED magazine your home address seems a dangerous proposition at best; in Feb of ’08, I’ll celebrate the end of your subscription by raising a cider high. Good luck with the recycling effort – that’s going to be a real trick!

  7. […]

    Subscribing never seemed optimal to my goal of finding interesting content.

    […]

    Giving WIRED magazine your home address seems a dangerous proposition at best; in Feb of ’08, I’ll celebrate the end of your subscription by raising a cider high. Good luck with the recycling effort – that’s going to be a real trick!

    I initially subscribed to WIRED because a co-worker’s offspring was selling magazine subscriptions to buy school uniforms or home pregnancy tests or some such. I believe the initial subscription was for three years, and then I got roped into resubscribing when DialAmerica Marketing called to inform me of all the suffering children and wouldn’t it be great if I could ease their suffering by reading a magazine. Unbeknownst to me, my wife (laboring under the false impression that WIRED was bringing some joy into my life) had already renewed my subscription, retroactive to 5 billion years before the beginning of recorded human history.

    As for the recycling, my procrastinatory (that’s probably not a real word) nature will likely result in future civilizations building a residence on my ancient WIRED burial ground. The film franchise based on the ensuing terror will undoubtedly be very popular and successful.

  8. I gave up on Wired years ago. Same with Fast Company, which is Wired with an BS in Business Admin from the University of Phoenix.

    I’ve recently subscribed to Acoustic Guitar after getting several free issues, and I get fretful when Kitplanes is late.

  9. I gave up on Wired years ago. Same with Fast Company, which is Wired with an BS in Business Admin from the University of Phoenix.

    I’ve recently subscribed to Acoustic Guitar after getting several free issues, and I get fretful when Kitplanes is late.

    I’m only vaguely aware of Fast Company, but it sounds like an excellent magazine…to avoid.

    As for Acoustic Guitar and Kitplanes I do own an acoustic guitar, but I don’t play it, and I don’t know if I’d have the patience for kit planes, if my unfinished model of the Millennium Falcon—not a kit plane, I know, but still something you build—is any indication.

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