I'm not going to lie to you. I wrote this column last night, the night before publication. But first, I spent an entire month dreading the prospect, then I just plain put it off, then I watched something like 12 episodes in a row of How It's Made. Now I'm noticeably smarter and also somehow more Canadian.
So I ask you to trust me, I will make a point, and a good one, that is tangentially related to the topic of why it's IMPORTANT TO YOU (those three words being the hallmark of Intrepid Media writing) that we've been around for so long. First I need to bitch a little bit. Bear with.
Anyhow, I hate writing the anniversary column. It's a privilege, of course, to be pimping the hot sauce that has kept this little group homepage alive and vibrant for nine years, which is a dynasty in Internet time, but it's my least favorite column. It's never funny, nor compelling, it doesn't suck the reader in, it very rarely conforms to any of the easy-outs of web-writing (top 10 lists, links to funny finds, get rich quick schemes), and there is no chance to crack a five-figure read tally. Let's face it, if I could get 10,000 people to listen to me babbling on about Intrepid, I wouldn't need to babble on about Intrepid, I could just start rumors about my own sex addiction/mission to adopt a whole bunch of children overseas/passing interest in a freaky pseudo-religion, and be the celebrity I was born to be.
Not to mention this column forces to me to deal with, or at least acknowledge, the question: Why Does Intrepid Media Matter?
I hate this question, because usually the answer that pops into my head first and stays there is the correct answer: It doesn't. Come on, I'm fully confident in the hypothetical that if Intrepid Media disappeared tomorrow, the world would keep spinning, most people would still get to work on time, and there would still be the same amount and variety of breakfast cereals available for purchase at your local grocery store. In fact, this same statement can not only be said for any decent content site, but also any Internet site, or for that matter, the web itself. So I take comfort in that we matter, or more specifically don't matter, as much as Google. I'm stumped as to why I'm not a billionaire yet, but "any day now" is a fine reason to get out of bed.
So the next most obvious question during this annual reflection period is: Why Do I Do This?
This is an easier question to answer. First of all, it's personal. THIS TIME! Sorry, I couldn't help that - the Dangerfieldesque side of me keeps trying to squirm out during these semi-serious columns. And second, it's basically why the site is in existence. Actually, the second question is the answer to the first.
I just blew my own mind.
But the fact of the matter is this. A long, long time ago, when the web was young, myself and a couple fantastic writers (and by that I mean far more fantastic than me), were getting published online and offline and were discovering that we could do a lot more if we weren't hemmed into restrictions like getting our topic from the publication that was paying us and being held to family style jokes and zero swears. I call it the "Dave Barry Syndrome." We all wanted to write about what we wanted to write about the way we wanted to write about it - but we didn't want to suck like Dave Barry. The downside, or tough part, is that we still wanted to be read. By more than the other 5 or 6 of us that started the whole thing.
So blah blah blah, we combined forces, and I built the site.
But that covers why I did Intrepid Media - does not explain why, nine years later, I'm still doing it. Soon after we put the site up, we realized that it was far more interesting, and also a good way to differentiate ourselves, if we explored new ground, pushed the envelope whenever possible, and actually took advantage of this new medium as something other than a computer copy of a newspaper or magazine. In that sense, you've got the instant history that comes inherent with the web as well as the ability for other people to join in the fray and post their work right alongside ours.
That's when the real "what for" of Intrepid started happening for me and for the rest of us. So now, nine years later, here are the top howevermany reasons why I do Intrepid Media, and in turn why you SHOULD DO Intrepid Media (see? It all comes back to you). And please note I didn't take the easy way out and put this in list form.
I've always hesitated to call Intrepid Media a writers' site, strictly because I don't want to throw up that barrier to entry. I didn't start writing until I was 24 and more than one of the current staff writers would say they didn't refer to themselves as a writer until they started writing for Intrepid Media.
Also, if you put 12 writers in a room, chances are I'll want to punch at least one of them.
Look. Most of us can write, and by that I mean most of you can write. You don't have to be a writer to start writing for Intrepid Media. I think blogging has gone a long way to prove this concept. But the difference between Intrepid Media and your basic blog is that we're here for you to build on you, and in the writing sense that means trying something different or shooting for improvement every time out. And mind you, not in the commas and spelling sense, but in the "is this worth reading" sense.
It also means SHOWING how good you can be instead of TALKING ABOUT how good you can be,
I'm still learning. Looking back 12 months, I feel like I got in stride with a stylistically oddball Big Country column followed by a Police v. Van Halen reunion column. After a horrible anniversary column, I got on a roll, and could do no wrong until I hit the Burger King column, which I thought would be a disaster. Turns out though, that one was a huge hit. It was the Metalocalypse column, one I was really proud of, that went fart in church on me.
For the same reason I don't call Intrepid a writers site, I also avoid calling it a blog at all costs. Intrepid Media gives me a place to go on the web where I don't feel like I necessarily need to learn something but it's also not all pictures of guys getting whacked in the nuts. It pushes me and challenges me creatively, but at my own pace. I have an audience, one I've built up over nine years, but one I can let down from time to time without hurting my rep.
All I have to do is be funny and interesting, which is exactly as difficult as it sounds on a second read.
Intrepid has opened a lot of doors for me, and not only with the writing, but in business and social circles as well. Plus, I'm not alone. Nowhere near it. Intrepid is directly responsible for large scale publication deals, freelance opportunities, television and radio appearances, formation of bands, businesses and general partnerships, marriages, incarceration (just that once) and several other fortunate life changes.
So the main reason I do this is because it's fun and I can't get it anywhere else. Sure, I've got bylines, but they usually come with zero freedom. I could blog, but after I post my piece and get my X reads and feel all self-satisfied, where does it go from there? I'm on LinkedIn but those are business relationships. I'm on Facebook but I'm not good at making walking my dog or feeling sort of blue sound interesting. I built my own site to put up pictures of my kids. I'm on novel number 3, but that's a lonely, completely unsocial experience.
So I do Intrepid. It wasn't there, so I built it. It's still working, so we keep it, and as long as people keep signing up and writing, we'll keep it going. We'll keep adding members, and as we grow, we'll keep adding features, like say the ability for you to become a fan of my writing (and others, of course).
Occasionally, we'll redesign.
And that's when it hit me. During this period of self-reflection, as I'm sitting there thinking of all of the ways Intrepid matters to me at this point, I realized that Intrepid Media is now, nine years in, exactly what and where it needs to be. It has become what it is. It is comfortable in its own skin. It is a force to be reckoned with, but still a threat to be something cooler and bigger. It's quality. It's quantity. It has grown up.
So thanks. Thanks to the readers and the writers, especially the staff writers, for nine awesome, glorious, unique and fun years. Here's to at least another nine.
Yeah, I know. This column sucked too.
Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
9.2.08 @ 9:55a
I'm stumped as to why I'm not a billionaire yet...
...but [IM's] not all pictures of guys getting whacked in the nuts.
You might have answered your own question.