Why I'm Launching a Pop Culture Site In the Most Crowded Marketplace of All-Time

Why I'm Launching a Pop Culture Site In the Most Crowded Marketplace of All-Time

5 min read

Alternative title: this town needs an enema 1

The last thing any of us needs is more content. What kind of idiot decides to add to the problem by carving out his own little corner of the Internet?

rainn wilson dwight schrute office idiot
I'm with Dwight on this one. NBC

I've been writing about pop culture for 5 years. Which is not like, forever, but it's long enough to form opinions about what works and what doesn't. I also founded Fanfare, the largest pop culture site on Medium; we average 2 million yearly page views and have published thousands of articles. I mention the numbers not to brag but as a kind of social proof, in case what I'm about to say requires a bulwark against insanity.

Most pop culture writing has no greater ambition than to be content, which is both the problem and the opportunity. News and reviews serve a fleeting purpose. Listicles trade depth for brevity. Opinion pieces and essays are the very best sort of articles, but the majority of them coincide with a recent release and are just as quickly forgotten. Everything serves the ad-supported click economy. It's a situation that will only worsen as outlets leverage AI to pump out even more content.

Against such raging waters, I am intentionally swimming upstream.

Here's my elevator pitch: the Wait But Why of pop culture.

Long-form, evergreen articles that are entertaining and informative. A pursuit of quality at the expense of quantity. 100% organic and hand-crafted; no AI involved in any part of the process. The articles will not be off-the-cuff hot takes, but the result of many hours of research. We will follow the white rabbit and report back on its erratic movements.

As for advertisements: we don't serve their kind here. Nothing will get in the way of the reading experience. No annoying pop-ups, no obtrusive banners. Every pop culture site I've ever seen is like a Las Vegas porn convention–lots of flashy distractions and the whole time you have the suspicion you'll catch something just from being there. I hate that. All the Fanfare will be reader-supported.

Can a web site thrive by going so willfully against the grain? I'm definitely not smarter than everyone else–I once compared Force lightning to peeing. I'm just building the thing I want to see in the world: Deep, quality writing that celebrates the best parts of pop culture and is fun to read. I'm willing to delve too greedily and too deep, even, and risk unearthing some unholy horror, in pursuit of that goal.

Potential Topics

I'm still batting around ideas, but here's a partial list of pop culture properties that tickle my fancy2 right now:

  • Films: Predator (1987), Masters of the Universe, Batman (1989), RoboCop, Tombstone, Waterworld, Event Horizon
  • Television: Firefly, ThunderCats3, GoBots, The Golden Girls, Alf, The Greatest American Hero
  • Gaming: Tecmo Bowl, A Link to the Past, River City Ransom, Baseball Stars, the Dungeons & Dragons Red Box

This list is not final. It's just stuff I think might be interesting to write about. The common demoninator? It's all kinda old. That's not to say we won't cover newer stuff. But in general, expect topics to skew older. Time and distance are the best way to truly have perspective on something.

The Process

I'm planning on doing extensive research for every article. For a film, that might mean: watching it two or three times, listening to director commentary, watching a making-of documentary, and reading books and articles. I'll be completely immersing myself in the topic and surfacing observations that can only come from deep study.

This process, plus the length of each piece–I'm aiming for 15-minute reads and longer–will determine how many articles I write. I'm optimistically thinking one article a month. Hopefully more, but it may be less! Which pretty much flies in the face of all conventional wisdom when it comes to launching and running a web site.

This is a Soft Launch

Ideally you would write 8-10 articles before launching a new site. But given the very nature of this project, I am once again ignoring convention. The alternative is building in private for months and only launching once I have 4-6 articles to share. But there is value in building in public–Austin Kleon calls it 'showing your work'–and that's what I'm going to do.

The web site is now live, with no content other than this strange version of 'hello world.' I'll publish articles as I finish them, but we'll be in this state of quasi-limbo until I have enough articles to go wide with distribution.

If any of this intrigues you, please subscribe to the site. That's the best way of indicating I'm on the right track. I've only enabled free subscriptions for now. If I ever ask for money, it will only be after I've provided value.

This will be the only administrative-type post I'll ever publish here. I'll be posting weekly updates on this project via my Substack newsletter. Give it a follow if you are interested in peeking behind the curtain. I'll be completely transparent about my plans, how I'm approaching monetization, SEO and distribution, etc. I'll probably use the newsletter to gauge topic interest as well, before spending dozens of hours going down rabbit holes.

I've been thinking about doing this for a very long time. Now that the moment has finally arrived, I feel both excited and nervous. In fact, I feel a lot like George McFly.

Crispin Glover George McFly no good
Universal Pictures

I honestly have no idea if this will work or not. Will people care? Will they read? Will I go insane after spending 40 hours consuming The Last Boy Scout content?

Only one way to find out.

Free Samples

If you're on the fence, here's some stories I've written to give you a taste for my style.

  1. By "town," I mean Internet. Also: if you understood the reference, we'll get on famously.
  2. "Tickle my fancy" has a vague (or maybe not-so-vague) sexual connotation, does it not?
  3. Obligatory "ho!"