Monday, April 19, 2004

Give Me One Good Reason

The flat earth society known as Reason, the magazine for libertarians, now has someone offering to eat at McDonald’s for 30 days in order to disprove the claims of Supersize Me!, the Morgan Spurlock documentary. Despite the bizarro universe of thought they inhabit (the minimum wage should be outlawed, only the free market can deliver us onward to heaven, etc), on Wednesday of last week, I purchased a subscription. I rarely agree with anything they print, but deconstructing their arguments will keep my mind more agile. And no matter how misguided, strange or, well, wrong, their thoughts might be, they eagerly firehose you with ideas every month, whereas most other magazines are allergic to them.

Furthermore, I’m quite taken with the concept for the June issue of Reason, which I hope to receive a copy of, as it features a customized cover. According to an April 5, 2004 article by David Carr in the NYT:

When the 40,000 subscribers to Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, receive a copy of the June issue, they will see on the cover a satellite photo of a neighborhood - their own neighborhood. And their house will be graphically circled.

On one level, the project, sort of the ultimate in customized publishing, is unsurprising: of course a magazine knows where its subscribers live. But it is still a remarkable demonstration of the growing number of ways databases can be harnessed. Apart from the cover image, several advertisements are customized to reflect the recipient's particulars.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason, said the magazine, with an editorial mission of "Free Minds, Free Markets,'' used the stunt to illustrate the cover article about the power and importance of databases.

"Our story is man bites dog," Mr. Gillespie said. "Everybody, including our magazine, has been harping on the erosion of privacy and the fears of a database nation. It is a totally legit fear. But they make our lives unbelievably easier as well, in terms of commercial transactions, credit, you name it."