David Granger, the editor of Esquire, dropped by DKC the other day. There are a number of takeaways from his appearance. One: He’s a man of style. Two: He’s quite funny. Three: he can work a PowerPoint presentation like no other.
But perhaps the most important thing I walked away with is this: You can still be defined by something, as long as you don’t allow yourself to be confined by that something.
Esquire is a magazine, and magazines are clearly David Granger’s passion. As he told our group, there is a reason why people refer to print media as ”old media,” and that is because it’s been around for a very long time. And it’s been around for a very long time because it’s ”f*cking good.”
But in the last few years the magazine industry has faced hard times, particularly with the fast and furious emergence of digital. While many in publishing declared it the beginning of the end, and others chose cognitive dissonance as the appropriate response, a select few – David Granger among them – had the foresight to realize that in order to actually prosper as a magazine, he needed to embrace digital, or as he said”¦ ”make digital [his] bitch and not the other way around”
During the discussion, David told us that his greatest moment of despair came when he compared the first-ever issue of Esquire with a recent one and thought to himself, ”It’s still just a magazine.” He realized that in order to save Esquire the magazine, he must build out Esquire the brand; make it more, expand its audience, and make digital work for him. He was searching for his ketchup bottle moment.
David was one of the first editors to think literally and figuratively about getting off the page. For example, he doesn’t just photograph his cover subjects. He shoots videos of them that can be activated through QR codes. Or in the case of Justin Timberlake, he shoots flames out of their ass and films it for a complimentary web piece (ok, not really but download the app and you’ll see what I mean). And in his most recent venture, an e-commerce site called CLAD, he is again thinking off the pages – where for roughly 80 years they have told men what to wear -not just making suggestions, but telling you where to buy them.
Esquire remains, first and foremost, a magazine. A damn good magazine. But it is the first magazine to have an electronic cover. It is also a thriving website, a mobile app, an iPad app, a producer of web videos, and a partner in e-commerce. Thanks to David Granger’s ability to think creatively and not live within the confines of traditional print – which will always be the defining cornerstone of Esquire’s brand – he’s been able to secure a future for his beloved ”old media” and successfully use ”new media” in the most innovative ways. Ketchup bottle or not, David Granger has turned the publishing world upside down and there’s a bright future ahead because of him.
Written by: Caitlin O’Neill