Today The Verge, an upstart website from a few years back, has a great feature on The Awl, an upstart website from the way, way back of 2009.
The Awl is a website that smart people go to when they want to prove to themselves how smart they are. It's the kind of site that seeps itself in think pieces, witty self-deprecating humor, and daily reviews of NYC weather. Why daily NYC weather reviews? Because this is the internet and nothing has to make sense.
The Awl is the kind of place that really smart writers go to when they want to be inspired by other really smart writers. It's the kind of place that publishes pieces like Patricia Lockwood's "Rape Joke" and also think pieces on Minions, as in the popular humanoid creatures from the Despicable Me series of films.
I've always liked websites like The Awl because they have a good understanding the the interent is a giant amorphous blob that is equal parts hilarious, horrifying and deadly serious; and that it's OK to pander to a selective audience (read - college educated, snarky, a little up their own asses) because whats the point of it all really?
The great not-so-secret-secret about writing on the internet is that no one really knows how it works, or how anyones going to be able to get paid for it in the long run, or if we will all just be drones creating content for the social media conglomerate monsters in the very near future. As I seriously ponder quitting my day job to start writing on the internet full-time there is this huge fear that my writing will never find a target audience because there is no target to aim at.
The Awl stands as a beacon of hope that I can just write, and if I can be smart, witty, and funny enough, eventually an audience will form. I'll take one website like The Awl over a hundred websites that are breathlessly chasing down viewers in an attempt to keep up with an online advertising model that is becoming increasingly broken and archaic.