Bob Guccione, Jr. on the Early Days of the Internet
Bob Guccione, Jr. began his career at the age of 18 in the UK where he became Britain's youngest-ever publisher. A year later he returned to America and launched the monthly music magazine, Rock Superstars, making him America's then youngest-ever publisher. In 1985, he launched SPIN, the enormously successful music magazine that usurped Rolling Stone as the dominant pop culture magazine for 18-24 year olds. In 1997, Guccione sold SPIN to Vibe Ventures and in 1998 launched Gear, a young men's lifestyle magazine, which closed in 2003. In October 2005, Guccione completed the acquisition of science magazine, Discover, from Disney and formed Discover Media, LLC. In the two years Guccione ran the title before stepping down as Chairman in December 2007, the magazine returned to profitability. He is now helping launch a new luxury lifestyle magazine in New York called Prestige New York.
Guccione: I’m not a nerdy guy. I’m not very computer proficient. But I’m a vastly curious person. And when the web first came up, Spin was only a few years old. And AOL came to us and offered us, I think it was $0.25 an hour, if we gave them Spin’s name and could they, you know, run a site where people chatted. And my business staff came back, “That’s ridiculously low,” I said, “Take it, take it. It’s brilliant. We’ll make a lot of money.” And we did. We were so early that we’re actually one of the people who got paid to be on the web. And the reason was I just seen the way people want to talk about music and the way communities came together on chat rooms that weren’t related to us. And they will talk for hours. And hundreds and thousands of people would get involved in discussions about the minutiae of Henry Rollins’ career. So I said, “Yeah, great. Let’s be that community. Let’s brand ourselves as a place where people talk about music.” I also had an, I think on [‘92] on the idea we should sell CDs online. We didn’t do it, to my great regret. And, of course, companies like CDNOW came out and were very successful for awhile. But, you know, I’m not that clever that I see the future, I actually just see the present pretty well. And I saw that, you know, this community was going to adopt the web and they wanted to chat and… You know, they couldn’t go at the offices to Spin and talk about music. You know, we wouldn’t allow that. So they would find each other online. That’s exactly what happened. We actually made as much money online that first year as we were making almost as much when we’re making on the magazine. So we’re very successful. Of course, eventually, I will just stop paying people and said, you know, “If you want to be on, you got to do a deal with us that pay us.” So, you know, those first impressions were communities gather out there in the [IB] and they congeal together and that never left me. But, again, I thought in retrospect, I can see that my thinking then was give people a reason to come and make it be why they would go to the web. You know, if we just put up all the old articles of Spin, I think nobody would have cared.
Bob Guccione, Jr. on how AOL once paid him to post content on the web.
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