By: Karim Mostafa
Launched At Missouri, Ironminds Hits Big Time
Andy Wang always believed in content.
‘When people were saying Webzines are dead, Andy argued that content
will remain important,’ says Dean Mills, dean of the Missouri School of
Journalism, where Wang was a Visiting Hearst Professional. Now the 24-
year-old has a chance to prove it.
At the j-school, Wang developed Impression, an e-zine which later
became part of Ironminds.com. That site was launched by Wang and other
journalists in August as a daily content network for college students.
Now, Wang is editor in chief for Novix Media, a New York-based startup
with plans to launch an e-commerce site this summer for 20-somethings.
The yet-to-be-named site will have seven channels combining content and
e-commerce: Entertainment, Money and Careers, Health, Sports and
Outdoors, Gear and Technology, Politics and Activism, and General
Lifestyle. Ironminds.com, which was bought by Novix for an undisclosed
sum, will also relaunch after a technological overhaul.
Novix Media’s chairman is Michael Berman, co-founder of George magazine
with John F. Kennedy Jr. Others working on the site include site
designer Barry Sonnenfeld, director of the ‘Wild, Wild West’ and ‘Men
in Black’ films, and President Bill Martin, founder of the Raging Bull
Web site. These men are united in the belief that their new site will
attract young people looking for great content and ‘life-aiding e-
commerce opportunities,’ the catch-phrase used often by both Wang and
The wall between edit and advertising? Wang says, ‘The level and
quality of criticism isn’t going to change because we’re trying to sell
something. As long as you get smart credible people who understand how
it works, I don’t think it’s going to become an issue.’
A twister deal
Wang says he wasn’t looking to sell Ironminds.com. In fact, the deal
with Novix suddenly appeared like a twister out of the sky back home.
During a casual dinner with Berman six or seven weeks ago, Wang was
impressed by Novix’s desire to hire from its targeted demographic. ‘To
find them in their own voice and capture them in their own lifestyle,’
is Berman’s goal for the site.
Now Wang is settling into his New York office. ‘It’s kind of magical
right now,’ he says.
As editor of Ironminds, Wang worked closely with journalism students
and contributors to compile crisp, jargon-free content into a site that
quickly found an audience. ‘Ironminds is a terrific site, with a
provocative content mix that is indicative of the best independent
journalism on the Web,’ says Brian Hieggelke, president of Newcity.com,
an alternative portal that also targets the 20-something crowd.
In search of new voices, Wang recently attended South by Southwest – a
music, film, and interactive festival in Austin, Texas. There he found
single-person operations he thinks are doing a much better job than
multi-million dollar sites funded by the major media.
‘I don’t want these voices to go anywhere,’ Wang says. ‘I don’t want
them to get lost online.’
University as incubator
Another content source that Wang intends to mine further is the j-
school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. ‘I get to pick a dream
staff,’ says Wang, who is in the midst of hiring for a full-time
editorial staff of 15. He’s already hired Missouri graduates who are
leaving their jobs from the likes of Boston CitySearch, The New York
Times on the Web, and TheStreet.com.
The school has been more than a source of warm bodies for Wang; it
actually functioned as an incubator for Ironminds. Until his move to
New York a few weeks ago, the Ironminds office was located at the j-
school. Some students worked on the site for course credit, while
others volunteered. Contributors wrote for free or agreed to
substantially lower fees than what they may have been accustomed to.
Closely tied to the journalism school, the Missourian Publishing
Association (MPA), a nonprofit organization that publishes Columbia’s
daily newspaper The Missourian, ended up buying a 25% interest in
Ironmind. With the Novix Media deal, MPA gets an interest in the new
Wang says Ironminds will maintain an office in Missouri and students
will continue to contribute stories two to three times a week. Dean
Mills has been pleased with the partnership, saying students’
enthusiasm for new media has increased considerably.
‘Andy Wang is bright as all hell,’ he says. ‘He has solid old-fashioned
journalistic values married with an incredible entrepreneurial spirit.’
Karim Mostafa (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
assistant editor for E&P Online.
IRONMINDS.com LAUNCHES AS STUDENTS RETURN TO SCHOOL (08/27/99)
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