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International Bright Young Thing: PopMatters at 5

PopMatters looks back over the last five years and reflects on where we started, where we’ve been, and how far we’ve come.  We’re also presenting a list of Editors’ Picks from each section of the site—pieces collected from five years of the sharp, incisive writing that has been the hallmark of the PopMatters standard.

Please introduce yourself
Let’s shock the world with what we know
Squeeze the world
‘til it’s small enough to join us heel to toe
—Jesus Jones, “International Bright Young Thing”

There’s something about the number five . . .

It’s been a significant numeral over the course of human history. The number five is the foundation of some of the earliest known mathematics, and it continues to exert an influence as a prime number, a circular number, and a cornerstone of geometry. Every religious and occult group from the early Hindus up through the Illuminati have given the number five a place of primacy in their mysticism — five is the number of Man (humankind), the number for Mars and Active Energy, the day that God is said to have created the animals, the Pentateuch of the Torah, and the number of Principles or Maxims or Laws in a wide range of belief systems (those wacky Discordians even promote the Law of Fives, which states that “All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or multiples of fives, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to five”). The five-pointed star is an ancient symbol that has known a cornucopia of meanings in its time, and is the most common feature on the flags of the world today. Five is also a number that appears everywhere in organic life, and certainly in the human body — five fingers, five toes, five senses.

It seems that something like the fifth anniversary of PopMatters should be a momentous occasion, something to shout about and celebrate as weighty and meaningful, a milestone of, if not epic, then at least grand proportions. But how? According to marriage tradition, five years is the wood anniversary, while modern trendsetters have assigned silverware as the proper gift. Neither of these seem particularly appropriate to an online magazine of global culture.

So instead, PopMatters is taking this opportunity to look back over the last five years and reflect on where we started, where we’ve been, and how far we’ve come. In order to mark the moment, we’re also presenting a short list of Editors’ Picks from each section of the site; pieces collected from five years of the sharp, incisive writing that has been the hallmark of the PopMatters standard.

After five years, the magazine has seen the publication of over 12,000 articles, reviews, interviews, and columns, and has watched the readership grow from small numbers of Internet cognoscenti to upwards of 750,000 monthly visitors from around the globe. Not bad for a site that began as the singular vision of its founder, Sarah Zupko, and was built from the ground up by her dedication and drive, without corporate sponsorship or financial backing.

In the intervening years, the scope of PopMatters has expanded to match the vision of its initial goal. While music and movie reviews have been the backbone of the magazine since its formation, PopMatters has steadily grown to encompass more and more of the cultural sphere: adding book, concert, comics, game, DVD/video, and television reviews; expanding its columns into a diverse range of topics that span everything from music journalism to political commentary; developing regular sections like interviews and sports; and producing timely and insightful special features. While an English language publication, PopMatters covers cultural products and identities the world over, including regional topics from Latin American to Asia and a broad spectrum of ethnic issues.

All of this would be nice but unremarkable if we were merely speaking into a void. But the fact is, cultural producers are paying attention, the journalism industry is watching, and the readers (and consumers) are reading. Our writers are turned to for expert opinion by other media outlets, our reviews are regularly cited in press kits, and readers frequently respond to pieces directly, moved to personally reply to commentary they either praise or refute.

None of this would be possible without the dedication and hard work of an excellent staff of writers. PopMatters is truly a labor of love, and in the past five years the magazine has been fortunate enough to include pieces by an amazing array of talent. Each and every writer has invested their time and effort towards making PopMatters a source of quality commentary and critical opinion, and as increasingly influential as the magazine’s name may be, it’s truly built on the strength of its community of contributors.

In honor of our writers, and as a way of patting ourselves on the back for five years of hard work and great writing, we’re offering the Editors’ Picks linked below. The editorial staff of PopMatters has chosen these pieces as a sampling of what the magazine has to offer in its scope, diversity, and quality.

And PopMatters continues to grow. As we stretch out into another five years, the magazine is still looking to the horizon for new ways to expand and bring readers more quality writing on global cultures from more perspectives. Watch this space! There’s always something new around the corner, and there are always the same quality reviews and analysis waiting for you here, with new content five days a week. Taking a moment to look back to the past can be both enlightening and rewarding, especially when it encourages us to look forward to the future.

Five Years of PopMatters Editors’ Picks

If there is one thing that is more difficult, more taxing, and even more painful than the ubiquitous year-end Top 10 list, it’s asking a dedicated editorial staff to pick out highlights from the archives of their sections. Every piece worked on becomes something invested in, something to be proud of when it’s perfected and published. Each writer offers something different and integral to the teams we work hard to build, and selecting one or another leaves us with the dreaded feeling of being the wicked step-mother, leaving a perfectly wonderful Cinderella behind. For every example of great writing or insight in “Article X”, there seems to be a dozen other possibilities that also beg for attention. It’s subjectively impossible to compile a “Best of PopMatters”.

So in order to bring you a list of featured pieces that display the wide range of talents, voices, and ideas to be found in the pages of PopMatters, we’ve asked the editors to pick pieces from every area of the site, not just their own, with the express condition that the selections be a representative sample of what PopMatters has to offer in its scope, diversity, and quality. For each of these there are hundreds of similarly worthy pieces cataloged in the archives and being published daily. While the articles listed here are presented to give an overview of what PopMatters has been during the last five years, you’re highly encouraged to explore any and all of the works in our archives, where you’re guaranteed to find the same level of high quality reviews, essays, and interviews.

Additionally, if you’ve been checking in to PopMatters primarily to read up on the one subject that really interests you — to get an opinion on that hot new CD, or find out what the critics are saying about that funky movie you keep hearing about — and you’ve overlooked some of the other sections in the past, then this is your chance to discover the whole range of topics that PopMatters covers.

In each of the sections to follow, you’ll find the writers of PopMatters tackling the cultures of the world head-on, working to shine a light on how we, as people, engage and interact with the products of a global information society. Collectively, we subscribe to no one theory, no singular political or methodological ideology. We are simultaneously investigative and interpretive, personally expressive and communally inclusive, intelligent and entertaining. In short, the collected works of PopMatters reflect the cultures the magazine examines, proving them to be diverse, complex, challenging, and always worthy of a closer look.


Wednesday, December 1 2004

Five Years of PopMatters: Features

The center column of the site. The first thing you see when you open PopMatters. The large picture. The splashy headline. The Features section is where some of the most interesting and broad topics in the PopMatters array wind up.

Five Years of PopMatters: Columns

PopMatters cultivates smart writers/smart thinkers from the world-at-large. Our staff ranges from the multiple-degreed and/or world-traveled, to young writers of high caliber, to "seasoned" folks who punch the 9-5 clock, regardless of what type of degree, if any, they may hold.

Five Years of PopMatters: Interviews

PopMatters endeavors to bring its readers interviews with those groups and individuals responsible for producing some of the most interesting work in contemporary culture, from the famous to those working on the fringes

Five Years of PopMatters: Music

For five years now, PopMatters has endeavored to expand the critical perspective on music. Taking full advantage of the Internet as a medium, PopMatters treats artist features, album reviews, and interviews as equally deserving of in-depth analysis.

Five Years of PopMatters: Concerts

Our crew works hard to bring PopMatters readers excellent reporting on the experience of seeing musicians ply their craft on stage. The tours they cover are often the names on the lips of critics everywhere, and our writers cut through the hype to present objective and analytical observations that expose weaknesses and uphold strengths.

Five Years of PopMatters: Film

For the last five years, PopMatters has provided smart, literate film reviews, informative interviews, and insightful features that combine a knowledge of film history, cultural issues, and a sense of film as both an art form and an entertainment industry.

Five Years of PopMatters: Television

Television continues to be a captivating window into our world, for better or for worse, and throughout all these shifts and events, PopMatters has worked to keep readers informed of what's going on in the strange universe of the boob tube.

Five Years of PopMatters: Comics

While sometimes we may touch on the inner workings of the industry in order to emphasize a point or analyze how it affects a particular work, this isn't our primary concern. Instead, we focus on evaluating the work in a larger context, and trying to help develop the small but growing realm of intelligent comics commentary.

Five Years of PopMatters: Multimedia

One of PopMatters' youngest sections, Multimedia is an area coming into its own. Video games are a strong industry in the world of consumer products, and games for consoles, computers, and arcades continue to drive much of the development in interactive technologies.

Five Years of PopMatters: Sports

Recognizing that it's never "just a game", PopMatters Sports delves deeper than the glossy magazines and highlight reels of your typical sports coverage.

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