Media Headliner: Why Rowan reckons Wired UK's time has come

As its editor, David Rowan, prepares for Wired's second launch, he tells Anne Cassidy why he feels the UK is now ready for it.

In the not-too-distant future, we'll be driving cars that can read our mood and eating burgers made from meat grown in a laboratory. So go the predictions of a distinguished panel of futurists and experts, including Sirs Martin Sorrell and Norman Foster, in the first issue of Wired magazine, which is out in April.

David Rowan, the magazine's editor, is sitting in his office flicking through a dummy copy of the first issue looking for interesting titbits he can divulge before publication. Another unnerving forecast from the esteemed jury is that humans will be having electro sex with orgasmatrons by 2019. "I can't tell you if Martin Sorrell has it booked," Rowan says, with a grin.

One thing that Rowan would like to clear up before launch, is any ill-conceived notion that Wired is about gadgets. "We've banned the word gadget," he proclaims. Apparently, also under consideration for an injunction is that other dreaded g-word, "geek".

The former Guardian Online editor, who throughout his journalistic career has written and broadcast extensively on the subject of technology and trend-watching, is impassioned by his new job at Wired: a magazine about new ideas, innovation and the future.

Rowan is having trouble curbing his obsession with American magazines. He admits to hoarding hundreds of copies of Vanity Fair, US Harpers and The New Yorker in vertiginous piles in his bathroom at home.

His magazine collection is indicative of the American documentary style of journalism Rowan wants for Wired, something he believes will set it apart on the newsstand. "There is not very much long-form journalism in British magazines. Our newspaper culture has been more thriving, and so I think talented journalists have tended to go to newspapers," he says.

The US influence doesn't stop there. Wired in the US has had great success since Conde Nast bought the title in 1998. It has won several awards, and its articles have led to books and even films - one of its features was recently optioned by Steven Spielberg.

Wired in the UK, which has an 11-strong editorial team compared with the US Wired's 45, has a lot to aspire to. Rowan is confident: "We're quite excited to be striving to those standards. Which means we are a demanding bunch of bastards to write for."

He explains that while the magazine will be similar in format to the US edition and its stories will be global, the voice will be a bit more British. "There'll be more wit, a certain scepticism here and there, and heroes from Europe that wouldn't necessarily make it into the US edition," he says.

But we have been here before. Before Conde Nast bought the title, Rowan's former employer Guardian News & Media was involved in the ultimately doomed first launch of Wired in the UK. The magazine lasted just under two years, and the venture fell apart in 1997 when GN&M and the US publisher Wired Ventures fell out.

Rowan believes that the ownership problem wasn't the only factor in the title's demise, however. "It was very early, not many people had e-mail addresses or a mobile phone. It was talking about a culture which still hadn't quite arrived," he explains.

While Wired is launching into a different scene today, where virtually everyone is online and networking, blogging and Twittering at a rate of knots, its launch team will encounter the small matter of the global economic meltdown.

You could argue that Wired, which has a target circulation of 50,000, couldn't have picked a worse time to launch. But Rowan is adamant this is not the case. He believes that there are advantages to a recession: one being that nobody will launch opportunistically against a title. Also, when the economy does revive, advertisers tend to flock to a strong brand.

Advertisers will want to invest in Wired, he believes, because the title speaks to a demographic that is very hard to locate: "We are talking to people who either are chief executives or who want to be the chief executive, who are impatient to get hold of info that will benefit them and their businesses, but also want quality."

The advertising industry may also take more than a passing interest in the content. As well as Sorrell prophesising on the future of advertising (he predicts online ads will constitute one-third of the market in five to ten years), leading figures such as The Independent editor, Roger Alton, and Omnicom Media Group's Colin Gottlieb will be revealing what media they'd invest $100 million in today.

Rowan, who before taking up the role at Wired was the editor of The Jewish Chronicle, welcomed the opportunity work at Conde Nast, a company which, he believes, has a genuine passion for the magazine.

And Conde Nast is confident Rowan will deliver. Nicholas Coleridge, the managing director of Conde Nast, says: "David has exceptional knowledge of everything tech and modern, plus a real old- fashioned nose for a good story."

Gill Morgan, the editor of The Times Magazine, where Rowan worked as a columnist, praises his unflinching drive for perfection: "He applies a rigour and a doggedness to whatever subject he's tackling: he once did a big story for us on the development and marketing of Bratz dolls, and he approached it as if it were Watergate."

This drive and perfectionism, not to mention Wired's intention to publish long-form articles, should differentiate the title on newsstands and provide enough initial buzz for advertisers to support.


Age: 43

Lives: Hampstead, North London

Family: Wife Sarah Harris, novelist; children Claudia, Joe and Charlie

Prediction: Consumers and advertisers will pay a premium for media outlets with mind-stretching and career-enhancing content

Most treasured hi-tech possession: My Asics Gel-Nimbus running shoes. MacBook Pro

Favourite media: US Wired, New Yorker, Good Magazine, Make, World Service, the less self-satisfied bits of Radio 4, any TV by David Simon, Channel 4 News, Spotify

Thing you can't live without: My 422 RSS feeds and my bicycle

Motto: "I told you it wasn't worth worrying"