MEDIA PROFILE: Relationship between science and pop culture blooms in Seed

While Seed's goal of bringing science into the mainstream will please PR pros, the pitches that make the editors happy are those displaying research of subject and magazine content.

While Seed's goal of bringing science into the mainstream will please PR pros, the pitches that make the editors happy are those displaying research of subject and magazine content.

Geek chic has moved into the mainstream and found its bible. Seed, the newest addition to the science-magazine forum, looks more like Details than Discover, and describes itself as a hybrid of Vanity Fair and Scientific American. Its mission is to break down the barriers between pop culture and science, to acknowledge that physics, chemistry, and genetics are inextricably related to politics, Wall Street, sex, and the arts. Samir Husni of Mr. Magazine, an online magazine review and database, says, "Where science magazines lack general interest and buzz and where culture magazines lack science substance is where Seed picks up, informing, updating, and always searching beneath the surface." Seed launched in late 2001 under the direction of privately backed publisher and editor-in-chief Adam Bly. The precocious 21-year-old Canadian is a self-described "atypical scientist," interested in breaking down stereotypes of scientists as pocket-protector-clad misfits, showing that, like him, many are media savvy and actively involved in pop culture. In the fall issue's editorial, Bly says, "Science is not a separate culture. And those who do science, those who influence science, and those who consume science, are not reflected in the common stereotype. We promise to reposition science as a dynamic, attractive, and integral part of pop culture. In the process, we'll rebrand science. We will spotlight the rainmakers who are shaping science, and we promise to make them celebrities in their own right." Seed readers have lived up to Bly's lofty expectations. According to subscriber analysis, they are educated, affluent, young professionals. They are split almost in half in terms of gender (54% are male), and have a median age of 33. Ninety-eight percent are college-educated, 47% are single, and the median household income is $120,000. The pass-along rate is 4.2 readers per copy, and the rate base is 175,000 copies, 25,000 of which is a foreign audience. The quarterly magazine plans to go from four issues per year to six starting in January, and has a lead time of about one month. In October of this year, the offices moved from Bly's native Montreal to New York, and hired several new staff members. Current editorial contributors include Salon senior writer Damien Cave, The New York Times' science policy correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett, and James Watson, who won the Nobel prize for co-discovering the double helix structure of DNA. Because it has such a small staff, most of Seed's content comes from its prestigious freelancers, and editors rarely, if ever, see PR pitches. But that doesn't mean that certain sections aren't open to them. Editors, headed up by associate editor Laura McNeil, look for an intersection of science with the rest of pop culture, a strong sense of the magazine's modern, provocative tone, and a focus on people (but not in the "human interest" sense). They ask contributors to demonstrate that they are a part of the scientific dialogue (hence the impressive list of writers), and that pieces be investigative and original. The current issue features stories about the play Proof, mathematicians falling in love, cloning legislation, ImClones' effect on Wall Street, and China's space program. The best sections to pitch, according to McNeil, are in the front of the book - especially the book review and event calendar pages. The Briefs section, containing short, witty bits about science culture news, is pitchable for those whose clients are involved in scientific activities. Recent briefs include Tony Blair's renewed commitment to scientifically informed policy, the acquittal of South Africa's apartheid "Doctor Death," controversy surrounding an Albert Einstein exhibit in China, and the marketing of an inflatable iceberg. The Arts section, with short reviews of gallery openings, exhibits, and shows is also a welcome section for pitches. "Science has become the muse for so many artists," McNeil says. Pitches are best sent to McNeil via e-mail (phone messages, faxes, and snail mail will not be accepted), and should be no longer than a page. Seed's editors also have very specific things they definitely don't look for. Editors will not publish the words "cutting edge," "tech," "digital," "new economy," "gadget," "quest," "discover," "art and science," or "scientists have recently...." The best candidates for pitches are people, events, and organizations, not products. Seed's specific place in the market has also placed restrictions on its content. As with any pitch, be sure to read the magazine - especially editorials and letters to the editor - to get better acquainted with the audience. Though they will write about some things biotech, editors place emphasis on the biology rather than the technology. Above all, stresses McNeil, do not pitch anything from Silicon Valley. "We don't do anything relating to tech," McNeil says. "That's what Wired is for." ------- Contact list Seed Address 95 Morton Street, New York, NY 10041 Phone (212) 905-3160 Web General inquiries Editor-in-chief Adam Bly Associate editor Laura McNeil

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