Thrillist.com is "a guys' guide to nightlife, bars, restaurants, services, and events" - or, more specifically, a Web site and e-newsletter network targeting that ever-elusive audience: college-educated, affluent males 21-34.
Jeff Miller, a pop-culture connoisseur, men’s magazine contributor, and Los Angeles native, has served as Thrillist’s LA editor since its launch in January 2007. He says the “always short, always funny” e-newsletters reach 20,000 guys every day.
PRWeek: The general consensus is that your audience is among the hardest to reach. Is that a challenge?
Jeff Miller: That’s kind of the appeal. Guys 21-35, out of college, they’re probably single, probably doing well financially -- they couldn’t find anything that was reaching them, something that would appeal to them. When Thrillist hired me, they asked if I knew of anything like it in LA, and I really didn’t. Nothing was really targeting Los Angeles dudes.
PRWeek: So what is it that connects with them?
Miller: It’s definitely something that’s fun, that’s a little different, that hasn’t been overly covered. A lot of times it’s something new, but doesn’t necessarily have to be if it’s been underground for a while. In terms of fashion, in LA it’s generally very wearable, and something with some sort of a twist. There are two things that come to mind: One is a line of shirts that commissioned Jimi Hendrix’s drawings. When I was pitched that, that was unquestionable, that was very Thrillist. The other one was a line of shirts with a lining of copper, so that they off-set the smell of the sweat [from] the men who were wearing them. Again, this [was] perfect because this was something that was really unusual but it was useful: There is an added element to it, because guys are stinky. In terms of restaurants it really varies, from a $5 taco stand to a $50 hamburger. I want to know why a guy would eat there, [and] I want to know why it’s different and unusual enough that it stands apart from somewhere else.
PRWeek: Where does Thrillist fall in relation to traditional men’s magazines?
Miller: With my background, I certainly have a major affinity for [men’s magazines]. And I think there are a lot of things offered there in terms of long-form journalism. But I think that there’s a lot of competition now in terms of getting things in print. And you’re seeing things across the board in terms of traditional publications trying to figure out a way to fit in, with Internet publications kind of leading the way that people are getting information.
PRWeek: But you’re still a journalist. You just practice a different kind of journalism, right?
Miller: There’s tons of different kinds of journalism. When I was writing about celebrities, I knew that I was in a different kind of job than the person who was writing about homicide on the streets of LA. But I think both are “real.” If you’re looking for actual information about something, and putting it together in a way that excites the reader – and making sure, obviously, that your facts are right, and that you’re giving people information that’s actually valid and true – there’s no real difference between writing for something that’s virtual and online and writing something for print, other than what the assignment is. My assignment everyday is to come up with 250 word recommendations for a guy who’s around my age, something that they’ll think is great. And that’s a very different kind of assignment than writing 10,000 words about a power struggle in the Middle East. But both of them are forms of journalism.
PRWeek: What is your experience working with PR professionals?
Miller: I am the kind of person who loves dealing with publicists. I know that some journalists see it as kind of necessary, [but] I’m not one of those people. I’m all about making personal contact with people, and going out with people and trying to maintain a personal relationship because I feel like it’s the only way to really find out about the cool stuff. And publicists generally know about the cool stuff, whether or not it’s something that they’re representing … The publicists for the city of Marina del Rey, we went out to dinner and we were trying to figure out something that would work [for Thrillist]. They mentioned a boat called the Mermaid that’s a rental party boat that looks basically like Gilligan’s Island; it’s got tiki torches and all this stuff. Immediately I said, ‘That’s it – we could totally do this.’ Even though it wasn’t directly what they were representing, they were happy to do it because it was in the Marina, and we mention Marina in the story. And that never would have happened had it just been getting an e-mail from somebody. It was totally about making that personal contact.
PRWeek: Have you had any negative experiences?
Miller: The thing that really bothers me, it mostly happens with restaurants … if we’re talking about having coverage of a restaurant, I’d much rather be told [the publicist has] offered somebody else the exclusive. I’d rather not go on a wild goose chase for something that’s not going to happen. I’d like to know that it’s not going to happen so I move on, rather than be led on for weeks or even months at a time before I realize that they’re doing it to three or four different publications, and basically I have to kill a story that I’ve been working on for a long time.
PRWeek: Where does Thrillist fit in a world in which people may already have too much information?
Miller: I think it’s crazy how much information is out there. It’s insane. But I think that the key is that there’s places that filter, and give people things that they can read and they can trust. And that’s kind of the future of it: There needs to be somebody to take in the wide and make it narrow … For us, that’s kind of how we look at it. Thrillist is a trusted filter for what’s becoming a really large group of guys, to let them know the best of what’s out there. That’s something I’m pretty proud of.