Design November 18, 2014
by Brett McKenzie
On Wednesday, November 12, the European Space Agency’s Philae lander accomplished an incredible feat of engineering and a first for humankind: touching down on the surface of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
Thanks to Kim Kardashian, they probably wished they picked November 11 to land.
On the eve of the launch of the latest issue of PAPER magazine (yes, the one with Kim Kardashian’s famous posterior showcased on the cover) ADC sat down with Kim Hastreiter — co-founder of PAPER and ADC Board Member — and chatted about how the now iconic cover came to be, and what the entire experience means.
Before we talk about Kim Kardashian’s ass, how did the idea of “breaking the internet” come into existence?
Well every year PAPER does an art issue, and this year our CCO Drew Elliot our Editorial Director Mickey Boardman came to me with idea of breaking the internet for this particular issue. They said they thought they could get Kim Kardashian for our cover — admittedly an unusual choice for PAPER. In this context, however, it really made sense.
The goal was to make every single page of the issue viral, and tie it back to our site, by releasing all sorts of content on the same day. And we weren’t going to be writing much about the people. We just wanted to create some kind of insanity.
Our team made lists of all sorts of people that could partner with us in that goal, and Kim was the perfect person for our cover. She has more than 25 million Twitter followers and 21 million Instagram followers, so she’d be perfect.
So what was the plan with Kim?
Kim was very interested in the “break the internet” theme, but we didn’t just want to shoot Kim; that wouldn’t be anything. And so we had the idea to pair her up with Jean-Paul Goude, the photographer who has been famously obsessed with asses.
I guess that’s who you’d go to in order to shoot Kim…
Jean-Paul is one of my heroes. He was discovered by George Lois (another hero) and they worked together at Esquire in the 1960s. The two of them were my biggest inspiration for starting PAPER to begin with.
I wrote Jean-Paul many fan letters in the 1980s when PAPER was just starting out. He eventually began shooting covers for us and collaborating with us, and we became very good friends. And so when this opportunity came up, I thought “Kim Kardashian and Jean-Paul Goude, what a perfect thing.” Drew and Mickey made it all happen during Paris Fashion Week.
In the meantime, we met other people who would be featured in this issue, We met the Fat Jew, whose philosophy revolves around just how crazy the internet is. We brought in teen heartthrob Cameron Dallas, we brought in Tim and Eric, we brought in James Franco, we brought in the drag queens who worked to make Facebook change its real-name policies. We brought in all of these people, all of whom have large and disparate followings, and created all of this content to be released all on the same day.
Well, everything except Kim Kardashian, that is.
We released the Kardashian photos early. They were so hot that we thought we would put them out on the internet before we even sent them to the printer, for fear that they would be leaked. We released the covers on the evening of November 11, one with champagne that was based on Jean-Paul’s famous photo from the 1970s, and the other one with the bare behind that wouldn’t be allowed on the newsstands. 48 hours later, after we released the other two images Goude did — one of which was a full frontal nude of Kim — there we were with more than 15 million unique visitors to our site, which is incredible for our site, which usually has 750k per month, for PAPER itself, a small magazine that I started out of my apartment.
“They were so hot that we thought we would put them out on the internet before we even sent them to the printer, for fear that they would be leaked.”
We did plan for this, however. We bought extra server space to handle the web traffic. Our Google Analytics crashed before we did.
The attention has been good for our advertisers as well. We had promised our partner Hewlett-Packard 4 million pages views, but in the first two days we gave them 24 million page views! Happy, happy!
We have already sold thousands copies of the printed magazine, and copies were even popping up on eBay, even before they went to print on Saturday. It’s insanity!
Your servers, your own website held up, but the plan is to break the rest of the internet. So how’d it go?
It’s been crazy! People are holding up balloons to their butts and taking pictures. Agencies and companies are falling over themselves to parody the photos for their brands, all in the spirit of our idea of “breaking the internet”. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art — the Met!!! — got in on it! And all we did was put it on Twitter and Instagram.
And wow, that was even before we put the frontal pics out there.
But people still want print. They want something they can hold, they want something they can collect, something beautiful, something smart, something amazing.
But when all is said and done, your name is PAPER. You’re a magazine. Print is dead, no?
KH: Print is not dead. Newspapers, magazines, anything in that form that is expected to be timely, that’s dead. That’s over as a business model. Advertisers won’t support it.
But people still want print. They want something they can hold, they want something they can collect, something beautiful, something smart, something amazing. If you can achieve that, and we believe we have done this at PAPER, you can not only survive, but grow.