Good to the Last Flop

Will new e-zine celebrating Failure succeed in spite of itself?

What's so bad about failure, really?

Botching, blundering, bungling, blowing it, bollixing it.

Faltering, flunking, fumbling, flopping.

Nothing. Not a damn thing.

In fact, only people over 40 (careful, there), or maybe over 50, see failure as an embarrassment.

Those who are living the young, fast-paced turnover of the new dot-com world know that failures are just the building blocks for the yellow-brick road to an IPO Emerald City. Others embrace their parents' definition of failure, just looking for peace and love and happiness in the form of low stress, good music, good friends and a soft beer buzz.

Jason Zasky, Michael Hollingsworth and company are counting on failure to make them a big success.

On Monday, July 17, they plan to launch an online publication called Failure magazine at failuremag.com. Zasky, a 30-year-old musician, magazine editor and freelance writer from New York who is the e-zine's CEO, bills it as a media first.

"We're out to put all things failure all in one place, which no one has done before," he says. They will mine the arts, entertainment, business, science, technology, history and sports.

His goal is to entertain people with stories of amazing boo-boos (our word, not his; he is admittedly Very Serious about his venture and mustered only his one funny line, repeated in his press materials, that he "saw a failure in his future" when his cousin came up with the idea in 1996. But maybe his funny bone is a wee tired; he's been working 18-hour days, seven days a week for six weeks.)

Zasky stopped for lunch to hawk some PR on his way to Tucson to meet with Hollingsworth, whose Web design company, AIDM (Absolute Image Design Manufacturing), is designing and operating the site.

All you'll find at the site now is a little tease, with a moving stick man who builds the word "failure," letter by cumbersome letter, only to . . . well, you know.

What the site will offer at its inauguration are stories such as the tale of Moe Norman, the greatest golfer in the world. Not "The Shark." Moe. Few Americans have heard of him because the record-holding Canadian has lived a reclusive life in Florida after spending one torturous year on the PGA tour in the United States in the 1950s. But with an autistic-like aversion to the interpersonal requirements of playing in tournaments, he quit. Pro golfers know who he is; his unusual swing was calculated recently by a physicist as theperfect arc for a golf swing, says Zasky, clearly proud of having scored time with Norman for an interview.

Yet Norman never had a phone, and until recently, never had a bank account. The Rain Man of golf. A failure. Zasky's favorite so far.

Zasky also managed to snare Steve Wozniak, who holds his nose when he talks about mainstream press, to discuss Apple computer's infamous failure, not just its resurrection.

The e-zine's monthly updates will include a column by Robert McMath, a consumer product consultant who is the proud curator of 80,000 products stored in his New Products Showcase and Learning Center in Ithaca, New York. For 30 years, he has chronicled the demise of such marketing brain cramps as Clairol's Touch of Yogurt shampoo and American Kitchen's I Hate Peas -- vegetables shaped like French fries so kids would scarf them down.

McMath's book, What Were They Thinking?, is in its second printing, and he says he knows people have a fascination, as well as utilitarian interest, in failures, or he couldn't have made a career of them. He advises clients all over the world who want to make sure they don't repeat previous fiascoes.

But he hasn't really analyzed failuremag.com as a new product -- perhaps it will have to prove its way into his showcase first, as either a boner or a blockbuster.

"Hopefully the guy is going to be successful," McMath says. "A lot of it depends on what kind of exposure he gets in getting people to read it the first time."

The site will be highly interactive, with its most innovative idea the "bombsite," which will poll visitors on which of 15 upcoming movies they absolutely will not see and why. Failuremag.com will predict the bombs before they even arrive at theaters.

Merchandise is also ready to roll -- hats, tee shirts, lots of stuff with the failure insignia, and early market research indicates people in their 20s will snatch it up, Zasky says.

The target audience is 20 to 40, with a special emphasis on college kids, Zasky says. He hopes to find co-sponsors to brand the site on campuses. And who will want to advertise and "co-brand" or be the cover story for failure?

Zasky says most people get what he's trying to do, but not everyone can be so hip. Airlines, for example, couldn't stand even a whiff of failuremag.com, even for a positive story.

Zasky was either intentionally vague or just not fully organized yet on his marketing plans, but several advertising and marketing agencies say his idea could work.

Steve Klein, president of Creative Dept. Inc. of Scottsdale, pointed out that New Times doesn't quite jell with some advertisers, but others go nuts for us. You gotta have a niche.

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