It's like Maxim magazine, but if it were written by third graders, was one of the first reactions overheard at a bar when the first remodeled issue of the Rochester Insider debuted last month. At first glance, very little has changed about the paper Œ they now have overhead pictures of the staff, reminding us of the 3-year-old trick of taking pictures of dogs from above their heads using a fish-eye lens. They also have video game reviews, just in case you're one of the 50 remaining people in Rochester without internet access to look them up yourself.
The biggest difference between the old Insider and the new Insider is their laughable attempts to be edgy. Their first attempt was on the cover of their Summer Festival issue, which featured a twentysomething woman fellating a popsicle. This issue was popular amongst Rochester's creepy old man population, but no one else really cared. The simulated blowjob only appeared on the cover, and there were no other graphic knob-polishings, real or fake, in the remainder of the issue. What a disappointment. A later issue featured a woman wearing an American Flag, which technically is improper treatment of the flag, but no one really raised an eyebrow, since we've all seen Rocky Balboa, Ron Kovic, and Larry Flynt wear them in the movies.
Soon, after receiving probably no more than 10 angry letters accusing them of exploiting women for profit (or losses, in their case), they started to sprinkle their articles with the dreaded 7 words you can't say on television. Hallelujah! The Insider staffers are no longer repressed by their corporate Gannett slavemasters! (Actually, this is a Gannett faux-alt stratagem, as evidenced by the story of a former writer for Gannett's now-defunct Buffalo Current who was fired for refusing to swear.) This strategy immediately backfired because bad writers just can't adapt from using cleaned up language to expressing their thoughts in more colorful verbs in just a week's time. Perhaps if the Insider hired good writers, this transition period would have been easier to overcome.
The most recent attempt to recoup the considerable millions sunk into the money pit that is The Rochester Insider occurred not within its pages but in its website. Last month, a free personal ad service was built into the website with the regrettable name meet market. This has actually coincided with a giant drop in web traffic for their website. Traffic-monitoring website alexa.com ranks the Insider's website as the 1,230,798th most visited website in the US, with a 66% drop in individual page views. For comparison, the BEAST's website ranks in 219,129th place. We're no google.com, but we're better than the Insider by a million. One theory we've heard was that The BEAST actually has great, hilarious and informative content, and people like to forward items to their friends in different parts of the world, while the Insider has a local personal ad website that will be filled with fake ads within a month. (As of this writing, however, there are five ads. Five.)
A cover story appeared in last week's Insider, promising its readers all of the secrets to surviving the online dating world, with a special focus on their meetmarket site. If this website remains the paper's focus, perhaps The Insider is an apt name for the paper, since people who use online dating services really don't get outside very much. The rest of us are meeting people in the real world.
The Rochester Insider seems to have high aspirations to be a local FHM or Maxim, but their path will be forever blocked. Major men's glossies have competent writing staffs, with decent jokes and pictures of beautiful women. Traits like not being funny, not being able to write, and using local models that look nothing like Jessica Alba are handicaps in that field.
We can only hope that the Insider eventually suffers the same fate as Current, and for the same reasons: the free weekly is the final frontier for media conglomerates bent on total market share domination, and the demographic which supports it knows when it's being pandered to by corporations in an effort to squeeze out the last vestiges of variety and independence in print media. That rep won't earn the Insider crew any good parking spaces, or visits to their website for that matter.