Finding the SPARC —

Editor’s Letter : October 2017


It’s deep into October and apologize for the tardiness of this Editor’s Letter. It’s been a busy month that’s focused a lot on the strategic side of MAEKAN. In the original design of MAEKAN, we envisioned sections dedicated to news and links. As you’re aware, MAEKAN is largely devoid of news, but we’ve picked up the discussion again.


Some important things we’ve been thinking about include whether news fits the brand and could we do it better than how it’s being done now. At the beginning, we could not make a sustainable commitment to the sheer manpower required to keep up with the many publications doing news—and often only news. We instead focused on deeper stories and editorials, things that weren’t aggregated and that could help us stand out.


We also were incredibly honest with ourselves and at the time, it felt like we didn’t have a perspective that could offer real value in an already noisy media world. Almost a year has passed since launch, and the role that news plays for us and how we want to approach it differently is becoming clear. The everyday MAEKAN experience is something we want to build upon. And although it does currently exist primarily through the Slack community, beyond that, our growing platform isn’t moving fast enough to play a role in creative culture.


We found ourselves having insights into new developments or simply wanting to contribute to highlighting positive or relevant moments in creative culture. This isn’t to say we intend to scale back our audio stories, one of our biggest assets. It’s simply acknowledging that they, like any quality work, take an incredible amount of effort and time.


From the pre-production to crafting the story arc, and the eventual sound design, you can’t snap your fingers and expect to have something you’re proud of. After taking stock of everything, it became clear what MAEKAN wanted to achieve — and could achieve — on the news front. This was partially validated by great feedback we received from the members-only MAEKAN Briefing newsletter.


One thing that wasn’t lost on us with the idea of editorializing the news. Typically, news is meant to be objective, and we leave it to the reader to decipher whether or not something is valid. But several things came up that led us to push against this. Firstly, we concluded that believing that journalism is always inherently objective is a flawed assumption; the facts and information are only part of the equation. Second, the very acts of highlighting or excluding something represent subjective editorial decisions in themselves.


Last and most importantly, for media companies, a point-of-view is as crucial as the content they create. This is especially true for a media start-up that doesn’t possess years of brand foundation. So how best to make our small but growing voice heard among the crowd? We got particular. After a few discussions and thought exercises, as a team, we identified key criteria for selecting newsworthy and actionable things.


Some letter rearranging resulted in the snappy but slightly cheesy acronym S-P-A-R-C or “SPARC.”

  • Simple: The overview and presentation should be simple. We’ve unabashedly looked to Axios for inspiration on how to summarize and simplify complex events in an engaging way.
  • Purpose: Does this piece have a purpose for our members?
  • Angle: Are we angling it in a way that goes beyond just a general overview? Can we narrow in on the most important piece of this?
  • Relevance: If we don’t care about this, how can we expect others to care?
  • Context: Can we take stock of all the information and create context behind it? What does this look like in practice?


We’re currently revisiting some design and layout changes to best facilitate this. Our mission remains, in our audio stories or the news to come, we’ll be working to ensure our audience comes away with a greater understanding of the big movements and issues that surround us. Context will forever be king. Without it, we endure the difficult task of figuring out the same problem with each passing generation. Until next month,

Eugene Kan


Eugene talks about our recent strides with reinvigorating our creative processes and continuing to move forward, even as the challenges we sought to solve and the world around us continue to evolve.