…or “Holy Crap, Luke – What the Hell Have You Done to TR?”
Well, we’ve given it a redesign with a lot more functionality and brought it fully into the age of mobile devices. The site is now responsive, and it showcases many more articles by category. It should be easier for those of you reading on tablets and phones to navigate, easier to search (by category, by author, and so on) and even easier on the eyes. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be rolling out a forum that will bring back some of the features you miss in our comments section. And at the very bottom of the page, we even have a link for you to directly report any technical issues (though fingers crossed you won’t need it).
Now, let me explain the name change.
Maybe, if I’m lucky, you’ll permit me to do so before I get the inevitable flood of emails from people angrily telling me this is the last straw, as I have finally, utterly ruined the site they used to love, pissed on its past, etc., etc. If tradition holds, people who haven’t been a part of our community for years will suddenly come back to announce their departure…again.
Firstly, I would never piss on this site’s past. If you follow us on social media, you already know that I use weekends to spotlight older posts that newer readers won’t have seen, but which still hold up. With this redesign, you will also be able to search for your favorite contributors more easily. Every Topless Robot post you’ve ever liked…is still here. I value our traditions, and I’m even going to read fanfics again.
I invite you to join me in a thought experiment. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that this site were called “Fuckface Robot.” It would be hilarious and make me smile every day, frankly. But consider the likelihood of Disney-owned Marvel ever, EVER being willing to Tweet something like, “Hey, check out the exclusive reveal of our brand new Secret Wars cover, thanks to our pals at FUCKFACE ROBOT.” You might understand the difficulty there.
“Topless” isn’t “fuckface,” but you wouldn’t necessarily know that by the way certain publicists and potential readers have reacted to it. It’s a loaded word, especially for women, and it has been hurting us in our attempts to reach out and get you the best content we possibly can. Lots or work and strategy goes on behind the scenes, besides my posting articles every day.
“So why did Rob never have a problem? He was better than you!”
I’m not going to argue about the second point, but as to the first, 2008 was a very different time, and Internet trends move fast. In 2008, the nerd corners of the Internet were hugely male-dominated, and movie-site-dominated — we had a good niche as an aggregator that brought together lovers of movies, comics, toys, video games, hideous erotic fantasies and all the rest. Nowadays, there’s a lot of competition in those niches, and I’m proud at how well we stack up against rival sites with larger editorial staffs. But the audience is more diverse, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, and while marketing ourselves with a name appealing primarily to young males was smart business when we launched in 2008, it’s less so now. I get it; I didn’t like when Badass Digest changed their name to Birth Movies Death. But I understand it. Controversial names get people shut out of event coverage and give people an easy excuse to ignore you. “Topless Robot” was a name calculated to draw in readers — and seven years later, we are recalculating. It gets exhausting explaining to some people that my site is not porn, and that it is part of Voice Media Group.
Which brings me to the second reason for the new name. Many of our competitors and colleagues in this space are owned by big companies: Birth Movies Death by Drafthouse, Nerdist by Legendary, Collider by Complex Media, io9 by Gawker, etc. We are and always have been the product of a company that is dedicated primarily to good writing, and we predate other major media companies in the game. We want to embrace and celebrate Voice Media Group’s larger tradition, which not only includes Rob Bricken, but also the likes of Manohla Dargis, Gustavo Arellano, Tony Ortega, Amy Nicholson and more.
Rest assured: The site’s content will not change. If somebody gets caught in an indecent pose with a Star Wars figure, we will not hesitate to bring it up. And once we iron out the kinks of this new style, as I said above, we’ll be adding a forum that I hope will have more functionality than the comments, and will definitely have more space to take things on random tangents, live-blog shows with fellow commenters, and the like. And whereas before you’d email me and I would email tech support, now issues will go directly to our support team.
There’s also a page of author bios that will be filled out in the days to come, and will make your favorite writers’ work searchable. If, for whatever reason, you only come here to read Jim Dandeneau, or Kyle LeClair, or anyone else, you’ll be able to dive into their archive with ease.
Change is scary. Hell, I have major butterflies right now. But it is also the future. I know not everybody will embrace it, but if you’ve stuck with me this long, you pretty much know what you’re getting, and love it or hate it, it is everything I have to give.