A Mattress Company is Launching Its Own Print Magazine

We thought print was dying, but apparently it’s just going to sleep

Online mattress retailer Casper has already branched out into pillows, sheets, and bed frames. Now it’s taking the obvious next step: a $12 print periodical.

The magazine, Woolly, describes its first issue as “96 pages of first-person essays, satirical service journalism, advice columns, and original artwork.” Unlike Casper’s now-shuttered previous digital publication, Van Winkle’s, the company’s new foray into creating content instead of comfort is a little less obvious in scope. Where Van Winkle’s focused on all things sleep, Woolly is branded as “a curious exploration of comfort, wellness, and modern life.” Do we need a 96-page quarterly glossy about coziness? Well listen, I mean, do we need a magazine on modern farmers? Do we need Paris reviewed?

Casper is not exactly the obvious choice for literary sponsorship. I guess one could argue that bed is a great place to read, but Casper is very much a podcast-ad kind of company; it’s like Blue Apron starting a food publication, or MailChimp launching a scientific journal of primatology. But scrape away the “hipster mattress” ethos (full disclosure: I have a Casper), and what you find is kinda just… a magazine. One of the editors came over from Van Winkle’s, and the other one has a list of writing and editing credits as long as your nightshirt. Apparently the print mag also got a boost from the team behind McSweeney’s. Whatever else Woolly may be, it’s editorially legit.

Casper isn’t the only company pivoting to content. At this point, it’s an actual trend, at least convincing enough for the New York Times (sponsor: Uber). MEL Magazine, a men’s interest online publication, is a project of razor subscription service Dollar Shave Club. Gay dating app Grindr has a new online magazine called Into. Airbnb has a travel mag, and so does luggage company Away. At first glance, it seems like one step above sponcon, a cross between a vanity project and a sub rosa advertising wing. Why pay for an article when you can buy the whole content machine?

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But the thing is, these mags aren’t half bad! (Full disclosure: I have friends who work at MEL and Into, but at least one of them I would definitely insult if I had to do so for integrity.) I read a couple things on Woolly and they’re well-written and fun. It doesn’t feel like a retail company blundering into the world of publishing, like a compressed Casper mattress bursting out of its cardboard box. It feels like some people who just wanted to make a good magazine found a way to get the money it takes to do so. In other words, if you work in books or media or any kind of writing-related industry, it feels like someone’s living the dream.

Yes, on the face of it, a Casper magazine sounds absurd, even a little insulting to all the struggling legacy print mags — except, oops, most of those were started by eccentric bazillionaires who got a bunch of money from TV or bakeries or Plimptoning or whatever and felt like throwing it down a hole anyway. Maybe the thing that will save print, where advertising failed, is pure patronage. All I’m saying is, if Tesla comes calling, Electric Lit will pick up the phone.

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