‘Lorem Ipsum’ is the Only Newsletter You Need in Your Inbox

A deep dive into the cultural diary of Margot Boyer-Dry

We’re back with another Member Spotlight, because our members are FRIGGIN’ AWESOME and always worth bragging about!
This week, I’m thrilled to bring you the fantastic conversation I had with Margot Boyer-Dry, the creator of Lorem Ipsum, AKA your new favorite newsletter. And if your inbox is jammed, clear some space: this is definitely one worth subscribing to.
No one really has the energy to sift through the endless cycle of “content” that makes up our modern media environment, let alone make sense of it. Margot does the heavy lifting for us, drawing connections between trends in music, food, design, and tech to form a 3x-weekly snapshot of the zeitgeist. It’s honest, insightful, and delightful to read .
Get on the list now, and then check out our conversation below:

How long ago did you start Lorem Ipsum, Margot?

I’ve been doing this about two and a half years; for its first year it was just a side project. For a while it was just me, and six months ago I teamed up with my business partner, Tom. He’s been so helpful accelerating the operation — he’s really good operationally, so it’s nice to be allowed to sink into the creative side a little bit more.

And how exactly did you get started with it?

I’d been running marketing at a media startup called Poncho at Betaworks in Meatpacking. That’s where I learned to grow an audience.

Meanwhile, in my free time, I was reading a lot of the internet and feeling really lame about it. I’ve always been a media fiend, so I’d spend time clicking around, sometimes to wonderful long-form profiles and reviews or satire, but way more to Top Ten lists that promised some totally different thing in the headline. Some of these sites are so good at click optimizing that their headlines don’t indicate what the actual article is about. I thought, “I’d love a midpoint between the fluff and these wonderful pieces that take kind of a long time to read.”

So, I just started writing stuff down to see if people would care, then I asked thirty friends if I could send my observations to them. And after that I just kept writing — I wrote every day, five days a week for a year and a half — and I’d add people I met to the distribution list. The newsletter grew organically to a few hundred people — we’re now at over 100,000 — and over that time I figured out what I was doing, which, incidentally, is the only thing I’ve ever done:

I studied religion in college, and my degree was all about how social movements impact people’s day-to-day actions. Lorem Ipsum is doing the same thing; in it I ask, what are the social movements that are driving the stuff we do every day, like eating toast and listening to Chance the Rapper? So ultimately I settled on an editorial formula that investigates one cultural preoccupation per issue, through a series of four different touch points: a song, two current events, and an item.

And how do you see it growing from here?

We’re actually working on a new website right now. We’ve been using super blunt tools to grow: the only ways to share are literal word of mouth, or forwarding an email, which is kind of janky. So we’re building a new website that will enable us to host our own content, which means we can have sharing buttons in the email template. We’ve grown a lot without this stuff, so I’m excited to see what we can do when the content is able to distribute itself a little bit better. Also we might add more kinds of content down the line.

How do you figure out the theme of each letter? Do you think of it beforehand or does it manifest itself as you write?

It can happen in two ways. Most often I’ll live life, notice things, and mark what I’m noticing in a spreadsheet. Then I’ll sit down at some point during the week and figure out which things go together, and see if that brings up a new idea about the way that we’re processing our world. If so, sweet, that’s an issue, and I fill out the rest with a song and a tangible item that fit the theme.

Sometimes, I’ll be thinking about one thing that I really want to talk about. For instance, you guys published that article from Racked about how that new Hims company is basically Glossier for men, which I just don’t think is true. I was excited about a well-branded skincare company for men, thinking, “Sweet! We’re starting to hold men to the standard we hold women to.” Which is not out of left field — clothing is becoming more unisex, and some men are starting to care about skin care. I was pumped to confirm that, and then I realized that Hims basically just sells Millennial-branded Rogaine and Viagra, and no skincare products. So if we’re equating Hims and Glossier, that means that women’s main preoccupation is beauty, and men’s is still functional masculinity. That’s a total bummer. Point being, sometimes there’s one thing that I can build the rest around; sometimes that’s even a product we’re advertising that week.

How do you decide which products to advertise?

We try to only advertise for people who are doing something relevant and interesting. Blundstones, for example were born in 1870: not new, but are relevant in a new way because there’s this whole underground — “It takes one to know one” — club of people who wear them. The idea is that you can wear an ugly boot and still look cool — they’re super utilitarian and symbolic of the ironic ugly chic thing.

The whole outdoor / indoor, urban / rural fashion divide — like, everyone wears Carhartt now, we’re in Brooklyn, everyone loves it — was the theme today. Which is wild to me: one year ago today, we were all freaking out about how there are two Americas, and we didn’t know! And that we’re now, on the coasts, appropriating the fashion of that “other America” without a second thought is just mindblowing.

So that’s what Lorem Ipsum does: it presents all the things that are happening on the surface level in a really fun, digestible way, and then helps dig into the underlying social stuff that gives rise to those things in the first place.

What was the creative process behind that name?

So for anyone who doesn’t know, ‘Lorem Ipsum’ is typically used as placeholder text. Like, if you’re making a website and want to put text on it but don’t know what it’s going to say yet, you put ‘Lorem Ipsum dolor sit amet consecatur…’ (all of which is Latin gibberish) and use it to see what text looks like in that spot. It’ll change as soon as you have something conclusive to say.

I’d always wanted to make a clothing line called Lorem Ipsum, which I think is the funniest commentary on clothes, particularly if you think about us coming of age in Abercrombie culture — we’d just slap that logo on everything. To throw Lorem Ipsum on a shirt, or any piece of apparel is like saying, “Haha, all this fashion stuff is changing and anything I put on this shirt might not be relevant in five minutes! So I’m just gonna put this placeholder here and watch the world move.”

Lorem Ipsum had become my emblem for embracing the pace of change. So with the name and the newsletter, a lot of what I’m doing is chronicling culture the way you would in a personal diary, which is always really embarrassing to read back on. I think also the media also works that way. Sometimes reading an article from the 1980s makes you think, “Sheesh, I can’t believe we thought like this.” But also sometimes you’re like, “Oh, jeez, nothing has changed.”

So even though things change so quickly and reading about them in hindsight is embarrassing, it’s all worth writing it down. Lorem Ipsum to me is acknowledging that what I’m writing today will change, maybe by tomorrow, but this is where we are now, and this is going to be the placeholder until it changes again.

How do you go about curating the newsletter? At what point do you decide what goes in?

I don’t ever plan editorial more than a week out because it’s about now. If it fits a theme I’ve been thinking about, then it’ll go in; anything that’s a trend is usually a good starting place; sometimes ads are where I find content. If I think that a brand is trying to communicate with people, particularly young people, in an interesting way, that’s usually worth something.

Tell us about how you curate the music.

I make a big list of songs I like and then pull from that bucket as needed. Obviously I learn a lot from other curators too — who doesn’t? Big love to Bob Boilen over at NPR.

What’s some of your favorite music of late?

People loved the shit out of the new N.E.R.D. song. It was kind of pan-era — to me it sounded a lot like early Eazy-E business, and other people commented that it felt like some Big Freedia bounce. Some songs are totally timeless and I think Lemon is that, and it feels fresh for that reason.

Another person you should know is Yaeji. She’s 24, lives in BK, had a graphic design job and was also making music in her spare time; the correct people at Pitchfork and The Fader found out about her and now she’s this whole thing. She’s been having these shows in Bushwick where she serves Japanese curry to the whole crowd — sweet — and she kind of whisper-sing-raps in Korean, which sounds really beautiful. It’s also nice to have an East-Asian female be killing it in that space on that level. Also now’s just a really good time for lady rappers, like Young M.A., Little Simz, and Cardi B, and I’m grateful for that.

What’s a trend or a theme that you’ve written about that you’ve been especially fond of?

The issues that people like most are me just ruthlessly making fun of things, and those are also the most fun to write. This wasn’t that, but I really, really was into the Carhartt issue — and it’s been a long time coming. I just really liked thinking about the urban / rural theme because it’s so pervasive and there’s so many layers to dig into. Something so potentially vapid as shopping can tell you exactly where we are as a country, and that’s why I do this: to connect those dots.

That’s it for this week’s Member Spotlight. Make sure you subscribe to Lorem Ipsum for more of this sort of excellent insight into our weird world of cultural zeitgeist.

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