Wired publisher Howard Mittmann was present at Comic-Con to showcase the Wired Cafe. Credit: Getty Images
For six years running, Wired magazine has been giving media and entertainment professionals a respite from the insanity of Comic-Con with the Wired Cafe, an all-day lounge just removed enough from the Convention Center and packed with food, drink and gadgets galore. And in that time it's become one of the hotter tickets in town. We talked to Wired Publisher Howard Mittman about keeping the Cafe fresh — and just the right amount of weird.
Establishing yourself at Comic-Con: "We really thought long and hard about how to package and position ourselves here and whether or not we felt like we had the permission with our brand to be here and what we can contribute," Mittman says of the early days of Wired Cafe. "So noticing that everyone else was shouting over themselves at night, creating something of value and importance during the day to court those people who are all getting the exact same invitations after dark was a really nice way for use to stand out."
Giving the people what they want: "For us, the Wired Cafe has been an oasis in the middle of Comic-Con for what I like to say is the Five Percenters — the 5 percent of people here who aren't just fans but are the industry that propagates this, be it Hollywood or bloggers," he says. "I think a part of this experience is bringing just enough of what happens outside of our four walls in without allowing too much. I think also the level of exclusivity that it brings — intentionally putting a velvet rope up around it and making it so that it is someplace where only those whom we've invited can come in — keeps it special and keeps it something that has a bit of a gravitas above the traditional event here."
The Wired Cafe is an oasis in the desert that is Comic-Con. Credit: Wired
Establishing a reputation: "What we have seen over the last handful of years is that obviously as it gains in notoriety and gains in exposure and popularity, like anything it becomes easier to push out," Mittman says. "We've seen a huge shift, frankly, in the way that celebrities and more specifically their management teams and P.R. representatives are seeking us out to make sure they are on the list to be here, and that's a really nice change from six years ago when we launched it and we were trying to lure people, convincing them that it will be worthwhile."
Dealing with imitators: "Look, we didn't invent the party, right? We weren't the first people to throw a party during the day, but I think we were the first brand that has the ability to combine the sort of power and access of Hollywood and entertainment with the thought-leading and intellectual elements that we have, and we do it in a way that allows us to have some fun," he says without name-checking the numerous similar lounges that have come and gone in recent years. "If you can make it just weird enough to be interesting but not so weird that you can't have a drink and chill — there's not many places where you can just chill."