A bizarre saga in literary media came to a close yesterday when Paradise Media resold offbeat literary magazine The Believer to its original pubisher, McSweeney’s (known lately for publishing humor magazine Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and a corresponding website). The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, had sold the magazine to Paradise Media; its benefactor, Beverly Rogers, pulled the magazine’s funding when former editor-in-chief Joshua Wolf Shenk resigned after being the subject of the pandemic’s second major Zoom dick incident.
At first, many thought The Believer would simply cease to publish when UNLV announced that the February/March 2022 issue would be its last. Then some readers noticed that an article about hookup sites was published on The Believer’s website in late April, setting off confusion — until the magazine’s new owners, a company called the Sex Toy Collective and its parent, Paradise Media, introduced themselves on Twitter. An SEO marketing company, Paradise Media had bought the publication for $225,000, the New York Times reported, and later sold it, at a loss, to McSweeney’s, after enduring a few weeks of heat from media Twitter. Here is a brief timeline of The Believer’s equally brief life publishing sex listicles.
~April 23: The Sex Toy Collective posts “25 Best Hookup Sites for Flings, Trysts, and Online Dating” on thebeliever.net.
May 5: “I don’t … I don’t have any information about that,” UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute executive director John Tuman tells newsletter The Fine Print about selling The Believer.
May 9: The Sex Toy Collective identifies itself as “the new owner of The Believer” in a deleted tweet. The company says it plans to “get it making money using SEO” to “bring back all the original writers.”
May 10: UNLV confirms it sold The Believer to Paradise Media on April 1. “This was a sound business decision and the best step forward,” the dean of UNLV’s College of Liberal Arts says in a statement.
Former Believer art director and deputy publisher Kristen Radtke reveals that former publisher McSweeney’s had attempted to buy back the magazine. In 2017, philanthropist Beverly Rogers provided funding for UNLV to acquire The Believer.
Believer staff say they “are currently exploring all our options” in a joint statement. “Toni Morrison’s poems are now published alongside’25 Best Hookup Sites,’ which is deceptively made to look like an essay published by The Believer,” it reads in part.
May 11: Paradise Media’s 30-year-old CEO, Ian Moe, tells Gawker he wants “what’s best for the Magazine as I read it a lot in college and [am] a big fan.” He says he’s planning “a hard switch” from hookup lists to ads, and he writes on thebeliever.net that he wants to publish informational stories on topics like “surnames” and “biggest spider in the world.”
May 16: Paradise Media sells The Believer to original owner McSweeney’s “at a significant discount.” “We are humbled that three individual donors came forward to pay for the purchase of the magazine, as a gift to us,” a Kickstarter page published May 17 states. The Believer is set to return to print by the end of 2022.