Q&A with Videogum’s Scott Lapatine

If you know your Devotchka from your Devendra Banhart, then you probably know Stereogum. The influential music blog recently launched Videogum, a site devoted to the more visual side of pop culture, including movies, TV and web video.

BuzzNet took over Stereogum late last year in a deal valued at an estimated $5 million. And while he declined to talk about financials, Scott Lapatine, founder and editor-in-chief of both Stereogum and Videogum, did answer a few questions via email about what’s wrong with other pop culture blogs; the intersection of movies, TV and web video; and Gabe & Max’s Internet Thing. Below is our lightly edited correspondence.

NewTeeVee: Describe Videogum. What are you hoping it becomes?

Scott Lapatine: As Stereogum is for music, Videogum is intended to be a filter for both the obscure and popular programming (television, movies, and web shorts) vying for your attention. Our editors take it all in and tell you what’s worth your time in a funny, insightful way.

NewTeeVee: Does the Internet need another pop culture blog? What will Videogum do to separate it from the others out there?

Lapatine: We’re focused on quality, and not celebrity, so that immediately sets us apart from almost all the pop culture blogs out there. As someone who spends a lot of time staring at screens, I never found an authority online that covers the entertainment world in a compelling way. The current options are either too lowbrow or fanboyish or industry-focused…or you can visit forums where editorial voice suffers because they are trying to be everything to everyone.

NewTeeVee: What drove the decision to expand Stereogum in this direction? Because you’ve broadened out it seems like you run the risk of losing focus.

Lapatine: Stereogum and Videogum are separate sites, with separate writers, and they’ll link to one another when appropriate. Videogum was a very natural expansion for a few reasons. When I started Stereogum in January 2002, I covered pop culture in addition to music. I eventually narrowed the focus exclusively to music, but I always intended to revisit movies and television.

When I worked at VH1 I launched Best Week Ever’s blog — this was before it hired writers — but that was a few years ago, and haven’t since had an opportunity to cover non-music culture in a meaningful way. I registered Videogum.com over two years ago. (It took a while to get off the ground because we were focused on building the Stereogum business.) Pop culture has always been part of Stereogum’s DNA. There have certainly been times when we stretched the music angle of some show so we could discuss it with our readers (like, thank god The Wire used Tom Waits in the opening credits).

In terms of the topics Videogum covers, television and movies and web video does not seem unfocused to me. Given how programs exist across multiple platforms and are accessible on so many devices (thanks Internet!) it doesn’t make sense for Videogum to draw a distinction like “this is for TV fans” or “this is for people who watch YouTube.”

NewTeeVee: What success metrics have you set up for Videogum? How many readers does it need to attract in order for you to keep it going?

Lapatine: We anticipate Videogum will be even more popular than Stereogum. It’s not yet, of course, but we’ve been really happy with the response and expect it to grow in an organic way as people discover the site, become familiar with the tone, and get involved in the community (which will have enhanced functionality in the coming months).

NewTeeVee: Did you know that Pitchfork was going to launch their video site one day before yours? What was your reaction when you found out?

Lapatine: We’ve known about their video plans for a while now, but no I didn’t know they were launching the same week as Videogum. The endeavors are so fundamentally different it really did not matter.

NewTeeVee: Gabe Delahaye writes for Videogum, did his Internet commercial inspire you to launch the site?

Lapatine: Ha, no. Videogum has been in the works for a few years. I’ve been a fan of Gabe and Lindsay’s writing for a long time, though, and we couldn’t have launched the site without the right people in charge. His commercial was very informative!