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Get Familiar: Joe La Puma


Joe La Puma

Imagine being a decision maker for a site which gets about a MILLION hits a day… Well, thats Joe La Puma’s life. He gets to supply us with the most up to date information on our culture. I was fortunate to sit with him a few weeks back and here is our conversation. Enjoy. Word!

WIT: What’s up? For those people who don’t know, what do you do?

JLP: What’s up man, my name is Joe La Puma. I’m the Senior Editorial Strategist for Complex Media, which means I handle big idea generation and content strategy.

WIT: How did you get your start?

JLP: To make a long story short, I was always interested in sneakers, and I worked at a sneaker store on and off for about six years. I went to college and I started off as a business major, which was a disaster, and after I ended up failing out of UConn’s business school someone suggested I take up journalism during my junior year.

WIT: Oh, interesting…

JLP: So I did and I started writing for the school paper. As I got a little better I started to write about stuff that I liked and people were responding well to it. I started writing about fashion, pop-culture and topics like that.  In one year of writing I ended up getting “Rookie of the Year” of UConn’s Daily Campus.

When I got out of college I went back to Finishline and became a manager of a store in a shitty mall in my town. At that time I had one year of writing under my belt and I was applying to a lot of online start-ups and looking for internships but as anyone can tell you getting into the magazine business is really tough. Eventually I ended up writing for Hypebeast.com, and at the same time Complex was offering an internship, so I decided to apply. I ended up landing the internship, and at one point when I was 22 I was writing for Hypebeast, managing a Finishline and interning for Complex, which left me with little free time.

WIT: What was a typical day for you?

JLP: I used to answer e-mails for Complex, and post for Hypebeast from my Sidekick while I was working in the mall, basically doing three jobs at once. The Finishline hours sucked, and I was working 7 days a week and all day between my two days at the magazine and five days doing retail.

After two full years of working at Complex as an intern, there was some turnover and Noah Callahan-Bever became Editor-In-Chief at the magazine. At this point I was really devoted to Complex and was trying to get a full-time gig, and had expressed that to Noah. Short after NCB took over I was one of his first hires and it was to become the online editor of Complex.com. We knew that the digital was going to eventually become a main focus and even though back then it wasn’t top priority, we started planning for the future of the business.

WIT: What was Complex.com like back then?

JLP: I remember when I was hired in 2006, we would do about a 1000 page-views a day. Back then, there were only two people working full time on the site generating content, myself and someone who taught me a lot, Bucky Turco (ANIMAL).  As the site grew and Complex.com became more of a focus, we had editors of the magazine start blogging and as of today we have around 25 writers for the site, and post over 100 posts a day. Numbers-wise we’re over 1million page-views daily.

WIT: Work and success, what’s your perspective on that?

JLP: I would say that you really need to be around people who mentor you in a bunch of  different ways, and you also have to want to win, everyday. For me I took a little bit of mentorship from writers before me.  I learned a lot from Bucky, and Noah as well as editors like Donnie Kwak (ESPN) and Bradley Carbone. Besides my writing mentors, I’d definitely say I get my competitiveness and willing to win from my old manager and best friend Brione Schneider.  He probably taught me more about work and success and just life in general more than anyone in my life has.

WIT: Any advice for young writers?

JLP: Land an internship and if it’s at a place you’d like to work at one day full time, work harder than everyone else. Also when you’re applying for internships or jobs, apply to three a day. One safety publication where you know you can work there and fit in right away, one mid-level publication where it’s a little out of your comfort zone, and one reach where it’d be a dream job. And once you get something get everything out of it.

I remember the first day I came in if they told me to vacuum the floors or get them coffee whatever they wanted me to do, I would do it. In some ways to this day, now five or so years at Complex, I still have that mentality. You always have to stay hungry in this industry because there’s always someone who’s trying to be in the position you’re in…




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