Uber is set to disrupt another industry: the magazine business.
The ride-sharing tech company is launching a magazine in several major cities for drivers and riders titled Vehicle. A mix of journalism, poetry, and more branded content, the publication has already published two initial editions focused on Seattle and Washington, D.C., both of which shipped to some local offices last week.
“This was a way for us to learn about people in cities and share those stories,” explained Alexander Nazaryan, who advised Uber on the magazine and wrote several pieces before he joined Yahoo News last month. “We really wanted to share the stories of people very respectfully and honestly without resorting to voyeurism or lurid gaze that tourist magazines sometimes have.”
According to a preview of the two inaugural issues, posted online and viewed by The Daily Beast, the magazine is one part journalism, one part Uber promotional brochure.
That masthead reflects that, although the magazine is primarily “staffed” by a few people from Uber’s corporate branding department, the articles are authored by freelancers and local journalists—many with respectable media pedigrees and bylines at prominent publications.
In addition to profiles of Uber drivers, the Washington, D.C. issue, for example, features stories that would be familiar to readers of local publications like the Washington City Paper or The Washington Post’s local section—e.g., lengthy articles on the famous Florida Avenue Grill diner or the activist church Saint Stevens, or histories and explanations of Mambo sauce and go-go music.
Nazaryan said the publication does not have a specific audience in mind, but he hoped riders would find the magazines in the back of Uber vehicles and peruse them during their rides.
It is unclear how frequently the company will publish the magazine, and whether Uber actually hopes to be a source of legitimate journalism for readers and riders alike. The outlet did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The magazine idea was serious enough, however, for the company to file a trademark on the name and idea. According to an April filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Vehicle is Uber’s “general feature magazine,” filed under “magazine subscription and fulfillment services.”
Nazaryan credited Uber for bringing on former journalists like Matt Haber, a former Fast Company editor, to populate the publication with legitimate reporting instead of advertorial content.
However, he also cautioned the company—which largely left a few staffers to their own devices while creating the magazine—against meddling in the editorial decisions of future editions.
“I hope Uber recognizes that this project will only succeed if Uber leaves it alone,” Nazaryan said. “I really hope they’re not going to wreck this by making it another marketing product. That would be very unfortunate.”