The Fast Times

The Fast Times is a weekly e-newsletter targeting Generation X. With a nostalgic ‘80s and ‘90s twist, each of its articles blend the popular culture of Gen X with the crucial topics of today’s times. (Courtesy/Mark Putnam)

On social media and in news feeds, it’s hard to scroll without coming across a story about Baby Boomers, Millennials, or more recently, Generation Z. However, there’s one generation that’s often left out of the mix.

Mark Putnam, a 2010 University of Georgia graduate, is a co-founder with fellow UGA alumni of The Fast Times, a weekly e-newsletter targeting Generation X. With a nostalgic ‘80s and ‘90s twist, each article blends the popular culture of Gen X with the crucial topics of today’s times.

Every Friday, The Fast Times releases a new piece that tackles an issue affecting both Gen X and adjacent generations, informs readers of youth, culture and lingo and spotlights a MTV-style music video. Every Monday, a second e-newsletter, The Mixtape, is released with a themed Spotify playlist and collection of links to the pop culture happenings of that week.

Highlighting Gen X

The Fast Times is intended to draw together generations living through inexplicable times, ranging from those who grew up as the first global generation after the invention of the Internet, to the younger Generation Z who is growing up during COVID-19.

“There are a lot of parallels between Gen X and Gen Z going through life, facing macro-global events with the crazy-fast evolution of technology,” Putnam said. “We want to create smart conversation between Gen X, their kids and their parents from the perspective of folks that grew up in a weird time.”

Putnam said that he and his co-developers decided to target Gen X due to the marketing gap that existed for those born in the range of 1965 to 1980.

“There’s still upwards of 60 to 80 million [members of Gen X] around the world, but they’re not heavily marketed to,” Putnam said. “Gen X is at the top of their game, but there’s not necessarily a product for them. So that’s what we’re trying to build.”

From a design standpoint, The Fast Times is reminiscent of the popular zines of the ‘80s, where people made magazines that were small in size and easily distributable. Their creators often gave them away for free to increase the spread of their opinions on music, film and other cultural followings.

Each new publication is intended to generate effective and informative conversation surrounding important issues to encourage dialect rather than divisiveness.

“We’re not necessarily trying to take an angle or perspective, but we’re mostly attempting to show both sides of a situation,” Putnam said. “I think that’s been refreshing to this audience because we’re not trying to start fights or create a generational war. We’re trying to create a place where folks can reminisce but also learn something new.”

Connecting generations

During the fall 2021 semester, Jennifer Osbon, a UGA digital marketing professor, will lead her students in studying The Fast Times to understand its business plan, approaches to social media and opportunities for growth from a product and social perspective.

Steve Denker, an executive board member on UGA’s Digital Marketing Committee, will be closely working with Osbon and her students on marketing and branding.

“It’s about bringing real life experience to her classes,” Denker said.

Denker said that by highlighting the parallels between Gen X and Gen Z, UGA students could find a connection to The Fast Times.

“So much of our generations are similar in terms of not asking for permission, taking chances and risks, doing what feels right and being true to ourselves,” Denker said. “That’s why [The Fast Times] isn’t just for Gen X. This is something we think students at UGA and everywhere would enjoy reading about.”

From here, The Fast Times team is looking forward to further growth of their brand and the potential exploration of other avenues of digital media.

“We would like to move into podcasting where we sit down two people of completely opposite ages and backgrounds to talk about the commonalities they didn’t even realize they had,” Putnam said. “We have big plans for where this thing could go.”