Thursday, October 22, 2009

To the Magazine Academy last night, where our two course magazines (Substance and Made) were shortlisted and one given a special commendation. Both should have won, of course, and the class representatives (hi Esther, Jess, Hannah, Sarah) have every right to be as proud of their work as I am.

The magazine that won (CheapSkate: congratulations Goldsmiths) encapsulated a cute idea and was nicely realised, but it didn't convince me as a real-life project – there's probably only room for once Vice-like successful freebie. Neither did the magazine entitled Wild that attracted special guest Felix Dennis so much that he offered to print a special one-off to be given away with Bizarre. It seemed to be the coverline about the World Farting Championship that attracted him.

Anyhow, Sarah had the nous to pitch Substance to Felix Dennis during the evening, only to be told there would be no advertising, and therefore no wages. I don't know what the pitch was but there's a case for saying Substance is The Week for a younger, hipper readership – and we all know how much Felix loves The Week in all its many international editions. Furthermore, if Substance attracted a decent and defined readership, the advertisers would follow.

On the long train journey home I fell to thinking about why we make these magazines, and it's certainly not to win prizes. Watching an idea develop from a tentative pitch to the class to a confident, polished final edition, complete with extensive website, via an unbelieveable amount of hard work and ruthless (constructive) criticism is the reward. Feeling the buzz as it all comes together and watching the sheer amount of learning is actually fun (for me, and I hope for all concerned); serious fun.

Surely that's why we work in or with magazines. Yes, there has to be money to pay the bills in real life, yes it's lovely to have all that hard work recognised with an award, but above all that it should be fun. If it's not ... do something else.


“How would you know what’s going to happen in the magazine business?” said Mr. Wallace. “You would look at its vital statistics. You would look at its sources of income from consumers, and from advertisers. And you would look at where you’re finding your circulation. We have no problem with circulation for print magazines.

“We have what we believe is a short-term problem with advertising revenue,” he continued. “That problem seems to be improving. How long will there be print magazines? I don’t know. But for as long as there will be, Condé Nast is well positioned.”

From an insightful story about Conde Nast in the New York Observer.

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Another year, another nearly eh? Wild sounds like a magazine title that needs snapping up. I still believe our Wild title, taken nationwide, had a readership, especially if the green angle was given more prominence and portrayed favourably.

Nice effort at pitching to Dennis; I went to a poetry reading of his and you certainly got the impression he's a man who admires people with the balls to come forward and do things, so it was definitely worth a shot.
Great blog Tim. I'd like to know what it was about the winner that made it stand out for the judges. As a business model I thought MADE was very attractive - I think it has a strong enough niche to pull in advertisers but also a target reader who would also be willing to pay for it. No, it's not a lifestyle magazine that appeals to every woman but then sometimes that's not a strength. But then I am biased!

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