Nicer Tuesdays, publishing night

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Last night in London It’s Nice That’s latest Nicer Tuesday evening was themed ‘Publications’. Tickets sold out in 48 hours, proving again how much interest there is in independent magazines at the moment. Guest speakers were Steve Watson from Stack, David Hellqvist from Port, Anna Bates and Elizabeth Glickfeld from Dirty Furniture, and Tim Noakes from Dazed & Confused.

Photo above by Graham Turner/It’s Nice That

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Steve Watson was first up and on form as always. To start the evening, he set up the wider context of the current magazine industry, championing independent publications as ‘the products of the 21st Century’, beautiful and timely responses to the overwhelming glut of online content. He made the observation that whilst it’s a positive thing that print is such a prevalent medium, the problem is that publications now not only have to compete with the online world to get attention – they also have to compete with one another. Standing in front of the magazine shelf at Foyles is a visual treat, but, much like the sheer amount of online content at your fingertips, the innumerable choices can be overwhelming for readers. As Steve explained last night, that’s one of the many reasons that Stack does the choosing for you.

He also made the point that it is hard to engage with different kinds of perspectives in an online world made of personalised news streams. Social media falsely disguises itself as being about connectivity but it actually narrows horizons because it’s highly selective. With Stack, Steve said that he wants to combat this narrowing: it’s one of many ways to ‘defeat the Amazon algorithm,’ by opening up subscribers to new sets of ideas via magazines that they normally wouldn’t consider.

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Next up was David Hellqvist, Fashion Editor at Port and head of Document Studios. David told the story of how the recent Timberland magazine came about, a publication he describes as ‘a pop culture retrospective’. To celebrate the iconic brand, David and art director Mark Thompson meticulously documented every aspect of its history, carefully considering the brand’s contemporary meaning and significance.

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Anna Bates and Elizabeth Glickfeld of Dirty Furniture discussed how their frustration with generic design magazines led them to start their own publication. Tired of journalism that treated furniture as if it existed in a perpetual showroom, Anna, Elizabeth and Pete Maxwell teamed up to create a magazine all about ‘people and their mess’. They wanted it to be ‘visual, seductive and collectable’ like other design magazines, but with a deliberate emphasis on human traces and stains.

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Editor-in-chief of Dazed Tim Noakes ended off the evening, providing an example of what happens to an independent magazine when it continues to grow, so much so that it begins to teeter into the mainstream. Tim discussed the ‘New Era’ of Dazed, especially his editorial emphasis on unifying print and digital platforms. He used his recent interview with Marilyn Manson as an example of the importance of generating clicks and social media interest, and discussed the importance of Dazed’s White Label branding agency, taking the approach that these days ‘you’ve got to adapt or die’.

To hear the enthusiasm of Dirty Furniture juxtaposed with Dazed & Confused’s hard-hitting strategies was especially intriguing – the smaller publication attempts to fill what they see as a current lack or void, they document the stories that aren’t currently being told. Their spirit is similar to Dazed’s initial desire in the nineties to document a culture that was ignored and underrepresented, so to hear Dirty Furniture before Dazed emphasised just how far the latter has come.

One of the nicest things about this particular Nicer Tuesday was that it encouraged these sorts of comparisons. The different viewpoints of the speakers emphasised the multiplicity of the current magazine industry. As Steve said, ‘magazines are the new media’, and the scope of ideas last night reflected the variety of ways new stories are currently being told.

Review by Madeleine Morley

nicertuesdays.com

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