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The Modern Magazine - 29th Street, the indie panel, sinking American Vogue and Bloomberg Businessweek
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The Modern Magazine - 29th Street, the indie panel, sinking American Vogue and Bloomberg Businessweek

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Report by Sarah Snaith

Following David Jacobs of 29th Street Publishing, who repeatedly tipped his hat to magCulture and the many forms the modern magazine can take, the independently published magazine speakers returned to the stage for a discussion chaired by Steve Watson of Stack.

The waiting game with adaptation to digital publishing models and learning from mistakes in indie publishing became early themes. ‘It’s an issue of priorities’, said Simon Esterson, ‘The tools aren’t quite there, and the consultants charge sums of money I find unbelievable.’ Anorak’s Cathy Olmedillas spoke about how children already spend a lot of time on screen, it is difficult to beat ‘something as tactile as an object’; a comment she complemented with the advice: ‘Social network, social network, social network’, in contrast to her early reluctance to engage in social media. Tapping into social networks is her plan to leverage Teepee. David Jacobs said, ‘The nice thing about the tablet and the phone, is that it is easily monetised. It’s content strategy.’

Simon continued, ‘Because print is so mature, people don’t always test it … and discover what it’s essence is … If you publish quarterly, it is an object. They are real things, and making them better is where it should be going … You can take an area that is falling apart and capitilise and redirect people towards it.’

Watson prompted the panelist: what’s the business of indie publishing? Davey Spens responded with statistics on average reader engagement time, saying it’s not good; we are both in the golden age of magazines, but we’re also ‘stumbling in the dark trying to engage an audience with a beautiful product.’ The key for Boat is to take the 1000 fans theory from the music industry, and apply it to magazines.

Scott King had The Modern Magazine audience laughing within seconds, starting with his work for Sleazenation between 2001-2002. His friend Wolfgang Tillmans managed to get a magazine off the shelves and he was jealous, and began pitching ideas for covers that were bound for rejection. After plotting the life in xeroxed posters of Sleazy and the lazy bastards, King had a moment of seriousness, criticising designers who lack the balance of subject medium and content.

His project ‘How I’d sink American Vogue’ featured a series of subverted covers that played on the preoccupations and obsessions of the American public: Scarlett Johansson’s pout for The Anger Issue, 635 Poor People Upside Down and Kirsten Dunst Says Bombs Kill. The penultimate being a budgie cover that read “I am God’ and finally, a cover that refelcts King’s hatred for ‘the vegan techno stink’ of Mody, with ‘Die Moby Die’.

Richard Turley of Bloomberg Businessweek, who is making some of the best covers on the newsstand today, came to the podium with a slide reading ‘Buy our magazine’ in all-caps (that continued in subliminal message form throughout his presentation), followed by ‘Welcome to my therapy session’ and ‘ich bin hammer’ (I am the hammer).

Turley flipped through an archive of covers with ease. And preempting the repetitive question, ‘where do your ideas come from?’ Richard answered in jest, Rockets! Ideas come from everywhere, including other people’s work - Halifax bank, Private Eye, even the cover of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover - and your own.

‘A cover is an event’. Turley said he should really leave the magazine now, he has succeeded in getting a penis on the cover, twice. The cover has surpassed its position as an advert for the magazine, ‘The traditional thing is that the cover is selling the magazine, now it’s selling everything that you do.’

Other cover commentary from Turley included: ‘Sometimes it’s nice to turn the gun around on yourself’ in reference to the monochrome bald eagle cover, ‘flags are very problematic’ and, while Bloomberg Businessweek covers are ‘often reductive, there are issues that call for putting everything into a tight space’.

By Sarah Snaith

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