The STACK Blog
Anikibo launched last week as “the first peer-to-peer online marketplace specifically for independent publishers making, creating and publishing beautiful physical magazines, zines & comics”.
It was started by Berlin-based Brit Deborah Causton, a print lover and sometime magazine maker who has been working in tech for most of the last 13 years. She first had the idea for an independent publishing marketplace way back in 2001, but it wasn’t until two years ago that she finally decided to give it a go, fitting the build of Anikibo around her full-time job, before finally quitting the day job to focus solely on Anikibo.
So what made her want to get involved with the cash-strapped world of independent publishing? And where does she see Anikibo in the future? I gave her a call to find out.
In your own words, what is Anikibo?
It’s a marketplace for peer-to-peer independent publishing sales. In its current form it just facilitates the ability for people to have a one-process checkout – at the moment you have to go and buy individually from each individual magazine and it’s a bit of a pain in the ass; it’s difficult to keep track of magazines, what’s launched, when it’s launched…
I’d go to New York and find these cool bookshops with these great zines you just can’t find anywhere else, because if you Google ‘independent magazines’ it’s not exactly a very competitive keyword. I think you’re placed number one at the moment! I thought, I want to be able to find these cool little comics or zines or magazines and have the convenience of having them shipped to my house.
What has the response been like from publishers?
It’s been really good. I somewhat came out of nowhere – I’ve got my little ties in independent magazines, but I’m not a Jeremy Leslie organising big events and speaking at conferences! I’m hearing back from a few magazines every day now, so I still have to contact them all one by one and introduce myself, but they’re quite excited by the possibilities of the site if we can get it up and running and functioning as a proper marketplace.
One of the problems I hear from publishers is that actually they don’t want to sell their magazines across lots of different places, picking up bits of money here and there. They want to just sell from their own site.
Me and my friend made this magazine called Mine. We were going to screen print copies by hand, fold them by hand and pack them into plastic bags. It was going to be a real labour of love. We were wondering what we could sell them for, so we went into a few shops and they said, ‘Yeah we’ll sell it but we’ll take 60% or 70% of the price.’ That’s after we’ve broken our backs leaning over a screen printing table, probably inhaling all sorts of noxious gases, and they want to take 70%!
That was actually one of the motivations for me to finish the site and get it up there, because if this is a good product people will buy it. That’s why I want to keep it quite curated, so that we’re only putting up things that people will want to buy. And because we’re only taking 20% it’s a much more viable way of selling, especially if you’re one of the little guys.
There’s no contract saying that publishers can only sell with me, and they can list as many magazines as they want. So they can use it as just a marketing platform if they want – I just want to try to get them all together because I think a lot of people are unaware of this industry. They don’t know about all the publications that are being created on a daily basis, and if you don’t know about it you’re not even going to try to Google it. So if I can help people to become aware of this whole sphere because there’s a single website where you can look at and explore all this stuff, I think that’s a good thing.
For publishers reading this, what makes for an Anikibo magazine? What will get them into your curated selection?
You’ve just got to see someone has loved making the magazine. There’s something about having done something for a long time and not necessarily for financial gain.
And finally, where do you see Anikibo in five years?
I have so many ideas about what it can be. I want to try to elevate the whole print market, so selling screen prints and things like that. We’re all very excited about our iPads and our phones and our digital delivery TVs, but there’s something special about a tactile object – it’s like people still wanting to buy vinyl. I don’t actually own a record player but I still buy vinyl and I still keep it all perfect in my apartment. That’s the same with print. I treasure a print thing in a way that I don’t treasure something that’s on my iPad, because we do have this desire to collect things and I don’t think we’ll ever totally lose that.
At the end of last year we had to put up the prices on Stack. Raising prices is only ever done reluctantly and after a lot of frowning at the calculator, but I wanted to take a minute to show that even with the new prices Stack offers pretty brilliant value for money.
Last year we sent out £105 worth of magazines:
DOR – £7 (approx. conversion from euros)
Boat – £8
Ride Journal – £10
Anorak – £6
Oh Comely – £4
Port – £5
Wooden Toy – £20
Rouleur – £10
Juke – £8.95
VNA – £5.99
Wrap – £10.50
Delayed Gratification – £10
Total – £105.44
A year’s subscription to Stack in the UK costs from £66 (or £16.50 every three months), which makes for a fantastic saving on the cover price of the magazines.
Even overseas subscriptions stack up well – a year’s subscription to the USA costs £80 (or £20 every three months), while European subscriptions cost €130/£112 (or €32.50/£28 every three months). Amazingly, it costs us more to post magazines within Europe than it does to ship them out to America.
We don’t normally go in for such brazen blowing of our own trumpet, but I think it’s important at a time when people are feeling the pressure financially, to point out that magazines can still be an affordable luxury. And with Stack they’re even more affordable!
Joshua Ogden is the man behind Justified, the blog that became a magazine. I’ve written before about how both formats do a great job of packaging their content with a lovely understated inventiveness – man I love that little blue square.
Last week he sent me a hand-bound copy of his dissertation on the future of print and it makes for interesting reading.
For starters, it’s the first time I’ve seen somebody really working through the reasons why they decided to make the move from blogging to print. The dissertation itself shows Joshua is clearly a lover of print (my university work never looked as good as this) and I’ve got a feeling he’d have eventually ended up working in print in some way regardless of practicalities. But he comes up with clear reasons for wanting to make a print version of Justified:
“Each print project has a nervousness about it. This is due to when you send off that final PDF; that’s it. It gets put through the run and you end up with the final publication. This makes designers really scrutinise their work, making sure everything is just right. Things are looked at, re-looked at and almost made to perfection, whereas digital can be published, changed and edited at any point…”
What’s most interesting, though, is the way he doesn’t value one medium over the other. Print and digital hold equal importance for him (though one costs him considerably more to make) and praise for one format is taken as praise for the other:
“Justified No.1 has been sold online from one source. This means that every order Justified received shows that the customer has been involved in and excited by the web presence.”
He points out that visitors to the site spend an average of 1.2 minutes on the site, showing that they’re actually reading stuff there, and he takes that as proof that the online publishing is providing readers with the motivation to make a print purchase.
It’s great to see a creator of content viewing print and digital in this way, as mutually beneficial parts of the same process rather than as enemies fighting a painfully one-sided battle, which is the way it’s so often pitched. I’m sure we’re going to see more blogs following the Justified example and making their way into print, and I’m looking forward to seeing the ways that their publishers bridge the gap between the two.
There’s no getting away from it – the Stack Facebook page is letting the side down. The good news is that I’ve finally got an idea of what I can use it for – something that will make it more than just a poor relation of the Twitter feed, and hopefully really build on what Stack does for independent publishers.
But before I set to work I want to do a bit of market research, so I’d love to hear what you think Stack should be doing on Facebook. What could we be doing to help you get more out of independent magazines? And do you have any examples of brands or organisations that do a particularly good job of being on Facebook?
Any advice or suggestions would be very gratefully received, so please add your comments below, or send me an email if you’d prefer.
It feels like Facebook should be a great way for more people to discover independent magazines – please help me get it right!
Just a week to go now until Printout spends an evening talking to the people behind three brand new magazines for 2013.
We’ll also be giving away free copies of Gin & It and The Loop (OOMK is so new it doesn’t actually exist yet) so come along and you won’t just be hearing about the magazines – you could be reading them too! As always tickets are just £5 and it’s a good idea to buy them in advance.
UPDATE – Eleanor has just found out that Gin & It is going to be stocked in Monocle stores. That’s great news for Gin & It, but less good news for people hoping to pick up a free copy tonight. There will still be free copies available, but we no longer have enough to give to everyone. First come first served!
Mag Dossier is an exhibition of contemporary magazine publishing being held at the Municipal Garden of Nicosia until 26 January. I haven’t been (Cyprus is quite a long way away) but I just read their catalogue and thought it bore repeating some of it here.
The event is curated by Peter Eramian, the man behind Shoppinghour Magazine, so as you’d expect the catalogue is intelligent and provocative. The first golden age of magazines, it argues, “celebrated its adolescent form as a commercial medium par excellence”. Pretty much anyone working in magazines these days will tell you that’s not true any more, so what are magazines about these days?
The big difference for Peter is how we think about magazines. They used to be perfect for communicating disposable news, trends and gossip, he says, but today we’ve got the internet for that. As such, he echoes Jeremy Leslie in arguing that magazines are entering a second golden age, characterised by the filtering away of the disposable from the non-disposable: (See the comments below for Jeremy’s full definition of what he says constitutes a golden age)
“A magazine is thus no longer something you just flick through, it’s something you devote time to, read carefully, appreciate its design and craft, and reflect on. It’s something you keep and cherish, reference and reread. It asks you to pause for a moment, smell it, touch it, examine it, and think about it. It offers a nuanced activism that resists the nonstop anxieties of everyday life. From the vision to the editing, the idea to the concept, the design to the ethos, the words to the paper, the image to the ink, and the voice to the community, magazine publishing is becoming one of the most exciting collective art forms of our time.”
This is exactly what magazines need – a passionate, energetic exploration of what they do and why they matter. But while I agree with most of what Peter says, I want to make a plea here for the magazines you just flick through.
Yes, I keep lots of magazines, but there are also lots that I stick in the recycling. One of the most liberating things about magazines is that they can be disposable, meaning that both magazine makers and magazine readers can try something new without worrying too much about lumbering themselves with the consequences. One of my favourite recent discoveries is Off Life, a free comics magazine I picked up the other week. It’s a brilliant quick hit and it just wouldn’t work if it were a beautiful, crafted tome.
More importantly, I worry about the tendency towards big, beautiful packaging for content that honestly isn’t worth it. Browse the shelves in any well-stocked magazine shop and you’ll find all sorts of £20+ titles weighing an absolute ton and covered in all sorts of special print finishes, but without really having much to say for themselves.
I think Peter and Jeremy are right – this could well be a second golden age of magazine publishing. But it’s a precarious age too – making magazines is an expensive business and getting them to pay their way is hard work. If magazine publishing is really going to step up and become widely recognised as one of the most exciting art forms of our time, it will be thanks to the ambitious, progressive titles (like Shoppinghour) that prize quality content above all else. Cheap or expensive, long or short, deep and meaningful or silly fun, they’re the magazines I want to read.
This afternoon I started doing some research into travel magazines for a talk I’m giving in a few weeks, and I’m amazed by the sheer number of independent titles out there.
Of course I knew all about Boat and We Are Here because they’re both Stack titles. They’re also united by a similar approach – both of them kick back against the stereotypes of a city by focusing on the people who live there and telling the stories of their lives. (The image above forms the cover of the Athens issue of Boat, and does a fantastic job of communicating the magazine’s sense of locality and community).
Then there are the ultra-limited edition travel magazines, like Endless, which is currently sold out and grew out of a blog about one family’s travels around the world. Sounds lovely. And of course Terroir, the hand-stitched labour of love that offers a Singaporean take on travel.
16 Hours was new to me, and seems to be a mainly picture-based travel magazine made by a Canadian and an Australian (16 hours being the time difference between Calgary and Sydney). And there are the ‘Voyage’ issues of +81 – again, I’ve never seen one of those in the flesh.
But I can’t help feeling I’m only scratching the surface here. There must be other independent travel titles I’m missing – please let me know if any spring to mind!
The first Printout of 2013 will take place on Tuesday 22 January at The Book Club, and in the spirit of the new year we’re dedicating it to New Beginnings.
We’ve invited the people behind three of the most exciting new magazine launches to come together and tell us why now is the time to be starting a print magazine.
We’ll be hearing from:
Kate Hawkings, editor of Gin & It, the booze-based younger sister of Fire & Knives
Eleanor Meredith, co-founder of The Loop, the children’s magazine that thinks it’s a newspaper
Sofia Niazi, co-founder of OOMK, the zine dedicated to promoting the work of creative women
We always get lots of questions at Printout about the practicalities of how people first started their magazines, and this will be a fantastic chance to get a totally up to date picture of how people are starting new magazines right now. We’ll make sure we leave lots of time for Q&A afterwards, and of course we’ll be bribing the speakers with free beer so you should be able to buttonhole them afterwards.
As always tickets cost £5 and it will be a good idea to buy them in advance. See you there!