Article goes paid

by Chloe in March 2012

Long-time Stack subscribers will know Article as the northern magazine published five times a year and given away for free in shops and bars around the north (and in the occasional Stack pack). With a strong following around the country, creators Ben Dunmore and Alasdair Hiscock took the brave decision to re-launch as a paid-for publication. I caught up with Alasdair to quiz him about the move and what we can expect from the new issue.

For people who don’t know, what’s Article about?
It’s loosely about a few things like art, culture, urbanism and also subjects that you didn’t know you were interested in. So it’s trying to go between a cultural, heavy art magazine and something that’s for the general reader.

How has Article evolved over the years and how have you justified it to the reader that they’re now going to have to pay for it?
It started when we were students; it was made as a zine that went around Sheffield and it became a hobby that went a bit too far. We ended up running it nationally with 6,000 copies around the country… It turned out that it wasn’t exactly what we wanted to do and it didn’t achieve everything the readers wanted either. It became harder and harder to get it out because it was so dependent on lots of advertising and it suffered for that.

It was interesting and I think what we did was really good, but we had to make a decision at the beginning of this year because we wanted to carry it on. There are a lot of people that worked on it and have contributed to it and a lot of readers who wanted to see it again… I think everyone valued it enough to want to pay for it and we’re going to keep it as affordable as possible at £5. Hopefully it’ll reach the same numbers of people and have the same effect… Having it in bars, cafes and shops, it’s quite depressing the amount of times it gets picked up then read once and not kept and just chucked on the floor. The new one’s going to be a lot higher quality printing and more pages – just nicer in general.

Where are you starting now and what are you aiming for? 
The general profile will be the same; it’s the same cities. We’ve got quite a big focus on the north, so Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, just because we’ve got the readers there. Obviously we can’t stock it in so many bars and cafes because they don’t really have the ability to sell them. A lot of those places have actually said they’d like to try and sell it, which is really good… It’s interesting for us to try and develop a model that isn’t just stocked in really high-end bookshops, that tries to get it out to the same kind of people again.

How many are you going to print for the first issue and how are you hoping to increase that? 
We’re printing 1,700 for the first one; that’s how much we can afford to do right now, but it’s also dependent on getting the number of stockists. So we’re working with outlets online and distributors and it’s just going to take a little bit of time for people to be aware of it again I think.

What do you think the northern aspect brings to the magazine?
It’s really just a circumstance, because me and Ben who do it both ended up here for university and stayed. It’s just a fact that if you’re working somewhere, you’re going to see stuff from that perspective… The only premise for the northern thing is that it’s as interesting as anywhere else and we take the things that are around here as examples of larger ideas. We talk about northern cities and we write about Sheffield and Manchester and develop them. It’s really just one instance of an idea that everyone can relate to.

Are we allowed to know what the theme’s going to be in the new issue? 
Broken.

Are you still going to make five issues a year?
It’s four now. Quarterly.

You recently advertised a work experience placement; what do you want out of that? Magazines using people for free labour is such a big issue, how are you going to make sure you don’t become every other magazine?
We had a lot of debate about that between us… We don’t have an issue with people working for us for free because no one gets paid; we don’t. It’s really a project of people loving doing it and contributing because they want to see the magazine. I can’t see any time in the immediate future when we’ll be making loads of money and exploiting people. It feels a lot more like a collective, collaborative project.

As it’s grown to other places we’ve got to work with some amazing artists, designers and writers. We also work with a lot of students and universities here [in Sheffield]. Hopefully we have a good effect by taking people who really get to contribute and it’s the type of thing that’s much more valuable – working on such a small independent thing where they get a lot more freedom rather than sitting in an office doing really rubbish work.

You’ve become well known for your colour themes, are you going to continue these and do you think if you start making money you’re going to stick to the standard colours? 
We’re working with a really good printer now in Sheffield called Evolution and for the first one we’re sticking to the colour styles. We’re also interested in using some silk, glossy photo printing in there as well. As for the colours I think we’ve nearly run out, so we might have to find something else to print with.

Where do you see Article in five years?
I think it depends on personal circumstances really. It’s always been Ben and myself who’ve produced it as we’ve been doing other things. At first we were students, and it was the same when we started working independently doing graphic design works as our company called Articleworks. I think it would just reflect where we are. Hopefully it’ll still be around. I think when you look back, you can see it maturing in a way and reflecting what we were doing at that time. I wouldn’t want to predict really.

When is the launch issue going to be released?
It’s going to be released on 18 April, or it’s going to be back from the printers then and we’re having a launch party in Sheffield. It’ll be distributed from then through the beginning of May all around the country. We’re working on the distribution at the moment.

 





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