I’m not sure really how to transition this blog into a magazine except to start talking about it. After the New Year, we’ll be changing the design, opening submissions, shifting things around, but for now, I’m gathering materials, looking at the landscape and figuring out what stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them.
When we were in the states, I spent a few days in a Barnes and Noble, going through their magazine section. Then I bought my favorites to bring with us to Mexico. Since then, I’ve read them all, studying them for tone, looking at the weight of paper, the number of pages, the way they handle advertising, or organize their sections. Trying to reverse engineer what it is I like about them, what I want to copy for Almost Fearless the magazine.
When you don’t know where to start, you just sort of pick a spot and work your way from there.
The concept, I know – an adventure and travel magazine for the rest of us. So much of travel literature seems to be aimed at either 20-somethings or retirees. Well, what about that 30-year span when you’re raising kids, working on your career and building a community? 80% of American women will have children (or adopt) before they are 40. Why does every travel magazine act like no one has ever traveled with kids before? Is adventure only a bookend to regular life? Absolutely not. And I think the name Almost Fearless will tie nicely to the kind of stuff we’re doing… it’s pushing ourselves but acknowledging that this isn’t the x-games.
I know exactly the kinds of things I want to talk about because this is my life. I’m feeling my way through and slowly creating an editorial calendar based on whatever makes me happy. I’m precisely the kind of reader I want. I didn’t start traveling until I was 31 and had my first child at 33. Almost all of my travel – except that first year – was done either pregnant or with at least one kid-in-tow. We’re imperfect travelers. We start trips and fail or bail out. We’re also deeply interested in the culture, language, and food – but not mired in obscure facts. There’s a sweet spot in there – informed but not academic, adventurous but safe, challenging but fun. Full of beauty, grace, and growth. The best of it.
But what will that look like?
One of my favorite finds was this magazine Hayo, which is produced by a design studio in Vancouver. It’s similar to Boat magazine in a way, the editorial team is working creatives and they produce the magazine as a side project.
The stories are as real as they come… there’s no glossy veneer to their adventures… which I love. Also the design and photography are breathtakingly simple and beautiful:
Then in a totally different direction is this UK publication Project Calm:
They have a lot of illustrated pages, so I bought this to refer to later as I’d love to take advantage of my in-house illustrator (my husband Drew went to school for animation) and find a way to have one or two sections with either illustrated graphics or full illustrations in lieu of photography for certain stories:
Lovely! But even as I write this, I get flashes of self-doubt.
A magazine is not easy. Since we’re bootstrapping this, I’ll be doing everything at first – curating content, working with writers, editing, copyediting (gah!), photo selection, art direction, layout and design (hello, my old friend inDesign), promotion and marketing, sales and placement, printing, shipping and so on. I did work in a small publishing house in my early twenties, so I at least know how to check the proof at the printing house and how to run a shipping department, plus I have written for magazines – but really for the scale of my ambition on this project, I’m deeply unqualified. I just want to do it. That’s my saving grace. And I’m willing to risk and fail (and flail?) as I figure it out.
What really encourages me though is seeing this first issue of Misadventures magazine, showing up in Barnes and Noble about women who travel. Misadventures is the sort of thing that makes me think we could be onto something here:
It’s essentially the magazine I would have killed to have read back I was solo traveling. Heck, I still want to read it. It’s so well done:
Half of inspiration is really just convincing yourself, “Hey I could do this.” I could have written that Solo in Croatia piece… I did that trip, back in 2008. And I’m encouraged that I found this in a little Arizona B&N, and after digging a little more, I found out that they were picked up nationally. Brand new magazine, new-ish editors, working together remotely to build this passion project and seemingly there are enough people who want this kind of travel content to get them shelf space.
But how do they finance it? They got a grant. That’s lucky. When we were in Jackson, we found a magazine there that’s created locally and then discovered that they actually ran a few magazines in town. After looking at the numbers, it seems like the economy of scale is really in your favor… it’s hard to justify having a team on one small publication, but put several magazines under the same roof, then you can afford to have someone dedicated to photography or copy editing or sales. Maybe that’s one way we ultimately make the magazine work – we pick up local publishing duties for Telluride – and use that work to offset the cost of Almost Fearless.
These are the two free magazines they published which were entirely funded by high-end advertising:
Of course when you dig around other publications, like Afar, you find that their models are not entirely about print either… they do a ton of content placement for brands, to the point where they have laid out their editorial calendar as part of their media/advertising kit. It’s kind of fascinating to look at as a business model, but most likely not for us. I suspect we’ll either be like the creative studio folks at Huyo, doing client work to pay for our side project magazine or like that regional magazine publisher in Jackson, picking up local work to pay for the infrastructure to finance other magazines.
Despite all of this, I still really love the idea of working on a magazine, especially at the publisher level, specifically because it’s so diverse and I’ll get to play creative director and editor and writer and business strategist. I know the conventional wisdom at this point is that print is dead, but I still see a way to pull it off. I think we can do it, especially if we start small and do everything we can in-house.
Editorially though? None of these publications quite sang to me. I found all of my inspiration from a magazine outside the travel niche: Modern Farmer.
They launched to tons of buzz and industry accolades.
They thread the needle between story-telling, how-to and journalism in a way that seems entirely effortless but if you’ve ever worked in publishing or written for a magazine you can see the care and intelligence behind their work. One thing I really love is their photography. It’s perfect. It’s executed professionally but not flashy. It’s edited for color and clarity but not stylized to the point of being dated in a few years. It’s hard to see in the photos below but if you get a chance, pick up a copy and take a look at not just the individual photos, which are all strong in their own right, but how they edit them together, matching look and feel across varying situations, changing light, and so on. It all feels like it’s plucked from the same world. Then consider if each photo earns it’s place, if it has enough storytelling punch to belong there. Does it expand your understanding? Does it improve the story? Always yes. No fluff. It’s subtle but I can see the amazing talent of their photographers and Lila Garnett, their director of photography.
Maybe it’s just me, but I am so impressed. It’s the exact kind of photography I like to see… they also vary between close-ups, medium shots and establishing shots, and create a photo essay that could stand on it’s own.
Okay I’ve crossed into gushing. I know. It’s just that it really sings to me. It’s a kind of clarity. Their writing is great too. This issue had a travel piece in there, but tied back to food sourcing. Here are the photos:
What’s really cool though is that it’s the kind of travel writing I love – tell me about a far-flung place, sure – but make sure it’s tied back to an actual story. I have no patience for travel literature that’s all location, zero story. Why are we here? What do we hope to learn? Don’t tell me about Peru because it’s pretty, tell me why it matters. To me, travel writing that fails to go beyond location is nothing short of tragic.
Anyway, I’ve already written too much about this. Poor Drew, this is all he hears about. I am toying with the idea to start either a regular column about this on We Create or a podcast. I couldn’t find anything out there like it – which kind of makes sense. There are like 25 people who want to launch a magazine in any given year and all of them likely have more magazine experience than me. Still, if enough people are interested, I’ll make it a regular thing. Sign up here to show interest & get an email if it starts.
I’ve opened registration for Building a Thriving Blog and we’re doing three webinars next week. You have to sign up to get the link:
Hacking Your Creative Career with Your Blog in 2017 Monday, November 28th 1 PM EST
The Pivot: What to Do With Your Blog When You Change Directions Tuesday November 29th 1 PM EST
The Brave New World of Making Money With Your Blog Wednesday November 30th 1 PM EST
Read more about the Building a Thriving Blog course here.