INDEPENDENT MAGAZINES

Gif we created from images sourced on the monsterchildren website.

An interesting rebuttal to the argument that print is dying comes from Megan Le Masurier’s study of independent magazines. Megan has not only worked in magazines for much of her career, (Elle, Vogue Australia, Countdown) but has also taken magazines as a departure point for most of her academic work.

In her latest article, “Independent magazines and the rejuvenation of print”, Megan points out that in recent discussions of the democratisation of media production, the focus has been on how every person can now publish their creative output online. But less attention has been directed to how the last two decades have seen an impressive rise in the number of low-circulation, independently owned and produced print magazines (“indies”). This output includes mags like Yen, Oyster, Frankie and Vice that you’ve seen in newsagents, but hundreds of more obscure, niche titles too. Indies have a particular niche focus, for example skate culture, tattoo and fetish culture, gay culture, car culture or anti-consumerism.

While the rest of the media world is decrying the death of print, Megan argues this boom in titles shows that:

“More people are making magazines than ever before.”

And how are they doing it? Well, somewhat paradoxically, through the internet.

The rise of digital culture has seen a rise of digital literacy. In the past, making a magazine required specialist knowledge held only by professionals. But now that our “digital native” generation have a broad understanding of programs like In Design and Adobe creative suites, it’s pretty easy to design your own magazine. Then, thanks to the internet, indies can easily be sent as pdfs to countries like China for cheap, high-quality printing.

Because of their niche nature, when indies operated on a local or national scale before the internet, they often had difficulty finding enough of a market. The internet changed all that, because it connects niche communities with others around the world who share their special interest. An indie like T-world, the world’s only magazine about t-shirts, could probably not have found enough t-shirt devotees in Australia to sustain its production costs. But now with the internet,  T-world can market itself to the small community of t-shirt lovers in every country, and combined, they make up an audience large enough to justify production. 

So what we have here is a rather ironic situation, in that digital technology is facilitating a revival in print publishing. The new generation of indies are contingent on the internet for distribution and marketing, as frankie editor Jo Walker confirms:

“The internet has allowed us to link with creative, bloggers and contributors all over the globe. They’ve slowly shared us with their friends and readers…”- Jo Walker

What the indies represent then, is an intersection of digital and print cultures. A fast-growing, much-loved form of media output that considers the internet not a threat to its print existence, but rather a means to secure its longevity in paper form. Once again, we return to the same theme: that the media forms that are standing out in this era are neither just print form, nor just digital, but utilise and fuse together what both arenas can offer.

We put these points to Megan. This is what she had to say….

Interview with Megan Le Masurier on You Tube

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