I have always had really deep love of print. So, last night I went and sat in a cellar with a lot of like-minded print lovers and talked magazines, in a way slightly reminiscent of underground press. It was an open discussion with Rob Orchard (Delayed Gratification), Tim Hayward (Fire & Knives) and John L Walters (Eye magazine) which, among other things, became a great conversation on how hyper targeting can and will save what is often considered the dying industry of magazine publishing.
In the digital age magazines needed to get clever, to understand the opportunities the internet held, instead of just the massive threat that they posed. Delayed Gratification and Fire & Knives both did this finding a very special niche and really focusing all their power in to it. (Here I have focused in on Fire and Knives journey in ordered to not write an extremely long essay but will blog about Delayed Gratification another day).
Fire & Knives is a food magazine for real foodies, people that are really passionate about cooking right. The nerds, as Tim Hayward called them; people that aren’t just satisfied with what comes up on the average food blogs. These people are passionate, they are subscribers (the bread and butter of all magazines) and they share with their friends.
The magazine succeeds and thrives by using the quality and specifity it has to attract writers that will work for free. This is supported by the exposure the writers get in the field – for every 10 subscriptions, a free subscription is given to someone influential in the industry – valuable exposure for the magazine and the writers. As all the writers write for free they write also for the sheer love of writing, which is very apparent when you read the magazine. They aren’t given briefs or word limits, so their passions are free to flow.
Fire & Knives further committed to their niche by refusing to have any advertising in the magazine. They believe that advertising could lead to an article called ‘What Cheryl Cole Cooks’ in order to please the advertisers, not the customers, and would ruin the core role of the company.
Hayward said that by really understanding what you do and what you know, the answers are often obvious, he made an example in The Guardian; when they went online they felt they needed to compete in video so became a poor mans news channel. If they had sat back and thought, ‘we are all about writing’, and really committed to spoken word/podcasts instead, they may be a real challenger to Radio 4 today.
By hyper targeting the content and overcommitting to the feel of the stock and the smell of the ink, any good nerd will keep these magazines for years on their bookshelves. Print is not dead! Long live the nerd!