The Magazine Diaries: The magazine business in 100 words


It’s a strange time to be working in print magazines. Sales are down, ad revenues are shrinking into oblivion but new independent magazines are still launching left, right and centre.

So what goes on in the minds of magazine makers trying to buck the trend? That’s what Peter Houston set out to discover. He asked 100 magazine professionals to write 100 words on what working in their industry feels like in these turbulent times. The responses Houston received capture the essence of being in the business and vary from flat-out pessimism to wide-eyed confidence.

Houston printed the full 10,000 words he collected in a one-off mini magazine called The Magazine Diaries, sales of which will benefit the charity MagAid.

Below are some of our favourite insights as well as the 100 words our editor Rob submitted. If you want to read more, buy The Magazine Diaries here.


Paul McNamee | Editor, Big Issue

Start with the cover.

Work out what you want to say and why you want to say it.

Make it mean something. Make it yours, for your readers, for your title, don’t care a sausage what the other fella’s done with his. Be tough, never say ‘that’ll do’, don’t be scared to start again if it’s not working. Give it hips.

Then send it, feel relieved. Then worry about it constantly until you see it on the page, the great smelling, new, fresh page. Spot mistakes, fret, promise yourself you’ll make it better next time.

Then start with the cover…



Kai Brach | Publisher, Offscreen Magazine

One contributor to my magazine, whose name ended up on the cover, bought extra copies for his family and friends. When he handed one to his mum, she started crying.

This guy’s a successful web entrepreneur. He’s got a large online following, gives talks around the globe, employs many people. The big house and the beautiful car must give away his success, even to his less internet-savvy mum.

But only when she saw her son’s name on a magazine cover, his success became real.

It’s this emotional power that emanates from real products that keeps me excited about making magazines.



Private Frazer | Undertaker, Private Frazer’s Doomed Magazines

100 words on the state of magazines?

Ye ken I can do it in one: DOOMED!

But if you want the full hundred, let’s add context from the day ‘job’.

Profits are up, but only because of deep cuts (sorry, ‘savings’) –  sales are falling, page yield is down, online ads only sell when they intrude, bright, shiny digital products are getting investment (but showing precious little return).

Everyone is working harder, everyone is stressed, no one can see their job improving. That’s the crux – a demoralised workforce that could earn more somewhere else. And they will.

Aye. We’re doomed.



Alan Rutter | Co-founder Clever Boxer

It has never been easier to make and publish great magazines – in digital form, or in hefty, glorious printed incarnations.

It has never been harder to build a robust business model around publishing great magazines  – one that can reliably pay talented and experienced people to keep the ship sailing through the stormiest conditions.

The only solution is to innovate and experiment – to find new ways to tell brilliant stories to passionate audiences.

That requires original thinking, fearless creativity and probably a few late nights.

But isn’t that why we got into this game in the first place?



Rob Orchard | Editor Delayed Gratification

Launching a print magazine in January 2011 was a strange business decision.

The economy was in tatters, circulations were in sharp decline, and every day brought stories of layoffs and closures. But while bigger titles struggled, a number of fleet-footed indie magazines have flourished.

I launched Delayed Gratification with a group of friends who shared a love for print magazines and original journalism – and it’s been encouraging to discover we’re not alone. It’s hard work but it’s immensely rewarding, and there’s a real sense of passion, cooperation and innovation in our industry.

These are odd but exciting times for magazines.


Honed design, relaxed writing and an almanac approach to the passing years”Observer

Jam-packed with information... a counterpoint to the speedy news feeds we've grown accustomed to”Creative Review

A slower, more reflective type of journalism”Creative Review

A chic magazine with fine infographics and long stories”Die Zeit

A very cool magazine... It's like if Greenland Sharks made a newspaper”Qi podcast

A fantastic publication that puts current events into perspective”Qi podcast

Quality, intelligence and inspiration: the trilogy that drives the makers of Delayed Gratification”El Mundo

Refreshing... parries the rush of 24-hour news with 'slow journalism'”The Telegraph

A leisurely (and contrary) look backwards over the previous three months”The Telegraph

Perhaps we could all get used to this Delayed idea...”BBC Radio 4 - Today Programme

Everyone should read this magazine”Stacks Magazine

Wonderful title and wonderful concept”BBC Two