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DG at 50: Rob and Marcus interview


Ahead of our London event on 27th June to celebrate the publication of the 50th issue of Delayed Gratification, the Slow Journalism Company’s editorial directors Rob Orchard and Marcus Webb talk to Inga Marsden about how we got here

Inga Marsden: Where did the idea for Delayed Gratification come from?
Rob Orchard: It came from a series of conversations I had with Marcus and our fellow co-founders, Matthew Lee and James Montague. We had all met back in our early twenties while working for Time Out Dubai. At some point in 2010 we started sending a document around to each other entitled ‘The perfect magazine’.

In retrospect, some of these ideas we collected on the document would have been disastrous – one idea I had was to print our company accounts on the inside-back cover of every magazine so readers could see how we were doing and spending money. For the first few years of the business it would have been the most depressing page printed in the English language.

Anyway, Matthew suggested the idea of Slow Journalism because we were all feeling anxious about what we saw around us in the media, which felt like the destruction of news and magazine journalism as we knew it. Instead of producing knee-jerk stories, we wanted to do something contemplative and reflective. Slow Journalism is about taking your time to do something of greater quality – and we were all excited about that.

IM: When you launched the first issue, did you know it was going to work?
Marcus Webb: We were fairly confident about the first issue, but when it got to issue two or three we started to feel a little bit shaky because our wildly optimistic business plans hadn’t come to fruition. But I don’t think we ever had any doubt in the magazine, at least from an editorial perspective. From the very first issue we felt there was a place for this concept, but finding an audience for it and financially keeping it afloat was much, much harder.

IM: What does it feel like reaching the 50th issue?
RO: It feels absolutely terrific. We started this 12 and a half years ago, and it’s quite unusual for an independent print magazine to last this long. It’s lovely still to be here and working with the same group of people that we started with. There’s a shared company memory – we’ve all been through the same process of learning what has worked and what hasn’t.

IM: Do you have a favourite feature from the first 50 issues? 
RO: My favourite is in the first issue and it was our first proper long-form story. One of our co-founders James Montague, an exceptional features writer, spent time with the English Defense League – primarily with its little-known Jewish division. He came back with fascinating, nuanced insight into this extreme organisation and the reasons why people might feel like it was a good idea to join it.

The ideal DG feature involves going somewhere awkward, speaking with difficult people and bringing back a story nobody else has got that gives you an insight into the world that we’re living in and the culture that we inhabit.

MW: My favourite is Rob’s feature on Salisbury. It was written after the Novichok attack, when the Russian dissident Sergei Skripal was poisoned with his daughter, and a British woman, Dawn Sturgess, lost her life. Rob is a terrific writer and brought everything to it – even a little bit of humour – without ever taking the seriousness out of the situation.

IM: What has been the most memorable moment over the first 12 and a half years?
MW: I remember when we got the first issue back from the printers. We went up to the rooftop of the old Time Out building on Tottenham Court Road, where we had a tiny office, and opened it up and got really excited. To see this thing we’d talked about for so long physically come to life was amazing.

For much more from Rob and Marcus on 50 issues of Delayed Gratification come to our issue launch event on Tuesday 27th June in London. You’ll receive a free drink on the way in!

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