An introduction to the Magazine Diaries

I stumbled across an old New Yorker cartoon a while back. The forever-missing Wally is sat alone at a bar in his trademark hat and stripes. Four or five drinks in, he complains, “Nobody ever asks how’s Wally?”.

That’s how I feel about working in magazines. Everyone is frantically searching for a sustainable future, endlessly debating where our industry is headed, how best to make money, how best to save money, what new platform will or won’t work. No one ever stops to ask anyone else how they feel about making magazines in the middle of the biggest disruption in publishing history.

It doesn’t actually matter. The change is happening and whatever future we end up with will depend on how we deal with it, not how we feel about it. But aren’t you just a little bit interested to hear the full range of feelings that the digital disruption has unleashed…

Over three months, more than 100 magazine professionals took the time to write 100 words for the Magazine Diaries on how they felt about what they do for a living and the products they make. They wrote in support of MagAid, a charity using magazines to develop a love of reading in under privileged school children, but they also just wanted to get stuff off their chests.

Writing 100 words doesn’t seem like a lot: Half-a-dozen texts, three or four tweets, a couple of Facebook posts. But these are important words, words that say something, words that will last.

The 100-worders that wrote for the Magazine Diaries rose to the challenge beautifully, doing what Monsieur Pascal couldn’t – taking the time to write short. The result is a fantastic knock-about mix of emotions regarding the past, present and future of magazines and the magazine business. Optimists, pessimists, cynical newsstand veterans, wide-eyed Kickstarter newbies, pixelheads and page sniffers… all magazine life is here.

There are many industries that can lay claim to the level of digital disruption that magazines are enduring right now. The big difference is we’re story tellers and I hope the stories in the Magazine Diaries make you nod your head, shake your head, throw the book across the room then rush to pick it up so you can read the next one.

The main thing I know you will take away from the Magazine Diaries is that the people who make magazines really, really care about making magazines… and that’s one hell of an industry to be part of.

Peter Houston
Editor, The Magazine Diaries

The biggest disruption?

Is this really the ‘biggest disruption in publishing history’?

Really? The first magazine I worked on was set in hot metal.

Since then, jobs that surrounded the print industry; compositors, photo headline-setting, b/w photographic labs, cow gum, typesetting, repro-houses, the four-pint lunch hour… (I could go on) have largely disappeared. The editorial designer has had to take up most of these professions.

Now we have ‘digital’ or ‘multi-platform delivery systems’. There’s no difference. Quality words and good pictures still need to be displayed in a relatively pleasing manner.

Just recognise that fact and pay us properly. It’s all we ask.

Shem Law | Art Director, Radio Times


Magazine brands used to define who you were. They created tribes. They made the world smaller.

The web has made that relevancy largely redundant – the trust now lies in the peer group rather than the publisher.

The real problem magazine brands face now is one of irrelevance, which is due – purely – to a lack of innovation and empathy with user behaviour. The solution to this seems to be to embrace technology, but all this does is change the delivery method.

In reality, magazine brands need to redefine their value proposition, understand their users and find a definitive reason to exist.

Rob Boynes | Creative Consultant and Founder, F&W

28 Reasons sad kitten GIFs can’t replace magazines…

… number 28 will make you hug yourself.

Harold Hayes, Hunter S. Thompson, Truman Capote, Clay Felker, Vanity Fair, Lester Bangs, Steven Wells, Stanley Booth, Julie Burchill, Gay Talese, George Lois, David Carson, WC Heinz, Sounds, Annie Leibovitz, Terry O’Neill, NME, Pornalikes, Paul Morley, Neon, Nova, National Geographic, Norman Mailer, Melody Maker, Marvel, DC and 2000 AD and “Oh my God – we hit a little girl”.

Magazines have given us thousands of heroes and villains and ‘drop my bacon sandwich’ moments. There’s no reason that’s going to stop now.

We’re not in the paper business, we’re in the story business.

Scott Rowley | Editorial Director, Classic Rock

It’s not about paper

A magazine has never been about the paper it was printed on.

Publishers may have organised their businesses around selling the stuff, but real magazine brands are more like exclusive clubs that anyone can join for the price of a bus ticket. To feel part of a family, to have the ideals of a title reflected onto the reader just by opening a page, that’s what’s really valuable.

I’m now happy to read just about everything on my phone, but when I want the world to see who I really am, I let them know I’m a New Yorker reader.

Andy Cowles | Editorial Development Director, Coverthink Media Ltd