Fall hard or fly

Paul McNamee
The Big Issue


When it happens, you fall hard or you fly. And boy, we flew! 

Covid gripped, The Big Issue was off the streets for the first time in 29 years. We had to help vendors and make sure we were to be around when it’s over.

We called out with subscriptions. Readers came. We went into shops (for the first time ever). Readers came. 

We built an App and we built a podcast. We fixed online. 

The public support moved us in majestic, glorious ways.

Like being on the back of a wild horse, it’s terrifying at times. Onwards, we ride!

The Magazine Diaries: 2020

About six years ago, I reached out to friends and colleagues in the magazine industry and asked what it felt like to be working in magazine publishing “in the middle of the biggest disruption in publishing history”.

The Coronavirus Crisis is clearly now the biggest disruption in publishing history and I’m resurrecting the Magazine Diaries to chronicle how magazine people are coping with the chaos that this awful disease has unleashed.

The first Magazine Diaries project started with a lovely little A5 bookazine. This time round I’m keeping it digital, at least until we’re on the other side of lockdown. But the content will be exactly the same – 100 words each from 100 magazine people, all about being a magazine professional during the pandemic.

Writing exactly 100 words, no more no less, is not as easy as it sounds. Saying what you want in 100 words, especially about such a monumental , is hard. Making every one of those words sing is even harder. But you can do it, you’re a magazine maker.

And by pitching in, you will be helping the vendors and publishers of The BIG ISSUE one of the magazines hardest hit by the crisis.

With vendors kept off the street by the lockdown the Big Issue needs everyone who normally bought it when they were out and about to take a three month subscription. Every 100-word post on The Magazine Diaries: 2020 will link directly to the Big Issue Subscription page and carry a little tipping button so that readers can contribute extra to the Big Issue foundation.

If you’re interested in helping out, sign up for the project updates newsletter and we’ll be in touch soon with details on how to submit your 100 words and a few suggestions for topics we’d love to hear more about.

Stay safe,


Editor // The Magazine Diaries 

The Magazine Diaries makes it to Singapore

Magazine Diaries in Singapore

Jo Upcraft, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan Singapore, posted this picture to Instagram with this glowing review.

Just read @MagazineDiaries. Made me laugh, cry (a little bit), feel nostalgic for the past, hopeful for the future and more in love with the industry than ever. For anyone who’s been at it as long as I have, or has any passion for magazines and creativity, just order yours.

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. Continue reading →

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