One of my favourite magazines. 

An indie mag newsletter by Dan Rowden
 

Issue 8 — April 12, 2018
Magazine Focus Special — Offscreen, issue 19



Hiya!

I've been sick this week 😑 but I've still got a brill special edition of Coverage for you, regardless.

Every fourth newsletter I want to focus on and go deeper with a magazine. This allows both you and I to learn more of what goes in to publishing a magazine.

After covering Fare in issue 4, I've been chatting with Kai Brach, editor of Offscreen, a magazine looking at the human side of technology. Issue 19 comes out very soon so I thought it was the perfect time to go deeper. In this email, we find out Kai's thoughts about how social media impacts a magazine in 2018, some things he's learned from six years publishing an indie magazine and some of his favourite things in his home town of Melbourne, Australia.

Plus, there are some images from the upcoming issue (at the printers now!) and of course an exclusive discount 😇 Keep reading...

In personal news, we are leaving Mauritius at the end of April for a four-month trip to Europe. So excited! (but will miss #islandlife). If you're in or around London on the weekend of May 11/12, let me know. We're planning a magazine meet-up to hang out and talk magazines!

Enjoy the rest of your week. Speak soon,

-Dan

P.S.: @toteslovemags 👀 Launching in June!



Happy Valley

First, a quick visit to Melbourne

Let's jump in with some of Kai's favourite places and magazines from Melbourne, the city from where he's published nearly every issue of Offscreen.

📖 Favourite Melbourne magazine

That's a tough one because there are so many great publications coming out of Melbourne. I'd like to mention two: Dumbo Feather for having been around forever (well before the current indie mags craze) and for continuing to fight the good fight; and Green Magazine because it encourages people to think more about sustainable living and architecture, something we urgently need to do here in Australia where so many greedy developers are ruining city scapes and the planet.

📚 Favourite Melbourne stockist

I love stopping by Happy Valley in Collingwood. The owner Chris has put together a fantastic collection of local and international publications, books, designy accessories and gifts. You always stumble across a product that makes you wish you had come up with the idea yourself.

☕️ Favourite Melbourne café

This is probably the most controversial question to ask a Melburnian, because coffee is the sacred serum that holds this city together. There are at least 5 amazing coffee shops within a five minute walk from my house, so I'll pick the one at which I feel most ‘at home’: Steam Junkies, which is on the ground floor of the award-winning The Commons building.

Pictured: Happy Valley



Offscreen 18

A powerful piece from the last issue

Says Kai, “Issue 18 of Offscreen was one of the best and most important ones yet, because it tackled some very significant questions related to ethics in tech. This quote by Erica Hall is especially relevant today.”

“At Mule Design, instead of user-centred design, we talk a lot more about value-centred design. With the former, the focus lies on empathy: how to give users a great experience. Being empathetic is great, but an interaction is more multifaceted than that. A casino offers a perfect user-centred design experience, but it’s still a casino. It’s still doing a lot of harm. With a value-centred design approach, you’re not just looking at the user, but also what the business gets out of it, and whether it’s a fair exchange of value.

“As a designer, you can analyse that exchange: if the business is extracting something from its users, what is the business offering in exchange? We have no problem with the business making money, but it has to offer something of positive value to their customers, and, ideally, create something of positive value for the world. It’s the designer’s job to make that exchange more beneficial for everyone. But if the equation is such that the business extracts money by doing something unethical with no positive value to its users, then there’s no point in taking on the job.”

If you don't yet have Issue 18, you can pick it up from offscreenmag.com
(check below for an exclusive discount!)

 



Kai Brach

Q&A

I always love reading Kai's thoughts and processes behind making Offscreen (go check out the Offscreen blog for hours of essential reading!). The way he has used the internet and social media for his "off-screen" magazine over the past six years is super interesting and, more importantly, very successful.

I shot over some questions to Kai about his digital/print balance, how social media factors in the indie mag sphere and how he uses his newsletter in between issues. Grap a cuppa and enjoy...

Dan R: You've made a name for yourself in the indie mag world for documenting the behind the scenes of Offscreen and the making of a print magazine. Do you feel that was an essential part of the process of making Offscreen, or was it more for the aim of helping others?

Kai B: I think both. Writing about it also helps me understand my process a lot better and document my own learning curve. A few weeks after I published the inaugural issue, I wrote a lengthy blog post about how I got started. To my surprise a lot of my online friends shared and liked, and that showed to me that in the tech community there is a fascination with making tangible (in my case printed) products. It drove a lot of traffic to my site which was a clear sign that I was on to something. I tried to keep at it ever since, although I've been a bit slack in recent months.

It's amazing to see how many people now write to me thanking me for putting together so much information for fledgling publishers. I don't earn a cent for putting this stuff out there, but the goodwill and recognition I receive in return is totally worth it!

DR: About a year ago you merged your newsletter and the print magazine into a single brand under Offscreen. How do you now use the newsletter as a channel alongside your less frequent but more substantial print output?

KB: I think email/newsletters as a format is coming back big time. More and more people realise that social media followers tend to be fickle and hard to engage with. Email, on the other hand, is personal; it's right in your inbox to be read when it suits you. Used well, it remains the most powerful digital tool to stay connected with an audience.

My weekly newsletter, the Dispatch, does a few things for me: it gives me the feeling of having 'shipped' something every week; it reminds my readers of Offscreen in between print issue (4 months!); and it allows me to give my audience updates on the making of the next issue and build up a bit of buzz before the next release.

As the newsletter readership has grown to around 14,000 subscribers, it's also become secondary promotional tool for my sponsors. I can now sell a sponsor slot for the magazine and say, "Your print slot also includes a digital component through the newsletter." Sponsors always like to hear that they get some exposure they can measure.

DR: What do you think are the important parts of social media for a magazine’s success in 2018? 

KB: I use Twitter and Instagram quite a bit and I would say it's important to be present on a few social media channels, but wouldn't go as far as to say that it's essential or crucial to Offscreen's success. Having said that, I've heard from friends who run other brands and they said that Instagram really helped lift them up, especially at the beginning.

As with most things online, we fatigue pretty quickly. When I follow a new brand the first few posts might be interesting, but unless they offer me anything useful beyond sales promos, there is hardly any reason to really pay attention what they have to say. And that goes back to what I mentioned earlier: an email will always get you more clicks and engagement than a social media post, although similar rules apply to both: drop the sales BS, don't be a brand, instead make it personal and useful.

In my opinion, the way brands are taking over platforms such as Instagram is quite disheartening. It used to be a place for personal creative expression. Now that tranquility is all too often interrupted by some useless Kickstarter gimmick that shouts "YOU NEED THIS" at you. You definitely don't want to be that arsebag.

DR: I find it really interesting your balance between using digital to promote Offscreen and build a brand (and also the newsletter) but being quite against publishing the magazine’s content online. Is there place for print magazines to use digital without feeling like they have to put content online to get better reach and exposure? 

KB: I'm not against sharing some (or all) content online, but for a magazine called Offscreen it certainly makes less sense. 😉

I think generally, it's worth trying. If you think you can generate more traffic through a digital or online version of the magazine and you can do it well, why not?! As long as it doesn't cannibalise sales of the magazine, it's probably a good idea to explore. For Offscreen, I decided to use a newsletter as my way of engaging digitally. Rather than republishing most of the magazine's content online, the newsletter is a complementary format that reaches new readers that may not have heard of the magazine or aren't ready to buy a copy just yet. It also gives me direct access to my audience in a way that a blog or an eBook can not.



A sneaky preview of Issue 19 😙

Kai is currently in Germany overseeing the printing of the 19th issue of Offscreen. Here's a quick preview of what's coming!

 
 
 

 
 

Keep watching @offscreenmag to find out when the issue drops.



3 things I've learned from 6 years of making Offscreen

Don’t focus on the activity, focus on the output.

I don’t always love what I do, but I love what I put out into the world. The daily tasks in getting a magazine published are a lot less exciting and more repetitive than most people think. My day-to-day job doesn't get me all that excited anymore, but seeing the magazine out in the world and having people react to it is what keeps me going.

“After one issue” is always “before the next.

The challenge of producing any frequently published content is that as soon as you're done with one release, the next deadline is looming. This can be pretty daunting and it gets exhausting quickly. So after each issue I try to take at least a week or two in which I try to unwind, cut back on work, and recognise the fact that – against all odds – I somehow managed to pull off yet another issue!

Shipping atoms around the world is hard. 

I sometimes get jealous at friends who run purely digital businesses. They never have to deal with faulty production runs, damaged shipping boxes or missing shipments. Shipping tangible items to a global audience (no matter whether it's a magazine or a piece of jewellery) is a pain in the butt.



Buy Offscreen

A discount just for Coverage readers ❤️

Kai's offering you, Coverage readers, 10% off all single issues! Perfect if you've never read Offscreen before or if you have any issues missing from your collection.

👉 Use the code COVERAGE at offscreenmag.com/buy/
Code is valid until Tuesday 17 April.

Fun fact: I built the Offscreen checkout and subscription system. Go give it a try 😉



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