The Modern Magazine 2014

The Modern Magazine 2014

Last year we reported on Jeremy ‘magCulture’ Leslie’s Modern Magazine event organised to coincide with the launch of his book of the same name, and hailed it as a huge success. We also told Jeremy we hoped it’d become an annual fixture on the conference scene. Friday 19th saw the second ModernMag event, this time held at the LCC and co-hosted by It’s Nice That’s Liv Siddall, so it seems like our wish might be coming true! We caught up with Jeremy before the event and got some answers about what we could expect – and I then enjoyed a great days discussion about magazines! Here’s our very brief overview of the 12 talks and our key snippets of wisdom from each speaker… See some of you there next year!

Rob Orchard, of ‘slow journalism’ masterpiece Delayed Gratification kicked off with a witty look at the news media landscape and the advantages of covering news stories at a pace very different to the mainstream media.

Kai Brach of Offscreen described his magazine venture as ‘A tangible experiment’ and talked about the need for the mental space paper provides at the edges of digital. He also had some great and typically honest advice about the practicalities of magazine production, demystifying the process and shedding light on his own journey from web designer or magazine producer.

Veronica Ditting, art director of The Gentlewoman discussed the no-nonsense approach of the team and the importance of approachability and readability. She also answered the often asked question around the now iconic cover-colour, explaining it’s always a reaction to the content. Reassuringly she believes it takes 3 issues before you know what you’re doing and also extolled the need for teamwork saying “you can only make a magazine with a team, never all alone”.

The second session kicked off with Gideon Spanier interviewing Jeremy Langmead, chief content officer at Christie’s (formerly editor-in-chief of Mr Porter) this surprised me and was one of the most enlightening talks of the day – Jeremy candidly talking about the tension in creating ‘branded content’ for a prestigious establishment presented in a bold and striking new format.

Next up was Elana Schlenker, of annual magazine Gratuitous Type, who perhaps proving Veronica Ditting wrong spoke about her “really personal endeavour – I edit, design, market, conduct interviews, mail it out” This super lean team means Elana creates the mag exactly as she wants, and can flex the brand how she chooses as there are no financial pressures influencing her decisions.

Simon Lyle of ‘booze mag’ Hot Rum Cow, / White Light Media, explained how HRC was many things – work generation tool, brand builder, skills broadener etc. – and an opportunity to put together interesting articles and inspirational tales.

Peter Houston charismatically opened the afternoon session by announcing the publishing project The Magazine Diaries benefitting MagAid, a charitable offshoot of the National Literacy Trust. One hundred contributors each wrote 100 words on their shared love of magazines, you can pick up a copy here.

David Moretti, creative director of Wired Italia, dazzled with stunning visuals (and the stories behind them) describing Wired as, “Extraordinary information presented in extraordinary ways” – perhaps most interesting was how they managed to form a community of 30,000 subscribers before a page was printed!

Danny Hüman After All Miller (the guy who used to run Little White Lies) took us on a journey to how he believes a magazine could save the world. Grand ambitions but his latest project ‘Weapons of Reason‘ which aims to make understandable some of the big problems facing us stands a chance. He also mentioned ‘the publishing playbook’ – a free resource for magazine makers that we’re looking forward to getting our hands on.

Riposte founder Danielle Pender was next up, opening with a tragically amusing analysis of the women’s magazine market. Riposte on the other hand features fascinating women for who they are rather than what they are – “No stylists, no elaborate lighting and no Photoshop”. She told us that maintaining a beginners mind provides more possibilities – and how important it is not to take everything seriously.

Steve ‘Stack’ Watson then hosted a group discussion (with Danny Miller, Simon Lyle, Kai Brach, Rob Orchard and Danielle Pender) about the challenges of indie publishing, followed by some great audience questions.

Second to last was the breath of fresh air, ‘Art Dictator’ of FAT magazine (Finnish Art Today) Pekka Toivonen. He was the only speaker to have entrance music(!) and taught us some great lessons.

Finishing off the day was design legend Adam Moss in conversation with Jeremy Leslie – mainly discussing the incredible changes and evolutions that have taken place at New York magazine during his time there.

If that left you wanting to know more check out Sarah Snaith’s series of more in-depth live posts form the event here, and listen to some of the speakers on this recent episode of The Stack on Monocle24.


Luke Tonge