Indie magazines. They’re hip, they’re cool, and they are absolutely revitalizing the magazine industry. We spotted the swing from mass market to niche several years ago, when too many people were still wringing their hands about the changes to our industry. Some called us crazy. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that independent titles are breathing new life – and robust new business models – into the publishing scene.
As Walker Loetscher writes in Inside Hook, there is no doubt that the old mass market model has shriveled.
“But in their place, a new form of print journalism has risen, and even thrived,” he writes. “We’re talking about the world of independent magazines, the unlikely hero of the 24-hour news cycle. According to The Financial Times, alt-mag distribution service Stack reported a 32% growth in subscribers in 2017, with The Guardian having cited 76% growth for the same service back in 2014 (it launched in 2008).”
But why are indies thriving where mass media brands have faltered? Loetscher believes it comes down the old saving grace of magazines – quality and trust.
“Where clickbait is hastily assigned and edited, often riddled with factual errors and intended to leave the popular consciousness almost as quickly as it enters it, slow journalism is built for a long and healthy shelf life. It is typically printed on cardstock, distributed quarterly or bimonthly, and filled with rigorously edited long-form stories and original photography, illustrations and graphics. Slow journalism is not something to be tossed in the waste bin after a quick skim; it is meant to be displayed, ogled and admired.”
Since indie magazines typically do not rely as heavily (or sometimes at all) on ad dollars, the titles are usually a lot pricier than their mass-market counterparts. And they are finding audiences willing to pay for their deep, insightful content. What we’re learning about the indie magazine market is that the old rules are gone, and the new rules … are being created as we go.
If you want to dive into the world of indie, Loetscher offers a great place to start, with his list of the 100 Best Magazines You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of. Take a browse through these fresh, creative titles that are helping to build print’s new golden age.