The Great Indie Magazine Explosion

[responsive]indiemag[/responsive]It began in the aftermath of the recession, around 2011. A slow but steady trickle of independent quarterlies like Kinfolk, Tiny Atlas Quarterly and Wilder crept onto the scene and captured the hearts and minds of readers.

The trickle has turned into a deluge, according to Vogue’s Lizzie Garrett Mettler who talks about the current boom in indie magazines and speculates on what’s behind their popularity.

“Internet fatigue, for one thing,” she surmises. “As our Facebook feeds are increasingly overtaken with unread blog posts, disposable lists, and the general digital overload, a niche market has clearly opened up for whatever is the opposite of all this—an object with shelf life, a disinterest in newsworthiness, and, seemingly most of all, thick paper.”

“Perhaps the most apt analogy is coffee culture: If BuzzFeed is a cup of dehydrated instant coffee consumed quickly to caffeinate on the subway, the neo-indie magazine is an expensive, labored-over cappuccino one sips slowly in the glow of good lighting,” Mettler continues.

The independent publishers Mettler interviewed for the article agree.

“People want something they can hold on to, savor, keep, and refer back to,” says Fiorella Valdesolo, editor of Gather, the recipe-driven title that launched in 2012.

“There is something nostalgic about a magazine,” says Ancestry Quarterly’s Jordan Vouga. “It’s substantial and you can smell the paper. It hits you at a subconscious level. I don’t get the same emotional connection with digital content.”

Jesse Lenz of Collective Quarterly notes the permanence of a printed piece, saying “I have an entire collection of vintage National Geographic that spans five decades, there’s a certain kind of feeling that those magazines have, they weren’t trying to be timely, they were documenting the human experience.”

Mettler notes that most of the founders of this new generation of indie magazines are digital natives, imbued with “the aesthetic sensibility of Tumblr, Pinterest, and the countless lifestyle blogs that have exploded over the last decade.

“In other words,” she continues, “the creators of these magazines haven’t so much rejected the Internet as brought it off our screens and onto paper. And although they leverage social media and websites to connect with their readers, they are all adamant that, when it comes to lifestyle content, print is the future.”