"Mainstream magazines might be struggling to survive against digital media, but their independent counterparts are thriving. In the basement of a London bar, gathered like a resistance movement or thralls to some secret perversion, 100 people have come together to discuss their passion for magazines. They particularly like the independently made, keep-it-on-your-bookshelf-afterwards type of mag, but organisers have encouraged the aficionados to share any and all new treasures they've found, regardless of subject or appearance. So long as it's made of paper and ink. Fittingly, the event is known as Printout; it takes place roughly once every two months. On a bench by the entrance, new arrivals are asked to put down what magazines they've brought along.... Quickly, the table is covered with titles, and at the end of the evening, after presentations by visiting magazine-makers as well as a bit of boozy mingling and lots of jokes about font kerning and paper density, departing guests will pick the publication that catches their eye and take it home.
Co-founder Steve Watson explains: "There's no problem with the product; the magazines being made are great, If independent magazines face difficulties in 2012 it's because of a lack of distribution". The consensus at Printout seems to be that low-flying indie mags are fairly well placed to weather the financial storms that have troubled the larger magazine houses of late. Indies have traditionally been made by tiny teams on tiny budgets: no change there. And loyal, stubborn customers have been made more loyal, more stubborn by encroaching digitisation. People are always going to have their personal space, their flat or whatever, and they're going to want to surround themselves with personal things. Magazines will always have a place on people's shelves assuming the internet doesn't somehow bugger up the shelving industry too.
Watson has a view. "As people, we crumple as we get older, we get smelly, bits break off. Something behind a glass screen, protected from being damaged, it's hard to feel an emotional bond with that." He picks up the magazine he's brought along to share, a German design journal with a bright-red cover. "Look - it's already starting to get bent around the edges. You feel an affinity with that. It's something that will die."
Thanks to all our stubborn, loyal customers.
Note: Not all mainstream mags are struggling. G
UPDATE: That great Dice cover reminded me of Sideburn's very own pin-up, Ben Part. Photo by Driver Chris. And yes, that's the helmet Ben races in. No visor, neither.