On this first episode of the final season for 2023, we feature a passion project from one of our own. The Grub Street Journal is a B2B title made by and for people who love print magazines. Its co-founders and editors Joanna Cummings and Peter Houston take us through the project from inception to monetisation, and give us a sneak peek at the third issue of the magazine.

The team also discuss whether a flurry of print magazine stories is a sign of a wider resurgence, or a blip. With NME coming back into print, Elle Australia hitting newsstands again next year following rising demand, and Immediate’s Radio Times reaching 100 years and still going strong, what does a print resurgence look like? If print is making a comeback, it’s looking more niche, less frequent, and more expensive to make or buy.

Print and its place in publisher portfolios this year will be one of the chapters we explore as part of our upcoming Media Moments 2023 report. Find out more and pre-register for the report here.

Here are some highlights from the episode:

Why launch a print magazine

Jo: We both work in the industry, and talk a lot about all the issues and the big questions, and the people we want to speak to. I was inspired when I did the Magazine Street ‘Magazine in a day’ to do something similar.

I’ve been an editor for a long time, [Peter] hasn’t been on magazines for a while but is really well-connected and loves magazines. So we wanted a really cool new platform to combine our skills and knowledge and tackle some of the big questions, some of the tough questions that people tend to be a little more idealistic about. We wanted to get real and be a bit more honest.

Peter: [B2B media] spends so much time talking about KPIs and performance metrics and strategies and all the things that are important and help people do a better job. But no one’s talking about the people. Who’s talking about what people think, what people feel, what people go through, the processes that they go through, the skills that they need?

So it’s a B2B magazine. But the focus is on the people that are doing the business rather than the strategic aspect.

The bigger picture

Jo: We had no illusions that we were going to make millions off it. We decided that we’re going to do a finite number of issues. By the end, it would be a collection, a real snapshot of the industry. We’ll have covered some great stuff. It’ll be something that people would keep and refer to.

We wanted to try doing it and seeing what the process was doing it; document that process, see if anything we learned along the way could help other people with that process. So we’re trying to be really honest about the making of it, as well as the issues that are in it.

We wanted to position ourselves almost like an anti B2B magazine. We both worked on a lot of B2B magazines. And some of them have great design, I’m not knocking them, but we wanted it to look as far away from that as possible.

The craft of print

Peter: There’s space for doing this kind of stuff in digital. But flatplanning a print magazine… I was talking to Rob [Orchard] at Delayed Gratification the other day, and we got into talking about flatplanning and magazine pacing. Rob was saying a website doesn’t have a flatplan. There’s no such thing.

Jo: It’s infinite, potentially. Whereas to do print, it’s a very carefully curated set of features, articles, interviews, put together in that order for a reason. That comes back to what we were saying about the craft. We wanted to do that: how do we encapsulate some of the biggest issues in magazine publishing in a limited number of pages, and in a way that people would keep and collect it?

Some early challenges

Jo: We picked an absolutely insane time to do it. Prices are massive. People are querying the longevity of print, obviously, as they have done for a while now. It’s tougher than ever to sell online. The marketplace is crowded, there’s all sorts of stuff that makes it really tough.

So in a way, it was a bit daft. But then we thought, we are the chief idiots! That’s why we wanted to do it. It’s tough for other people. So let’s try and see what we can fix, solve, discover, and pass that on in some way.

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