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From 24 to 300 pages: the story behind Remix magazine

Just over 17 years ago, Remix magazine founder Tim Phin published the first edition of his magazine. At only 24 pages, this early iteration would today be dwarfed by the 300-page behemoth that causes an unstable table at Atomic Coffee to lean to one side as Damien Venuto sits down to chat with Phin.

June 12, 2015 | features

Sitting down with Phin, it soon becomes clear that Remix magazine is integrally linked to his life, not only in his commitment to the publication over the years but also in the content printed on the pages.

 “We just keep evolving with our market and also with the times,” he says in explaining the longevity of the magazine. “I started it when I was 20 and we’re making it for our peer groups, so it’s kind of evolved in that time.”

In its early days, Remix was a music magazine that targeted concert-mad university and school students in the below-25 demographic. At the time, these were Phin’s peers. But the unavoidable curse of ageing means that audiences get older. And rather than trying to attract a new generation of music-hungry kids, Phin instead followed the audience by providing content that they became interested in. He says the core readership is now in its 30s and not targeted at anyone under 18. 

“In the next issue, we have a story on engagement rings because our peer groups are getting married at the moment,” he says as an example of the shift in the magazine’s approach. 

These days, Remix is focused on fashion and popular culture, but the music roots have not been jettisoned entirely. In the latest issue, for example, Phin has included an interview with Gin Wigmore talking about the release of her new album.

“When we profile artists, we suit them ourselves,” he says.   

Featuring local fashion brands and monochromatic photography, Wigmore’s spread in the magazine is as effective at promoting local designer talent as it is at marketing her new album. 

Phin explains that the transition from music to fashion wasn’t all that difficult given that these two things have always been interrelated. One need only look at the impact of grunge, punk or metal on genre aficionados' dress sense to see that the link isn’t that much of a stretch.

As the magazine has expanded, it has created more pages to fill. So how is it that Phin and his team manage to find enough advertising to finance each voluminous edition of the publication?

“It’s literally the million-dollar question,” he says. “I think that advertisers like Remix because it works for them, because the readers are buying into the whole environment and the whole quality of the magazine. It’s high-quality images, high-quality stories.”

Phin and his team have also shown a knack for producing clever native advertising pieces that straddle the line between editorial and advertising in a way that appeals to brands that target the upper-echelons of society that comprise Remix’s readership.

“Gone are the days of asking someone to buy a four-page ad and there’ll be a yes or no answer. Now, it’s more a case of making it work for them.”

A recent example of this would be a clever piece produced for State Insurance that features a double-page spread of items placed on a table with the cost to insure each item included on the side.

Phin says that these are the types of advertising executions that appeal to his clients such as Samsung, HTC, BMW, Audi, Adidas and fashion brands. And even when it comes to standard advertising, Phin applies a near-editorial approach to the process.   

“We don’t accept ads that don’t fit our environment, so you won’t see a cat food ad or something like that that you might see in North & South,” he says. “The reason for this is that we want readers to perceive the advertising as editorial as well, so that it flows very nicely. It’s got to be a great image and great ad that adds to the magazine.”

The close relationship between editorial and advertising is also reflected in the fact that editor Steven Fernandez produces the content for native advertising campaigns.      

“He doesn’t sell ads, but he comes up with all the creative ideas. So, I’ll talk to him and we’ll work to make it fit.”

At a time when many the industry are concerned about the merging of the lines between editorial and advertising, this is certainly a bold approach. However, Phin says that Remix shouldn’t be boxed into the same category as other news-related publications.

“It’s just part of the business. For a magazine like ours, if it fits the environment it’s okay. I think it’s different from someone like the Herald that’s expected to report on news. So, when they do it, it could be perceived as bought news. But, with us, we’re just showcasing what’s cool out there. This is just another way of pointing out what’s cool.”

One thing that is important for Remix to retain is its reputation as a curator of taste. If the editorial decisions are seen by readers as artificial or driven by financial reasons, then this could lead to readers turning away.

“The stuff that we’ve done has been in a tasteful way. I haven’t seen it done in a bad way before.”

Phin points to the willingness of brands to work with the magazine as evidence of the fact that the editorial quality isn’t being brought into question by the native advertising pieces.

“For our Remix market, our editorial team and our readers are influencers. Advertisers and advertising agencies love influencers, because they start trends and hold audiences really well. Influencers follow quality and they follow things that are happening internationally. What we provide is a platform for advertisers to tap into that.”

As is the case with all examples of influencers, social media plays an integral role in the success of the system—and Phin is particularly partial to Instagram.

While chatting, he whips out his smartphone and shows me an Instagram post that he sent out 47 minutes prior. “There are 177 likes already,” he says.   

“Social media is really big for us. On Instagram we have 20,000 followers, which I think is the biggest for any magazine in New Zealand. Fashion Quarterly is like 6,000.”


Asked whether he also uses Twitter, he responds, nonchalantly: “Twitter is dying.”

Interestingly, this sentiment was also expressed during the recent Radio Rewired event with MediaWorks group content director Leon Wratt pointing out that the visual appeal of Instagram makes it a much stronger platform for driving engagement.

And with the growing demand for video, Phin says that this is also a space that Remix is interested in.

“Video is something we dabble in, but it’s not really something we focus on,” Phin says. “Last September, we did a Remix fashion TV thing, where edited videos around Fashion Week. We’ve now got Amber Pebbles who’s just come on Editor-at-large, and we are in the process of talks about doing something during Fashion Week again.”

Kylie Jenner for Remix Magazine

Watch Kylie Jenner's personal message to Remix readers below!Share this video on your own wall to go in the draw to win a LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION to REMIX MAGAZINE. Tag your friends as well!Buy the Beauty & Luxe edition now at remixmagazine.com

Posted by REMIX MAGAZINE on Wednesday, 25 March 2015

In addition to the Remix Instagram account, the people profiled on the pages also play an important role. Jaime Ridge was recently featured, and Phin says that she quickly spread the news to her 40,000 followers.

Social media also played in a major role in the success of the previous edition, which featured Kylie Jenner on the cover.

“We actually went over to LA and shot her ourselves and got her into New Zealand clothing. She wore Kate Sylvester and Helen Cherry. It was a big investment, but it really paid off. That issue literally sold off from the streets. It was a good 10,000 copies gone.”

Selling out from the newsstand is no easy feat in the magazine industry these days, and Phin admits that it’s certainly a tough market to be in (Phin says that his usual circulation is 10,000 issues and that this was doubled for the issue featuring Jenner. He adds that readership for the magazine sits at around 100,000 and that he expects this to increase because of the success of the Jenner issue).

“I would hate to be a magazine that’s dropping in distribution. We haven’t had that, but other magazines that ere selling 50,000 are now only selling 30,000.”

He says that the continued success of Remix has largely been because the magazine has stuck to its niche and the brand hasn’t been cheapened over time.

“A gossip magazine is chucked out within a week or put onto the toilet or something like that whereas people hold onto Remix for a year or longer because they’ve invested so much into it.”

And this level of respect is largely attributable to the level of respect Remix affords to its story subjects, as evidenced in the treatment of a recent story on The Bachelor NZ's Art Green.

  

Phin goes on to point out that there is also a return to print, with high-end brands seeing it as an exclusive space to house their visual identity.

“Some websites are now creating magazines as well. Net-a-Porter has just created a magazine that they’re using to build their brand. There’s been a movement of car companies going back to print, especially luxury ones. Everyone is doing online and Facebook and things, but now if you’re doing magazines you’re a quality brand.”

Until now, Remix has managed to hold onto its readership by growing older with its core audience. However, now on final stretch of his 30s, Phin admits that it might be time to hand the reins on to someone else.

“I’d hate to think what it would be like if I was still doing this at the age of 50. It’s got potential to be sold quite soon. It’s got to the point where it should maybe move to a big corporation. If an offer was good, I would look at it.”

For now, however, Phin and his team are still able to create 300 pages with the combination of slick editorial and classy advertising that has for so long typified the fashion magazine niche.  

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