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Here; fuelling the magazine ecosystem with a deliberate difference

Following the sudden news of Bauer Media’s exit from New Zealand, Simon Farrell-Green, previous editor at one of their titles, Home, forced himself into immediate action. Knowing there was a well-established ecosystem of readers, advertisers and architects that needed to be serviced, Here was created. And with it, a new appreciation of the creative resilience of editors.

Farrell-Green, like many great editors that were out on their own following the mass redundancies, knew he had a dedication to the audience he had serviced for years.

“There was no event horizon. When it was closed it was very emotional and things went very slowly, and no one really knew what was happening. Yet, within half an hour of the call, I knew I wanted to do something. I just didn’t know what that was, or what from it would take.

Simon Farrell-Green

“I knew we had to do something because otherwise the ecosystem would go. Print sales had been up, subscriptions had been up, but I started to worry with no magazines on the shelves, especially in our category of architecture and housing, that people would lose the habit, or they might go international and decide that would service them well enough,” Ferrell-Green explains.

Many Bauer editors knew something would have to give with the lockdown, as ad spend was falling and overheads were increasing. In a tough market, creating a print publication seems like an overly confident move. Yet for Farrell-Green it was logical, and the support from his previous magazine ecosystem allowed Here to enter its first stages.

“In the architecture and design space in publishing, basically Home and Your Home and Garden disappeared over night… Yet before the closure we were seeing some really promising signs, subscriptions were up, traffic was up, it showed me there was still a growing need out there for print publications, and even more now that they were gone.

“The main question I was thinking about was, can an independent produce a magazine to the standard you’d expect? We had to make sure we were going to do it right, and we had to make sure we were offering a beautiful product that we were proud of.

“If I hadn’t had some really serious expressions of support in those first days then we wouldn’t have done anything. We couldn’t have afforded it, and there was no way I would have had the confidence to go ahead.”

He says Here is not replacing Home but is rather hitting the market as a new offering with different content which reflects this new post-Covid-19 normal.

“It’s very conscious of a new reality and a new economy. We were trying not to make something just because we felt we had too,” he says.

Farrell-Green, in light of this new plan, created a Boosted campaign project. The goal was to raise $12,500, yet with just two days left has smashed that goal, raising over $25,600 from 338 donors. Even though this was enough to create, print and distribute the publication, in true editor form Farrell-Green refused to bring this to market unless it was backed by ad spend.

“The advertising revenue has pretty much paid for the magazine, and the boosted campaign will pay for development of the digital side and of course ongoing funding to keep us viable so we can pay our contributors to keep helping on the broader stuff. I have been conscious that with the money we have raised it doesn’t just disappear, I want to make sure we’re using it in the best way possible, it needs to achieve an outcome.”

That outcome will be put towards creating a digital presence for the magazine, or as Farrell-Green puts it, “into the elusive financial black hole of website development.”

The three-week turn around for the magazine started with help from Ovato. Farrell-Green says that general manager, Tony Edwards and the team were a catalyst for the beginning stages.

“I talked to Ovato and said that I wanted to give this a shot, following that we made a media kit and started shopping out to advertisers. That went out on the May 11 and we went on sale May 22 – we gave ourselves 2-3 weeks to get that ad spend in. I wasn’t going to commit to going ahead with production unless we had enough ad support, because I didn’t want to put my own livelihood at risk by sinking how many thousands into it just to get it going.

“There was no content calendar, there was no market research to who the readers were, there was nothing to validate the vision. It started on trust and the generosity of our advertisers.”

One of the benefits of pivoting to becoming an independent publisher is lower costs and overheads which make it easier to keep a magazine viable. A con however, according to Farrell-Green, is the new crushing weight of added responsibility.

“While I was sending the magazine to print, I had this moment when I had to click an ominous green tick button to approve all the copy. It hadn’t been around the houses or the different departments of corporate bureaucracy to be signed off on, it was just me. It was this anxious moment where I had to take a few laps of the house before I could sit down and think yes, I can do this.”

Here is an ode to the creative relicense of editors. Yet, it is also a beautiful, locally-focused publication that has carved a place for itself in a market that is dedicated to the beauty of things.

“There are not many New Zealand print titles on the market right now, so that felt like a huge gap for our readers. Over my career I’ve done both digital and print, and although I love both I feel like they do different things. So, to me, print is deliberate, slow, thoughtfully designed and honed. It’s the act of making and polishing something that I really love. The act of reading a print mag is very deliberate too.”

This deliberate content, rather than passive content which is often how digital is consumed, is brought to life by Here’s design director Sarah Gladwell. Yet, Gladwell is not the soul design voice of the publication, Farrell-Green’s Here also brings in guest art directors, Emma Kaniuk and Tana Mitchell of Studio Akin, which brings in a third dimension to the publication.

“The idea behind that was Sarah designs the cover and the front of the magazine, and then the guest art directors create the look for the five featured houses. So, it’s a different design on 56 pages out of the 130-page issue. Meaning although it features different styles and design languages, it still works as one cohesive product.”

This move means that although Here is in the process of getting a digital presence, the full scope of art and design will only be available in print. For the Here team, the focus on local across content and design is a way to settle into a welcoming market.

“There are 100’s of magazines out there that licence content from overseas, it is incredibly easy to do it that way. But that was of no interest to me, that’s not the point… People want local magazines and want to support local stories. I think with the loss of Bauer, everyday Kiwis noticed the loss, and they are looking for something to come back.”

Now, Here is hitting the shelves, and with it the lingering trepidation of starting a print magazine in this economy. Yet Farrell-Green’s outlook is simple; only meaningless print is dead.

“Nothing beats the physical tangible feeling of a print magazine. I often think of magazines and print as two separate entities. You can be swamped with images to the point where it becomes meaningless and the audience doesn’t engage with it. So, what we do in a magazine like Here, is we make really deliberate decisions on what we’re going to run and why.

“We’re really hard on what makes it into the magazine, and we will only get harder, because we have to in print. You have to present something that is really compelling, that is new, and does something you haven’t seen before.”

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