Editor Life: the full 91 Magazine story - Part I

It has been a little over five and a half years since I had the idea to start up 91 Magazine. It has come SO far since that tiny seed of an idea! So I thought it would be nice to share a bit more

It has been a little over five and a half years since I had the idea to start up 91 Magazine. It has come SO far since that tiny seed of an idea! So I thought it would be nice to share a bit more insight about what goes on behind the scenes and what it's like to be the editor of an independent magazine - I hope that sounds vaguely interesting! :) 

To kick it off, I'm beginning with the full story of 91 Magazine - I'm often asked about where the idea came from, how I set it up and the journey it's been on - so this series of posts should give a good overview of the past five or so years. 

Back in 2011, I was working full time as a picture editor for the Financial Times Weekend newspaper. I'd been in the job around three years at that point, and I was learning so much about publishing. I was part of a small team putting together the House & Home supplement, and this gave me the opportunity to understand the process involved in making a publication. From commissioning writers, photographers and illustrators, to the sub-editing and design process, to understanding the job of an editor - curating the pages and making the publication cohesive as a whole. I soaked up as much as I could from this working environment, but it was never my plan to start a magazine - I wasn't squirrelling away knowledge as part of my master plan! 

But at some point in the summer of 2011, an idea came to me. I'd always loved magazines, and had a particular penchant for interiors mags, but I'd started to feel disappointed by my monthly subscriptions, the magazines just didn't seem to speak to me anymore... I felt sure I could create something better - my perfect magazine - filled with interiors that were attainable but not boring, DIY ideas that were modern not twee, as well as speaking to my creative entrepreneur side - advice to help me grow my business and connect with my creativity. BUT, at that time, while I understood the process of putting together a publication, I knew nothing about printing or distribution. I assumed (and may well have been right at that time) that printers would never do small print runs, and I didn't have the cash or guts to print thousands of copies of a brand new magazine! That's when I discovered online magazines. At the time, there were a few American and Australian online interiors mags - Lonny and Adore for example, but no UK focussed ones. That was my lightbulb moment, I'd give it a go as an online magazine and see where we went from there. 

The first digital edition (2011) next to the most recent print edition (AW 2016). 

The first digital edition (2011) next to the most recent print edition (AW 2016). 

I must admit there was some level of naivety, I think I thought that I could do the whole thing myself at first! I already wrote my blog, so I thought it would be like bringing my blog posts together but in a more 'designed' format. I look back on that and LOL! Luckily, I didn't proceed with that plan. I put a call out for contributors on Twitter one day on my way to work - I remember distinctly standing on the train platform and reading lots of replies from people who wanted to get involved and that really spurred me on. A couple of friends from work were also massively encouraging and agreed to help out on the words side of things, as my strengths were mainly on the visual side. 

We set to work, and in October 2011, we published the first 54 page edition on issuu.com. I even managed to sell advertising in this first issue, which was amazing considering it was an unknown, and I am still thankful to those brands who supported me back then. I must say, I cringe massively when I look through that first issue! But at the same time, you have to start somewhere, and I am a big advocate of just going for it and giving an idea a try - so of course your first attempts will be less than perfect. Amazingly that first issue to date has had over 16,000 'reads' on issuu! The difference between the first and second issues is huge though - we had lots more original content in issue 2, as well as more pages, and suddenly I had lots more people interested in contributing and our readership was growing. 

home tour with Tif Fussell - spread from issue 2

home tour with Tif Fussell - spread from issue 2

Style feature spread from issue 6

Style feature spread from issue 6

From there, I continued to publish an issue online approximately every quarter. In 2013, I took voluntary redundancy from my job. It felt like the right time for me, I'd been building lots of contacts and I'd even already had discussions about a book deal, so I was ready to try and be my own boss. By the end of that year, I'd also got married and was pregnant, and that book deal had come to fruition! In 2014, I published a 'special' craft edition of the magazine - it had also had a redesign, and the response to that issue was amazing. To date, it has had over 83,000 'reads' and over 3 million impressions! 

Up until this point the magazine had been free to read, and I now felt that I needed to step things up, and look at how I could start generating some more revenue from the magazine, so I decided to start charging for downloads. I will tell you more about that, and where I went from there in the next instalment! 

To be continued...

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