Photo by: Bryan Moore
Critical Questions: Jessica Young
The future of Papercut Magazine & black metal.
As soon as publishers got wind of the rising technology of digital publications, a slow and deadening white enveloped their faces. Soon their stomachs grew heavier with the realization that the world of publishing is not just about looking ahead for change to come, but it is in fact, right in the middle of change itself. The future of print has been in limbo for a while, with long-running publications grasping deseperately at strings of opportunity, running aimlessly down paths that promise the basic hope of any publication: this hope being the subscribers themselves.
The unsteady ground of publishing, however, can be taken two directions: either you see it as a windfall to the traditional empire built around glossy pages and gray-stained fingertips from newpaper clippings -- or you see it as an opportunity to advance toward a form of media in which top-down hierarchy no longer reigns; where the readers dictate the product.
Papercut Magazine has taken the latter concept and pushed it further, delivering fresh content on the most up-and coming-designers, photographers, artists, musicians, and, culture based on the ideal that a publication can exist and work with the versatile lifestyles of the modern reader. Already they are making an impact in the art and digital communities with these innovative conceptions on what a magazine can be, and more importantly, the transformation of what readers' role can become within the development process. During what can be seen as a tumultous time for publishers, Papercut is not re-arranging the old, they are forging a new form of media based on complexity, which is exactly what being creative is about.
As a montly digital and on-demand print publication, they are now attempting the feat of conquering a rather new arena -- "iPad-generation" publishing, with all of its multi-faceted possibilities. With new interactive features, including teaming up with ReverbNation and developing a pick-and-choose approach, Papercut has launched Papercut REPLAY, a montly 360-interactive magazine subscription. We sat down with Jessica Young, Papercut Magazine's Fashion Editor and Director of Content, to discuss the trend of digital technology in the publishing world, what these interactive developments mean for subcribers (both the traditional reader and the trendy), and what is in store for the future of print.
CM: How did the concept for Papercut REPLAY come into fruition and what were some challenges you faced?
JY: From the beginning we knew that we wanted to be a digital-media publisher. For that to happen you obviously need a digital edition, and an iPad edition, and a print edition, because now media is being consumed across all these medias, it's not just one. However, there's a lot of software involved and basically it became an issue of money. There are all these software licensing costs that go into it. You have to design for so many different platforms and so many different usages. You have HTML5, you have Android, you have Mac -- you have to develop all this stuff separately. However, being forward-thinking, we also knew that we could make it easier for our end user by creating a subscription experience where, if we packaged it all together, we could deliver an experience for users where they were able to pick and choose which media they want to consume Papercut Magazine on. Maybe one day they're on their web browser and they want to check out the digital edition. Or, they're in the subway and they want to read it on their iPad, to check out all the extra multi-media stuff we offer. Or, they are contributors so they really want the print edition. So, why not deliver it in one package deal, but deliver it across all medias?
What are some of the features you are most excited about?
Some of the most exciting, obviously the most exciting, is our interactive iPad app. We're really utilizing the medium the way it's supposed to be used in contrast to traditional media. Most magazines nowadays are uploading a simple PDF onto their iPad apps and not using all the capabilities that the technology provides. So, with every single feature we either offer a behind-the-scenes video if it's editorial photography, if it's musicians we're featuring, we have it where you can download music tracks. Sometimes the tracks we feature are exclusive to us, which is really cool, but sometimes it's what the musicians have already released. It's nice for the user to have an entirely smooth experience where they can click into the music download directly without having to leave the publication.
One of the things that I noticed, that was kind of interesting and that I haven't seen in a lot of other magazines, was the GoogleChat Hang-Outs. So, what sort of control will users have in terms of their input, how will that be managed?
Well, it's definitely in its preliminary stages, but we're planning on hosting GoogleChat Hangouts where everyone can come and sound off kind of like a forum, and we will record the ideas. Then, later on we'll be able to post all the ideas on our blog and have some sort of voting system where not only will the ideas from the GoogleChat Hangout be promoted and published for the outside world, but also give those same people, or people who weren't originally part of the Hangouts, a chance to actually vote on what they would like to be featured in the magazine. Whether that's topics they want to see covered, or ideas they would like to see promoted, or just anything really. So, at the end of the day it's people putting forth their ideas and voting on it. There will obviously be a top three or a top 10, that will come forward and we will go from there. Basically we're making editorial decisions based on what our readers truly want.
What sort of challenges do you foresee?
Okay, the one major challenge (and this is already a challenge we're facing), is the fact that we're a crowd sourcing platform for content creation, so we get a shit-load of submissions. There's a lot of stuff that comes through our email inbox. And it really is a manpower issue to sort through everything and sift out what we think is really awesome, what is relevant to our publication and deserves to be published. Hopefully with Kickstarter and going forward we can solve the manpower issue. We would love to hire more people to help us with that sort of thing. Because we definitely go through every single email, look at every single submission, and decide whether or not its worthy of publishing.
One thing that I'm intrigued by is the challenge of incorporating and translating what is in a print magazine into the digitial format. How are you handling this transition, or what do you see as the future of print vs. digital media?
Both are relative. I will argue that print is still relevant, but its role has changed because the way that media is now being consumed. Since print has that longevity, it's there forever, it has a coffee-table appeal. People only keep print editions that are interesting, relevant, that are a snapshot. They're like a keepsake or a novelty. Fortunately, I think our material, especially our editorial, is so high-concept that they do have that coffee-table appeal. People will want to refer back and want to check out what was going on creatively at that moment in time. But obviously for all those up-to-the-minute news-type ideas, or just basic publications, they're mainly being consumed digitally. Everything is moving onto the digital interface. So, that's why our iPad app is super important to us. At the end of the day, if you're just reading to get the latest and greatest of what's going on you're not going to keep those print editions, so why not have it all be available on your iPad. It's obviously a more efficient way of collecting and reading all of those types of items. Creating a multi-faceted magazine is basically the jist of the entire subscription experience -- creating a 360 publishing platform and a multi-faceted experience. So, if you want the iPad edition with all the multi-media extras, offers from designers, and music downloads right at your fingertips, or behind-the-scenes videos if you're really into the editorial -- it's there. And you can take it with you wherever you go. But, some people, especially our contributors, and because we crowd-source a lot of our contributors, they want the print for their own personal purposes, portfolio-wise or just to display on their coffee table. That's why print is still relevant. A large part of our Kickstarter campaign is about amassing subscribers so we can reduce the cost of print, because right now it's around $20, which is a bit inaccessible for most people, unless you're really die-hard about getting it. We think it's only fair to everyone to be able to choose how they want it. Because now people do actually choose how they want to consume their media. It's not dictated anymore by traditional media sources. That's what traditional media is battling with: people are choosing, not being dictated to. So, if you want to read it in print, it's available, take it to the beach with you. If you want to read it on the train on your iPad, it's available. If you want to check it out on your computer at work because you want to refer to something, it's there. If you want to check out the blog roll, it's there. If you want to see what's going on with social media or community building, that's there, too.
Going back to the music intergration, since you are primarily a fashion magazine, how are you framing your music coverage? And how do you envision music interacting with the fashion sections?
Well actually, at our core, we are aspiring to be a magazine that caters to the emerging creative eco-system. If there are collaborations between music and fashion people, that's great, and we'd totally feature that. But more so, we are envisioning being a magazine that records the emerging creative eco-system generally. That includes fashion, photography (which there is definitely a predominance of currently), music (which we are currently working on), and art -- we're having an art editor come on in about a month or so, cultural events, digital start-ups, which at first glance might not seem like part of the creative ecosystem, but it is. Especially nowadays when fashion and media are being disrupted by technology, there are a lot of creative-slash-technological start-ups that are sprouting up in this environment. We are actually working on our music part, and if you look at our blogroll we have a lot of up-and-coming and underground artists. We have a partnership with ReverbNation, which is the premiere site for rising musicians. Basically, the thing is, when you report about the emerging creative community, they're really eager to get their stuff out there. So there are tons of musicians who are willing to give us exclusive releases on their tracks...or at least free downloads of their music.
Who are some of your favorites, or the magazines favorites that you've featured recently, or that you're excited to feature?
I think overall the most exciting thing was getting the iPad app launched last May, and seeing all the possibilities that are available via that. So many designers are willing to give special offers to our readers, which bridges the gap between the feature and the reader where you have the opportunity to consume the item. Same with our music features. Our core readers are people that are ahead of the curve anyways and want that experience. Given that I'm the fashion editor, I'm better at commenting on fashion, but I know a recent thing that we're very excited about is featuring Macklemore in our September issue (before he was ever on Oprah!). I think our editors have a very good eye for what's up-and-coming and have a really good sense of the market pulse. Being able to integrate music videos and downloads directly into the iPad edition makes it a smooth experience where you never have to leave the actual publication as a reader. Normally what you do is read an article and then go search for the music or artist you just read about. It just really cuts out that process which is what digital media, e-commerce, anything digital is all about -- the smooth experience and not having to go through these extraneous steps to access what you want.
Regarding the fashion aspect, how are you incorporating the same experience readers have with music into the fashion industry?
With fashion, especially editorial, everyone wants to see the behind-the-scenes videos. Not sure why, but everyone wants to. I guess it's a glimpse into this inner world. Nowadays with fashion film becoming increasingly more important a lot of photographers are shooting behind-the-scenes, so why not be able to showcase that? It's just another facet of editorial that's intriguing. The same with fashion videos, why not incorporate that, instead of having disparate mediums that aren't interconnected the way it is now. Why not have it all in one place? And with designers, if you're reading a magazine on an iPad or whatnot, you have the capability of linking directly to their e-commerce site, you have the capability of showcasing the clothes and being able to purchase on the spot. That's really the greater vision, being able to do all of these functionalities simultaneously. The way the industry is set up now there is definitely lagtimes between what's published and what's produced. But people are getting smarter and they're moving towards a production life-cycle that's shorter. There's a market for being able to sync-up both the media aspect and the production aspect so that it's a seamless interaction. Our designers that we feature, they sell their clothes on various sites, but it's something different to have it a seamless interaction where you see something on a model or feature, you like it, and just click in and buy immediately. Also a lot of designers are willing to give people special offers just to introduce their brands. They really just want the exposure and that sort of interaction is a really good way to get their brand going.
Is there a particular place that you would like to see the concept of Papercut REPLAY evolve into?
Honestly, with our content creation model, there is no reason that is shouldn't work and be adopted elsewhere. I do realize it's definitely the beginning of the adoption life-cycle. People are realizing that this is where we're moving towards. You either get on board...I mean everyone has to get on board, it's just where the industry is going. It hasn't hit the critical mass yet where I think people feel safe about it, but everyone knows it's moving in this direction. I'm sure traditional media is aware of it, but they're not quite ready to get onboard with the so-called "risks" associated with it. There is no reason it shouldn't work. Plus, we cater to the emerging creative community -- people in that subset of the population are really interested in new ideas, cutting-edge concepts, and what's the latest and greatest. And since we crowd source, the reader is getting input from all aspects of the global community rather than having it being dictated to them from a top-down hierarchy. I really think inherently it works as a concept because creatives always want to be inspired and they always want to see what's innovative.
What inspires you the most in terms of when you're doing your job, but also what do you like to listen to when you're by yourself?
What inspires me the most is really the whole notion of bringing ideas to the table on an international level, that's what's really inspiring. It's really inspiring to have people reach out to us from literally all ends of the earth, whether it's Brisbane, Australia, people in Kenya and Ethiopia or Poland. To know that there are readers and people paying attention from all different regions of the world and having them submit their stuff is really inspiring. I really think we've been doing too much of the same for the past god knows how many years and ultimately the digital revolution brings a level of democratization to pretty much everything. I think it's just a matter of time before this is really the modus operandi.
What has feedback been like so far?
Generally people have been really receptive to it and they really like it. Most people think it's a great idea, it's just a matter of getting finance people onboard. It's still really new to a lot of people. In a financial sense, with VC's and investors, it's still such a new area that they're really not sure what to do or how to invest their money. However, there is the consensus that this is where the industry is moving to. We're going to have to innovate or die. I think that's really the big hurdle. There is a lot of experimentation going on. It's still an industry that's honestly in chaos. That's what makes it exciting. There's a lot of opportunity for innovation and reinvention. At the same time, the chips have not fallen, no one knows exactly how it's going to pan out. All you have to do is try to bring new ideas forward and try to move with what you think is right. I honestly think our ideas are right, I would have to say we're ahead of the curve, which is exactly what Papercut Magazine is all about. With creative ideas, with everything. It's just part of our DNA, I guess you could say. Whether it's technological or the people we feature, the way we go about content creation is all extremely innovative and next-step.
Who are your style icons? Who are people or things that inspire you style-wise in terms of informing your job as a fashion editor?
I have to say my style icons are probably not that interesting. I love Debbie Harry from Blondie. I love Kate Moss -- shocker! I would say things that actually inform me as a fashion editor, I really, and I think this doesn't come across with what I look like or how I may conduct myself, but I like things that are mildly disturbing. I know that I'm a somewhat conventional looking person, but really, honestly, I gravitate towards things that are mildly disturbing, that are a little maybe hard to digest to some. I feel like I always look at stuff that is slightly on the conceptual, avant garde side. Not like, midly disturbing like you're going to roll-over and die because it's disgusting. Just things that challenge the roles of society. Anything provocative that makes you think and see things from a different angle. I have a huge love for subcultures, so anything I see that is in that aspect. Things that you notice and which is beginning to be adopted in mainstream life, that's obviousuly inspiring -- how it develops a life of its own.
Whats your favorite subculture or trend?
I love the gothic subculture. I have a big secret: I love metal goth music. It's great! I love industrial music. I could listen to it all day long. It's probably what I listen to at work, actually. Anything that's on the darker side, dark and subversive, is appealing to me even though I don't look like I'd be into that. I think our readers gravitate towards that type of stuff, too.
What was one recent artist you loved featuring on Papercut?
For our September issue we featured The Black Soft, a band out of the East Village. I really love them and I basically told the music editor that I wanted to feature them and they were on board with it. They're a band that's just really forward-thinking with how they like to feature their music and they're just really talented.