On 15th September 2017, a group of Edinburgh Napier publishing MSc students were lucky enough to attend MagFest at Central Hall, Edinburgh. MagFest is a Scottish Magazine Festival for professionals (and students) to hear about and appreciate the developments in Scottish Magazine publishing. Organised superbly by PPA Scotland (Professional Publishers Association Scotland), the day was full of guest speakers, workshops and culminated in an interview with self-professed magazine-enthusiast and novelist: Ian Rankin. The theme for this year was ‘heroes of the magazine industry… some of their visions for the future of magazines.’
As well as Ian Rankin, there were many other leading experts in the magazine publishing field speaking throughout the day, including Zillah Byng-Thorne, the Chief Executive of Future PLC, Ruth Mortimer, the director of the Festival of Marketing and an interview with John Brown, the founder of Brown Publishing. These industry-leaders were only too happy to explain their vision for the future of publishing, which can be summed up with the phrase: ‘Be open to the unexpected.’ (Zillah Byng-Thorne)
The organisers of MagFest stayed true to the theme of Visions of the Future, with speakers from four new magazines in Scottish publishing: Boom Saloon, Cable, Marbles and Word-O-Mat. Each of these magazines had a unique point of view, and filled a gap in the market, whether it be by democratising art, discussing taboos like mental health, giving Scotland a voice in international affairs, or by simply making tiny little books filled with beautiful content. Vice Publishing talked about a way forward using technology to maximise the brand of a magazine, and that ‘all that matters is great storytelling’ whatever the medium. The future of magazine publishing remains strong.
However, the PPA Scotland also strived to ensure that although magazine enthusiasts look to the future for inspiration, we must also understand and value the past. A talk from the magazine archivists, Mark Hymen and Tory Turk, from The Hymen Archives, the largest collection of magazines in the world, showed us how magazines ‘were your internet’ and how much of a resource they are still today which we must preserve and protect. The Audience of the Future Panel discussed the tactility of magazines and that children, despite being known as the technology generation, appreciate the feeling of reading a traditional magazine. And Mark Neil showed us how using inspiration from the past can give a fresh take on the future at his talk Cover Versions.
As well as the day full of speakers, I was lucky enough to attend the Fringe Event the night before, which was an interview of Lucie Cave, the Editor of Heat Magazine conducted by Paul MacNamee, the editor of The Big Issue. As well as spilling a bit of gossip, Lucie illustrated how she used multi-level platforms to maximise the brand of Heat, and how important it is to understand what the readership wants. She also highlighted the importance of following your instinct and turning a challenging task (like an difficult interviewee) to your advantage, and to always engage with your audience.
Overall, MagFest 2017 was a very informative and exciting event for all who attended, especially for the large group of young student publishers who just can’t wait to get started in telling their own story. As Ian Rankin said in his interview: ‘Do your research, but have fun with it.’