The Digital Companion

The online journal to Offscreen — for all the things that don’t fit into the magazine. We regularly publish behind-the-scenes posts about the making of an indie magazine. Why not grab the RSS feed and follow along?

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On the future of print

So many conversations I have about indie publishing inevitably end with the big question about the future of print. Here are some of my (ever-expanding and ever-changing) thoughts on this topic:

To me it seems that up until a few years ago there was still this perception out there that publishing a print magazine is this sacred art form reserved to intellectual masterminds. Then more and more people realised that you don’t need a floor of editors and marketeers to put words on paper. In fact, many creatives already have all the necessary tools installed on their computers, so it’s just a matter of learning how to put different skills and disciplines together to make a thing and call it a magazine. Once you accept that you are not bound by the whims of advertisers, the heritage of traditional mainstream publications, and the rules of the newsstand, your magazine can be anything you want it to be. That’s not to say that it’s easy (or highly profitable). Producing good content and creating a physical object always comes with a fair set of challenges, but then again, if you want to create a memorable online experience, building a great digital product is no less laborious.

Undoubtedly, the rise of (indie) print can also be attributed to the inherent physicality of the medium at a time when so much of our life is contained in a completely ephemeral environment. Some folks out there realise more and more that reading everything on screens often feels temporary and unsubstantial. Holding an object that you can open and close, start and finish, gives us a heightened sense of accomplishment and ownership. And as materialistic as it may sound, we do like to have objects in our lives that we can identify with. You can’t express your values and interests through an iOS Newsstand archive, but you certainly can with a bunch of books and magazines sitting on your coffee table at home or in your office.

Don’t get me wrong though, I think for certain types of content, print is indeed dead. I don’t need to read yesterday’s news on paper today. I do however enjoy a lengthy piece of commentary or analysis on said news in print form. There needs to be a clear incentive for me to open my wallet. Rather than spending $2 on transient content, meant to be discarded within 24 hours, many of us are more likely to invest $20 in a more timeless product with high production values. It’s hard to resist the multi-sensory experience of print if it makes good use of its innate strengths.

Maybe in ten years we look back at the current trend of indie magazines realising that it was just a fad, serving the in-between generation that was clinging to a dying medium. But then you look at the radio and TV — they all have undergone tremendous change since the internet came about. I think as long as you are nimble enough to adapt to a changing world (as most indie mags are), you’re gonna be ok, no matter what industry you find yourself in.

A heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to all the good people who supported last week’s fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. After expenses I was left with $421 which I rounded up to $450. You can find a donation receipt here.

For a week fairly close to a new issue release, this wasn’t bad. But yes, we can do more! There will be further fundraisers in the future, for sure. :)

I so want to include this in every issue of Offscreen to feel better about not spotting my own typos. :)

Original photo by eyemagazine

Our Desktop series features 5 inspiring workspaces every week (or so).

Photos via Blood & Champagne, Minimal Desks and others.

I usually don’t reveal any parts of the line-up of a new issue before its release, but with No9 I’m gonna make an exception. The amazing Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe, is one of our six interviewees in this upcoming issue.

I thought it would be fun to show you guys a bit of the process of laying out a new interview in InDesign, so I made this time-lapse video, condensing roughly 70 minutes into 10. Note that further iterations of the design are likely. For the final (and legible) version, you’ll have to buy a copy when the issue is finally out. By the way, you can already subscribe for this and future issues to automatically be part of the first shipment when No9 goes out in early/mid September.

For a larger version, watch this video on YouTube.

Fundraiser 2014: Help me support asylum seekers in Australia

Short version:

Starting today, ending next week Wednesday Aug 20th, I’ll donate all profits from sales of current and back issues to the Asylum Seeker Resource Center here in Australia, an organisation that helps refugees with the difficult challenge to get into and settle in Australia.

Buy any back or current issue and about $12 of each issue sold will go towards the Asylum Seeker Resource Center to support human rights and help refugees find a better life in Australia.


Help now, buy a copy

The longer, more f*cked-up version:

In March last year, I’ve donated the profits of that month to Watsi to help fund urgent medical treatments for the poor — in total around $2000. A few months ago, I auctioned off the last few brand new copies of issue No1-3 through ebay. They sold for $311, with the money, again, going towards treatments of people in need via Watsi. Since issue No7 I make small donations to the World Land Trust with every issue — a tiny step towards making print magazines more sustainable (I also use recycled materials only).

While money is always of short supply and my budget for creating new issues hasn’t increased much over the years, I still wish I could do more to give back and raise awareness of problems that I feel strongly about. While I can’t afford a whole month of profits for charity this year, I’d like to dedicate one week to raising money (and awareness) for an issue that’s close to my heart, being located here in Melbourne, Australia.

Most of my international readers won’t know, but here in Australia the two biggest political parties are currently violating human rights by refusing to let asylum seekers enter the country. Both parties are taking part in a public campaign of fear-mongering to convince the public that ‘illegal immigrants’ are threatening our country, taking away our wealth, and destroying all that’s good about Australia. (If you are interested in Australia’s shameful attitude towards migrants, a short history lesson here.)

The result is that the Australian military intercepts refugees arriving on ramshackle boats near Australia’s coast in order to lock them up in detention centres where they wait for years to be processed and then sent back home or to other countries. Australia has numerous of these prisons off-shore, in neighbouring countries such as Nauru — I assume because lawful supervision of its conditions and practices is more difficult. Media cannot enter these facilities. Riots breaking out inside these detention centers are not a rarity, and neither are stories of self-harm and suicide.

As an immigrant myself, I feel ashamed about how this country treats people that have escaped war zones and persecution in the hope for a better life. They risk their lives to reach Australia, just to be locked up for years and then sent back or resettled in other countries. Amongst many here in Australia, there is a sense of shock and disgust about how openly and aggressively the leaders of this country are disregarding human life that’s not ‘certified Australian’. We seem to reach a new ethical low with every day that passes. Ironically this happens in a country that wouldn’t exist in its current form without people arriving here by boat in the first place.

One organisation that keeps up my hope is the Asylum Seeker Resource Center (ASRC). Its many volunteers and advocates support refugees by providing food, shelter, health services, general advice, and legal support. It’s also an important lobbyist and proponent for the humane treatment of all asylum seekers in this country.

So starting today, for the next 7 days I’ll donate all profits from sales of current and back issues to the ASRC here in Australia. Because I don’t buy into the bullshit our neo-liberal, conservative government is selling us, and because I think no matter what your political view, we all have enough to share a little with those who need it most.

Please help me in my effort: buy any current or back issue and the profit (about $12 per issue) will go towards supporting the Asylum Seeker Resource Center to hold up human rights and help refugees find a better life in this country.

Note that this applies to current and back issues only, future issues are excluded. It’s a great opportunity to get those missing back issues. :)

Thanks for your support!
Kai Brach, Publisher


Help now, buy a copy

PS: I usually try to steer clear from politics with anything Offscreen-related, and I will continue to do so. I just wanted to provide a bit of background why I’ve chosen to give to ASRC.

A Day in the Life of… me

A couple of people recently asked me if I could do a ‘Day in the Life’ piece about my own day. I had a bit of time in between editing the new issue and retouching photos today, so here you go:

7:15am — The custom alarm tune on my iPhone gently wakes me. I’ve given up resisting the urge to check my emails in bed a long time ago. I quickly scan the 32 unanswered emails. Some good, some bad, one with the subject line ‘Sorry dude’. I wait with opening that one till after I had my first coffee.

7:45am — Pants are on, teeth are brushed. Time to check the weather: looking good enough for the five-minute bike ride to Code Black, one of about five local cafés and unofficial Offscreen ‘subsidiaries’. I inhale a banana on the way to my bike.

8:00am — Armed with a Long Black I get started with emails: a couple of stockist enquiries, a few contributors asking for feedback, some submissions, some bills to be paid, and a reader from Slovenia asking about the whereabouts of his shipment. Oh yeah, and that apologetic email from an interviewee dropping out last minute. Thanks!

9:30am — After getting most of the emailing done, I’m scouring the web and my database of ‘Persons of Interest’ to find a worthy replacement for the newly opened interview slot. One of the more difficult parts of running a magazine: locating and then soliciting busy people to see whether they can help you out on short notice.

10:15am — I’m starting to slouch — a good sign to get up and move to a new spot. I’ll grab a bag of coffee beans, pay up and ride home.

10:30am — A reminder of Melbourne’s unpredictable weather: I arrive slightly soaked. Time to put the heater on (yes, we have winters in Australia too!) and get the kettle going for a brew in the Chemex. I love the ritual of making coffee as much as I like drinking it…

10:45am — Back to work with coffee in hand. I love my standing desk, perhaps the best investment I ever made. Today I’m getting started with some photo retouching for the new issue, so I’ll get the Spyder Express out to calibrate my external monitor.

11:15am — Still getting used to working in Lightroom. Half of the time I’m not sure what I’m clicking at. Google is my friend.

12:45pm — Lunch time. Glad to find some leftovers in the fridge. I turn on the news to be reminded of people’s inability to coexist in the world. I turn it off when Australia’s prime minister comes on to propose a business case for delisting Tasmanian World Heritage forest.

1:15pm — I open up the essays from three contributors in Google Drive to do some editing and provide a first round of feedback. This is good stuff!

2:30pm — More Gmail action: I email my proof-reader to synchronise our schedules. A look at my Content Plan for issue No9 suggests that six contributors are already running late. I follow up with them via email to set new deadlines. Let’s hope they get back to me at all!

3:15pm — Browsing behance, flickr and 500px to locate a photographer in Florida. My tiny budget filters down my options to about one.

4:30pm — I log into Offscreen’s order management system and quickly go through last week’s orders to make sure all the shipping address details seem correct. After exporting current orders, I’ll email my shipper in Berlin so they can get those orders out as soon as they start their day in Europe.

4:45pm — With another trip to Germany on the horizon, I’ll search for accommodation in Berlin on Airbnb. This place comes with a Chemex. Should I?

5:15pm — I go for a quick run, usually around 8km, before the rain is coming back. It’s my favourite (and only?) way to clear the head and get some proper thinking done.

6:15pm — After a shower I’m checking in on Twitter, Facebook and the like to see what everyone else has been up to. I jump on Tumblr and press the ‘Publish’ button on a post I’ve been holding off on for a few days. I love sharing some of the behind-the-scenes stuff with my readers and getting feedback from it. It’s humbling to know people actually care about my ramblings from time to time.

6:30pm — My girlfriend is back from work. We have a quick ‘catch up’ before heading out to get groceries for tonight’s dinner. That’s when I appreciate living in the city — our local fruit and veg shop is just 50 meters up the road.

7:30pm — While dinner is cooking, I jump on Skype to confirm the production schedule of issue No9 with my printer in Berlin. They always love getting a call with last minute changes from the other side of the world. ;)

8:15pm — Dinner time, often accompanied by an episode of a TV show. It’s Fargo at the moment.

9:30pm — Time for cleaning up the kitchen, my part in the daily dinner ritual.

10:30pm — I have a quick Facetime chat with my mum in Germany, explaining for the 24th time how to add a new contact to her iPad’s contact list. I think she’s got it, for today.

11:00pm — One last email check to see if my printer has confirmed the paper delivery for the next issue. He hasn’t, so I guess it’s time to log off for today and worry about it tomorrow.

11:15pm — I try to conquer at least three or four long-form articles in my Pocket reading list before getting some shut-eye.

Another issue in the making, another donation to the World Land Trust. You can help, too!

Neat Desk by Kristalia Neat (via Milk n’ Sugar)

A bit of blatant promotion: I’m working (again) with Tom Froese on yet another illustration for the upcoming issue, and I simply love his creative approach. The work he produces is just beautiful and it’s an honour to have him in the magazine. :) Keep it up, Tom!

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