Mark Frith offers his views on the UAE media landscape

Team TMN caught up with former Heat magazine editor, author and media industry expert, Mark Frith, to hear his thoughts on the magazine landscape in the United Arab Emirates

What have you been working on during your time in Dubai?
I came over here to do some consulting for ITP’s celebrity weekly publications. Since giving up magazine editing as a full time role, I have been working with companies on reinventing and revamping existing titles. I look at great brands and work on making them super brands. The great thing about a super brand is that it leads the market and dictates the market. Super brands are strong and powerful and are very difficult to compete with.

What is your impression of the magazine industry in the UAE?
Out here there is a lot more positivity about magazines than there is in the UK. Back home it is more about trying to stem the decline and push things back up. It’s tough everywhere but it feels like a different environment here, which is why it’s so refreshing. One of the reasons I’m so excited about this market is because it still feels like early days. It’ll be very interesting to see how it develops.

You worked in the highly competitive celebrity magazine industry in the UK. Are you competitive and do you see competition as a good thing?
I don’t see myself as a very competitive person by nature, but my goodness, working at Heat brought that out in me. Competition is a good thing. It drives us to want to be better and I’m bringing that over here because it’s quite a small industry. I’ve been talking to some magazines who have no rivals at all, but it’s still very important to have that competitive spirit. That’s the kind of thing I’m doing. I’m trying to get that sense of competing and winning; outperforming what you’ve achieved before and building on that.

With so much competition in the market, how can magazines stay ahead?
You first need to identify what makes a good seller; how to see your editorial compared to others in the market and how to win those battles. At Heat, we had a fantastic rivalry with Now! magazine, which drove both titles to be better.  Those are the skills that I’m working on with the editors at ITP.

What do you think of the talent pool in the UAE?
The UAE is a place for ambitious people; a place for confident people. People who might find that they are underappreciated elsewhere can find a way to further their career and stand out over here. What I have noticed in the competitive London publishing industry is that a lot of journalists have good ideas, but aren’t able to progress as quickly as they would like. Over the last 10 or 12 years, Dubai has attracted some of those people and they have flourished.

What are your thoughts on the Ad-driven commercial set up of magazines in the UAE, compared to the copy sales driven UK market?
What we’re finding in the UK is that although magazine sales are down, advertisements are still quite buoyant. This is why the free market model for magazines interests me. The UK has picked up on this over the past few years and there are very good quality free publications. You’ve got Time Out, which is now free on a Tuesday, Stylist on a Wednesday, Shortlist on a Thursday and Sport on a Friday – all of which are doing well. I think that it is a more obvious market to have an Ad-funded model, like there is here in the UAE.

What should magazine editors do when a rival title lands in the market?
You certainly don’t lose your head. In reality, yours is stronger than a new rival. The panicky thing that people do when a new title comes along is that they worry; they lose direction. You need to have the confidence to know what you’re doing is right. Stay close to your readers and be true to yourself and to them.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer editors?
My main philosophy is to make the most of what you have. Know what you stand for as a magazine, deliver it and make sure you deliver it better than the competition.

So what’s next for you? Will you be a regular visitor to the Emirates?
Well it’s the first time I have visited the UAE and I can definitely see myself spending more time here, although as I have a young family, moving countries is not a consideration right now. I will continue consulting and I enjoy working with Speakers Corner in London who book me to host events, chair panel discussions and present award shows. I love that side of things and would welcome the opportunity to do the same in Dubai also.

For booking enquiries, contact Nick Gold at Speakers Corner, London on +44 (0)207 7607 7070.

Iris Dubai

As Dubai’s latest hotspot prepares for launch, Team TMN caught up with Add-mind Group’s CEO and founder Tony Habre…

So, the grand launch of Iris Dubai takes place tonight. What can we expect from Dubai’s latest nightspot?
Iris Dubai will stand out as Dubai’s latest outdoor rooftop experience, featuring a trendy menu, sophisticated ambiance, stunning views of the city, complete with the best sounds from our chill-out music selection.

Does this concept have any association with the Iris Beirut?
The Iris concept was originally created and popularised in Beirut. Following its success, we decided to expand the Iris concept in the region. Our first location outside Lebanon was the recently opened Iris Yas Island, which was launched during the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 weekend.

Where is Iris Dubai located?
The Iris brand is built upon the rooftop experience and as such the new location is The Oberoi, Dubai (27th floor). Ideally situated in the heart of downtown Dubai, the new venue covers a space of 450 sqm, boasting breathtaking views of the city skyline.

Is it a private members bar? Or is it open to the public?
Iris Dubai will open its doors to the public, targeting both residents of Dubai and international tourists.

What is the basic concept of Iris Dubai – is it a nightclub, lounge bar or a bar & restaurant?
Iris Dubai combines elements of both a trendy lounge bar and restaurant. We offer guests an extensive dining menu of international meals, complemented by our signature cocktail (& mocktail) menu that features refreshing drinks made with fresh fruits and ingredients.

Who designed the venue and what is the concept behind the venue’s design?
Suzanne Habre Nasr is the visionary behind all the Iris designs. The concept behind the venue’s design is to provide a sense of harmony and balance, from the use of comfortable benches, plush couches and inviting furniture, along with plenty of greenery to create a tropical yet modern getaway.

What makes Iris Dubai stand out ahead of all other of Dubai’s nightlife offerings?
Adapting to a truly successful model, Iris Dubai will define itself as an iconic open-air city retreat offering guests a relaxed ambiance in a refined setting. A treat for all the senses, Iris boasts stunning panoramic views of the city combined with  a delectable food and cocktail menu.

What crowd are you expecting to attract?
Iris Dubai will be the go-to venue for the midtown post-work crowd, classy executives and elegant clientele and will also be the ideal destination for both nights and daytime group gatherings.

Is this the company’s first venue in the UAE?
Following the success of The White Room and Iris Yas Island, Iris Dubai will be the third project for the Add-mind Group in the UAE. Add-mind’s aim is to increase their existing diverse portfolio of clubs, bars and restaurants within the region in the coming year.

What else does the Iris management have planned for the region?
Add-mind will be launching WHITE Dubai , the first rooftop clubbing experience on the 19th of December.

Taxi Media Middle East

As Taxi Media Middle East accelerates towards launch, Team TMN catch up with Managing Director, Brett Pearson, to find out more about the region’s newest advertising platform…

When was Taxi Media Middle East established?
The company was formed in Twofour54 in March 2013 after being awarded the contract for Abu Dhabi by TransAD (The Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi). This had followed six months of presentations and bidding to win the contract.

What does Taxi Media Middle East do exactly?
We provide in-taxi entertainment and advertising for passengers travelling in the back seat of a taxi. The units are installed in the back of the headrest and have an interactive touchscreen display.

What territories will you cover?
Initially Abu Dhabi Emirate as our franchise partners have bases in both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. We are also in advanced discussions for Dubai, Sharjah and Qatar currently.

What makes you different to the options already available in taxis in the region?
The only taxi advertising currently available is the traditional external wrap-around, which is only available in Dubai, as Abu Dhabi do not permit external advertising. What makes us truly different is we have a fully quantifiable captive audience and can adapt creative executions more quickly and cost effectively than any other Out-of-Home platform.

For example, Subway have recently used the external taxis in Dubai to promote their “Sandwich of the Day”, but how do consumers know what sandwich is on offer on any given day? These adverts are generic. With our system they could – and have elsewhere in the world, winning a Mobius Award for the execution – actively promote every day’s specific sandwich. This allows our clients to be highly targeted with their advertising to maximise their ROI.

When will the advertising platform roll out?
We soft launch in December for communication system testing with Etisalat, and then the first phase will roll out in January 2014.

What languages will the advertising platform be available in?
We will initially offer English and Arabic as standard to clients, but the beauty of our system is we can technically host any language that does not involve a three-tier alphabet – Hindi for example, as this causes some programming issues. If you look at the top 10 nationalities that visit the UAE, we can host nine of the 10, if required.

Why is this advertising option more effective than traditional print advertising or broadcast?
There are several reasons, but first and foremost, audience size. On full fleet exposure we would deliver a monthly audience of nearly 10 million eyeballs just in Abu Dhabi; to put that into perspective the monthly figure for Facebook or Google in the whole of the UAE is roughly 3.3 million.

Next comes cost – we are extremely cost effective as we are a fraction of the current rate for taxi advertising on a rate card-to-rate card basis. The reason for this is we do not have high production costs eating into a media budget. If you are a venue looking to promote a restaurant or sporting event or concert, our monthly rates are comparable with current listing magazines’ weekly costs whose number of sold copies are a couple of thousand compared to our seven figure viewing stats.

But undoubtedly, one of the best arguments for using our system, besides the previous reasons, is full accountability. Because our system is touchscreen, every single interaction is logged and we will be sharing this data with every client regardless of how big their campaign is, so they can accurately judge whether we are offering great ROI or not.

How much does it cost?
It depends on what you want to do but every single option is extremely cost effective when compared to alternative media offerings. There is an affordable option for every size of business, from your local restaurant right up to a global FMCG brand.

How can you track the success of advertising campaigns for clients?
As the unit is coordinated with the taxi meter, we know exactly how many journeys are done by each taxi everyday and how long they last. Each individual interaction with the unit is logged so we can give accurate data on how many people have seen an advert, interacted with a brand icon, played a game, downloaded a discount voucher, completed a survey or entered a competition. Think of your computer keyboard and every time you hit a key think of that as an interaction on our media unit and our system automatically logs each and every touch.

What else can we expect to see from TMME in the near future?
Well, our core business is engaging customers with brands via taxis in a fun and useful way and we have expansion plans across the UAE and further within the MENA region. But to compliment the Taxi Media units we will also be launching a City Living App so that for no extra cost to clients we offer a continuation of their promotions outside of the taxi cab environment.

How can advertisers get involved?
That part is easy, interested parties can contact myself, / 055 822 4829 or Stuart Matthewson / or 050 558 8467. We are both happy to go through all of the options available.

O1NE Yas Island

As the Grand Opening weekend gets underway at O1NE Yas Island, Team TMN catch up with the Sky Management team to find out what’s in store…

Congratulations on the launch of O1NE Yas Island. Does this concept have any association with the original SKYBAR, Beirut
Yes, we at Sky Management own SKYBAR and also O1NE Beruit which is the same design and concept  as the Abu Dhabi venue. We have gone one step further in Abu Dhabi though and added in some really unique touches.

With so much competition in the Abu Dhabi and Dubai nightlife scene, what makes O1NE Yas Island different?
O1NE Yas Island is a concept all on its own and it will open every Thursday to accommodate 1,000 club goers at a single time. O1NE is more than just a nightclub, it is an innovative breakthrough, a monument that mixes art, lavishness and technology.

Is it a private members bar? Or is it open to the public?  
While the opening weekend is by private invitation only, the bar will be open to the public every Thursday from here on in. It’s free entrance for standing but tables are available with a minimum spend.

What is the basic concept of O1NE – is it a nightclub, lounge bar or a bar & restaurant?
O1NE Yas Island is a nightclub with a 360-degree 3D projection mapping on the inside that can transport guests from St. Tropez to outer space on every visit. These, among many other elements, make O1NE Yas Island an artistic and technological landmark in the city. The idea is a cutting edge venue, which mixes art and technology.

Who is the interior designer for O1NE Yas Island and what is the concept behind the venue’s design?
The  architecture and interiors were designed by Sari El Khanzen Architects and the design emulates a coliseum, with an 18 metre high celling. The architecture and interiors are made to complement the technology and bring it to life.

We’ve heard the venue features a graffiti wall. Tell us more…
Yes, O1NE Yas Island features the world’s largest privately owned graffiti wall on the outside and 19 of the world’s best graffiti artists were flown in to work on it for the last two weeks. Some 30 personnel have been on hand to help them have full access to the outer walls, that measure 18 metres high and total 3,000 sqm.

If the urban art doesn’t excite party-goers, what else will draw them to the venue?
On top of offering a fantastic new venue, we will be bringing in world-renowned DJs to impress party goers and ensure they are drawn to the venue.

Is this the company’s first venue launch in the UAE?
No, we own Skybar in Yas Marina also.

What does Sky Management have planned next for the region?
O1NE Yas Island is the latest of our regional offerings and there are plans to expand further in the region in 2014. We will be sure to keep you updated!


Night of the AdEaters

Founder of the world famous Cinematheque Jean Marie Boursicot gives Team TMN a little insight into the history and future plans for advert festival, “Night of the AdEaters”

All of the advertisements featured at the “Night of the AdEaters” are from your collection. How did you get started?

As a kid, I was fascinated by cinema. I was a regular at the movie theaters in the “5 Avenues” neighboring Marseilles, but at the age of 10, I saw my first ‘treasure’ – a 4m x 3m poster boasting the merits of a soft cheese made by the firm Gervais. After frequent visits to these film houses, the projectionist at Cine Madeline noticed me and gave me snippets of advertising film for companies such as Gervais ice cream and Krema candy. Of course, I wanted more of these, and I found myself raking through trash cans, but not just any trash cans. These were the trash cans of the film distributors. Little by little, I amassed these treasures and rapidly enriched a collection that combined my passion for posters, ads and the cinema. I never imagined that this childhood interest would one day turn into a career. On the advice of friends, I went to Paris and started working at Publicis, a French advertising agency, where I noticed that the advertising film was being thrown away. Not even the agencies kept them, so I started collecting them, and decided to show them for the first time in Paris in 1980.

The “Night of the AdEaters” has been touring the world for 33 years. Why did you choose to take this library of TV and cinema commercials around the world?

Actually, it was not a choice. Maintaining a cinematheque is a huge task: collecting new adverts; restoring old ones. I even had the very first commercial from 1898! There were thousands of spots. Keeping the collection requires passion, time, energy, and a lot of space to put all these reels and tapes. And, of course, I needed money! I created the Night of the AdEaters to keep this one-of-a-kind cinematheque alive, and it was and still is a way to pay the bills, and to share my passion for cinema and advertising at the same time.

How does the Cinematheque acquire new ads?

We are always in touch with hundreds of agencies around the world, as well as festivals. Every year we receive 15,000 to 25,000 new commercials for the Cinematheque, and some of them are selected for the “Night.”

Who curates the set for the “Night of the AdEaters?” How does he/she decide what to include?

It is a personal choice. This is my way of sharing a much more cinematic vision of advertising. The marketing aspect is overshadowed in favor of powerful images, humor, music, unexpected situation, and the like.

How many languages feature in your commercials?

There are around 40 languages in our commercials, in addition to some rare dialects.

You don’t use subtitles! Why do you think that you don’t need translations?

The “Night of the AdEaters” is all about emotions, and the messages are brief and dense. They can be understood by everyone. They transcend linguistic and cultural differences.

More than 100 cities sign on to your annual tours. How did you get Dubai on board?

Last April, Mohammed Qara’een from Kilograms Creative Tactics got in touch with us through our website He had previously attended one of our shows in the Middle East, and described the “Night” as a breathtaking experience. Since then, everything has passed speedily and efficiently. I am now in Dubai for the first time.

Will you be broadcasting the festival on networks in the region?

I was not asked to do so, but it would be nice.

Why do you think people should go to the festival?

People will enjoy great moments of cinema with their friends. They will laugh a lot and watch exotic, surprising and beautiful adverts that reflect trends from different parts of the world. The festival is also a great source of inspiration for advertising professionals.

What are you hoping that people will take away from the festival?

Of course I hope they will have a great time, and for those who are not ad-addicts, I hope the “Night of the AdEaters” will convince them that advertising is not only about selling products, but offers moments of real cinema, and can evoke real emotions.

Can ad agencies in Dubai get involved with AdEaters?

Unfortunately, we didn’t receive a lot of commercials from Dubai, this year. I really hope that the “Night of the AdEaters” will encourage ad agencies to send their work to us, and to see how important it is to keep alive the memory of advertising. This is our main goal.

Where can ‘publivores’ get tickets?

Tickets to the “Night of the AdEaters” in Dubai are available through TimeOut Tickets and Platinum Tickets. For further information, call +971 (0)56 349 8212.

Do you have any plans to expand within the Middle East in the future?

We’ve already been to Kuwait, Syria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, but I would love to organise annual “Nights” everywhere in the Middle East. This is the case in Lebanon, where the show has been organised for more than 10 years. We need to find the right partners who understand the interest of preserving the memory of advertising.


Fashion Forward Season 2

Founder and CEO of Fashion Forward (FFWD), Bong Guerrero, takes time out to fill us in on what we can expect from FFWD season two…

For anyone who missed out on FFWD season one, can you offer a brief overview to what the event is about?

FFWD is a platform for emerging and established designers from, or based in, the Middle East. The event comprises of catwalk presentations from the finest couture and ready-to-wear designers from around the region over four days. We had an incredibly successful inaugural season in April of this year where we showcased 18 catwalk presentations from 21 designers, and held talks and panel discussions with some of the most important and influential designers, editors and buyers from this region. We also had the pleasure of hosting Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, for his first trip to the Middle East. He was our keynote speaker, addressing our guests and designers on the benefits of a trade body to regulate and nurture the fashion industry, just as the CFDA does in America.

Season Two runs from October 15-18th and is an official event for Eid In Dubai, so we encourage all who missed out in April, and of course all of those who did join us, to return this Eid Al Adha to help celebrate and support our regional designers.

How was FFWD conceptualised? 

We believe that, considering the talent available, this region hasn’t had the recognition it deserves on the global fashion stage. We spent a lot of time to considering the best and most sustainable way to change this, so FFWD had been a few years in the making. We felt that April this year was the right time to launch, as all the ‘ingredients’ for success were just right. This has been further highlighted in recent months with the announcement of the Dubai Design District (d3) who are strongly supporting Fashion Forward with the ‘d3 Fashion Talks’.

The event is very much regionally focused with designers from Lebanon, Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the wider UAE – whilst also having an international outlook, attracting members of the global fashion community here to Dubai to see what we have to offer.

Large scale fashion events have been largely unsuccessful to date in the UAE. Why do you think that is?

It is not for me to comment on past events. What we wanted to ensure when launching FFWD was that the timing was right and judging from the success of season one and the phenomenal interest from buyers, designers and media for season two and beyond, we hope that we have found the correct formula for FFWD.

What elements have you incorporated into FFWD to ensure the event stays popular season in, season out?

First and foremost we choose the right mix of designers. We want to represent the region effectively, but we also need to make sure we choose designers who are ready to participate and show a full collection twice a year every year. We have various criteria for our designers to meet, but of course we always start with talent. We aim to make stars of our designers here in the region, by giving them a unifying platform. From there, we will have a strong and sustainable base as our industry grows, and we can make the Middle East a credible destination for the international community to consider on their calendar each season.

But we are realistic in our plans and know that you can’t grow an industry overnight. So, with the correct foundations, and including a strong roster of industry discussions and talks to foster debate, we can grow and adapt every season, learning from the successes of the other fashion capitals, and ensure we are keeping our own regional identity.

What would you consider as your biggest achievement in FFWD season one?

There were so many successes to come from season one, notably attendance, with over 12,000 visitors enjoying the event. We also had over 300 press outlets attending and covering us from around the world across various media. Also in attendance were over 40 regional buyers, representing some of the most successful stores across the GCC, this translated directly to our designers receiving substantial orders and considerably boosted their commercial success.

This invaluable international and regional exposure also means over 85 per cent of season one designers are returning to show at season two.

Can you give us a sneak peek into what is new and exciting for season two?

New for this season, and building on our series of talks in the inaugural season, we have the d3 Fashion talks – supported by Dubai Design District. Fostering discussion and nurturing the growing regional fashion industry is an integral part of FFWD’s vision and so as part of the d3 Fashion Talks, influential industry leaders will speak on a range of topics throughout the event.

Also new is The Garden – a dedicated space for regional accessories designers to showcase their jewellery, handbag, t-shirt and homeware collections to guests and buyers throughout the event. We had a hugely successful pop-up store in season one, and so from that we have expanded greatly to accommodate over 50 designers who will set up booths in The Garden where people can shop for unique pieces of Middle Eastern design.

How can brands get involved in FFWD?

For designers looking to get involved, please visit our website All the information on the event itself and season two is there plus our contact details and we would love to hear from regional designers who are interested in FFWD.

Who can attend FFWD?

Fashion forward is predominantly a trade event, and we want to encourage the regional fashion community to join us in supporting and celebrating our regional talent. Our catwalk presentations are reserved for industry professionals but we encourage all interested in the event to register for tickets at With the d3 Fashion Talks, The Garden and our hugely popular Fashion Gallery and Fashion Cafes, there is plenty for all guests to enjoy throughout the four days.

What are your plans for the future?

We want to grow steadily each season, learning and adapting as we go, in keeping with our designers and the regional landscape. So immediately we are concentrating on making season two a great success and then before we know it season three will be upon us!

The Witch Doctor of Umm Suqeim

Team TMN grab coffee and cake with journalist, Craig Hawes, as he gives us the low-down on his newly published book, The Witch Doctor of Umm Suqeim

Tell us a little about yourself…

I’m a journalist who works for a men’s lifestyle magazine here in the UAE called alpha. I’ve been living and working in Dubai on and off (but mostly on) since 2003 and I’ve also written drama for BBC Radio and a short film screenplay, which was produced by TwoFour54 in Abu Dhabi.

What did you do before moving to the UAE?

I freelanced for various magazines and newspapers in my native Wales and London, but I did other jobs too to pay the rent: hospital portering, stacking shelves in supermarkets, working in a clothes shop. All excruciatingly dull at the time but I don’t regret any of it.

When did you first consider writing a book?

When I left Dubai in 2007. I spent three years intermittently working on the stories, then I came back to the UAE in 2010 with the book pretty much finished.

The book is a collection of short stories… how did the idea come about?

Quite simply, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be any good at writing fiction and was reluctant to spend a year on a novel that might never get published. I was testing the water, then ended up winning a few short story prizes and the collection grew from there. That said, I adore short stories and I read at least one collection a month.

Are the stories based on true events and experiences or pure fiction?

It’s all fiction, although it was inevitable that bits of my own life would get tangled up in the mix too. There are one or two stories that are very loosely based on newspaper stories and apocryphal expat tales. I’ll leave the readers to work out which is which.

Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?

No, by the time the book was published I think I’d done all I could to make it the best it could be. I’m ready for a new challenge now.

So with your first book now published, what’s next on your agenda?

BBC radio in the UK aired a play of mine last year and I enjoyed writing the script so much I’d like to get another one commissioned as soon as possible. I’ll also start on another book before the end of the year, but first I have a lot of reading to catch up on.

For others who wish to follow in your footsteps, how easy is the process of finding a publisher?

It’s hard. Getting an agent is essential if you’re sending your book to a huge publisher like Penguin or HarperCollins, but smaller independent publishers are more likely to read and consider your manuscript. The UAE isn’t the best place to start out, though, due to a dearth of book publishers. Hopefully things will improve in the coming years, but there’s no stopping writers sending their work overseas.

Do you have any tips for aspiring fiction writers?

Don’t bother trying to become a writer unless it’s a compulsion. To have completed a book and then get a publishing deal gives you a wonderful sense of achievement, especially as you’ll probably get rejected a lot at the beginning, but the financial rewards are pretty scant unless you’re a bestselling author like JK Rowling or John Grisham. Do it for the love, not the money. Read a lot and write a lot. The ratio for me is 50/50. Oh, and always have a book in your bag or pocket.

Where is your book available to purchase?

The Witch Doctor of Umm Suqeim will be available in all major UK bookstores and online on Details of Dubai stockists are still to be confirmed. There will also be an eBook version coming soon.

How can people contact you for queries relating to this book launch?

They can contact Claire Hougez, the marketing manager at Parthian Books:

We Are Here

Team TMN catch up with independent magazine publisher, Conor Purcell, who has ripped up the rulebook, thrown his pocket-friendly travel guide aside and is offering a fresh new take on travel reportage. Here he takes us on a tour behind the cover of We Are Here

Tell us a little about yourself…

I am 34, and have been in Dubai since 2005. When I first arrived, there were no cars or roads; just camels and date farms, and if we wanted a drink, we had to sail to Oman. The development in the past few years has been incredible – I now have air conditioning and a couch with cushions. I grew up in Dublin and after studying journalism in college, worked in magazines, newspapers and websites in South Korea, Hong Kong and Dubai. I have also worked as a bee keeper, on a banana plantation, and once taught kindergarten. I am slightly obsessed with graphic design, books and travel, so We Are Here provides the perfect outlet for these hobbies.

Ok then, moving on! Explain the concept behind We Are Here magazine?

The magazine goes to a different city or district each issue – it’s a deeper look at a place from multiple angles, so it includes fiction, satire, poetry, long-form journalism, reportage and photography. It’s deliberately lo-fi; a long-form postcard from a city.

How did the idea come about?

I have always enjoyed travel and travel literature, but when I looked at travel magazines, they always seemed to be quite throwaway – and when compared to some fashion or art titles, there seemed to be no innovation or consideration about the design or the covers, and I thought it would be interesting to produce something that dug a little deeper.

How did you decide upon design and what influenced this decision?

I wanted to keep the design simple, mainly due to the fact that I am not a trained designer, and I wanted a template that I could design on my laptop – so there is no illustrations or complicated design, and only two fonts are used throughout. I believe that simplicity results in good design, and although this will evolve in each issue, the basic template will remain the same.

You recently published your second issue. What are the pros and cons of launching an independent title in the UAE?

It is definitely easier to do this in Dubai now, than it was a few years ago. In terms of content, there are lots of stories here that don’t get covered in the mainstream media, and so the city is very surprising in that respect. There are also lots of talented writers and photographers that want to tell stories. The biggest issue is with red tape – it takes a long time to get anything published, and there are lots of barriers and licensing issues. In the UK, you can just send the magazine PDFs to a printer, pay them, and it gets printed. It’s also a lot cheaper to print in the UK.

The market for independent titles here is small, but that makes it easier to distribute and market. Social media take up is big here, so you can promote a title relatively easy and connect with the creative community, which is growing very fast. Ultimately each publisher needs to look at the costs and time and work out whether it is better to print abroad and import the title here or to print here.

What is coming next from We Are Here?

We Are Here Kathmandu will be published in October. We have just got distribution throughout the UK and Europe, and it will be on sale in a number of stores in Asia, as well as throughout the GCC.

How can PRs get involved?

The magazine does not focus on products at all, so I think opportunities for PRs are limited. We do focus on people and places, so if a PR has something interesting to share, I am more than happy to hear about it.

Are there any advertising opportunities?

Yes, we have been lucky to work with brands such as Puma, The Address Hotel and Media One Hotel in previous issues. In most cases we designed the ad to match the editorial design. We want the advertising to complement the editorial, not interrupt it, and make sure it’s part of the experience. I think the magazine would be a good fit for galleries, cutting-edge clothes brands and, obviously, mobile phone brands – as we can take all the photographs on their device. Also we are one of the few local magazines to be distributed internationally, and to get media coverage everywhere from the Independent newspaper in the UK to Esquire magazine in the US.

What can we expect to see if the future?

After the Kathmandu issue, we are going to focus on an area in Bangkok for the fourth issue – that will be released in February. After that, there are a few options, but I am not 100 per cent sure of the destination for the fifth issue. Possibly somewhere in Africa or the Balkans.

We Are Here is available for purchase from:

For editorial or advertising enquiries, contact:

Visit Conor’s blog,, or follow him on twitter @cjpurcell