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: http://magpile.com/we-are-here/
For editorial or advertising enquiries, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Conor’s blog, http://cjpurcell.com, or follow him on twitter @cjpurcell