I wandered along to Jeremy Leslie's MagCulture event, The Modern Magazine last week, a day that was full of surprises, and then at the end, not. Apart from the venue – the new Central St Martin's school in King's Cross – and the impressive list of speakers and number of people attending, there was a refreshing – no, make that intoxicating – optimism in the air.
To guide things along, Jeremy had said at the outset that the thorny question of making tablet formats pay / paywalls would be avoided – to a hum of approval, which felt like some kind of magazine publishers' in-joke, which went right over my head since I was attending as a magazine publishing virgin.
So, we were treated to a steady procession of eager entrepreneurs who all told a similar story of breathless enthusiasm for niche magazines started for mostly un-researched, very personal reasons; their battles against disbelievers (actually played down to the point that they made it all sound very easy) and their passion for print and the physical form. All very encouraging, I thought.
In amongst the general arc of (another) Golden Age of magazines, a few speakers' presentations stood out – Tyler Brûlé for his staggering commercial nouse and I've-done-everything-you-dream-of paternalism; Patrick Waterhouse's story of Colors, which made you want to run and subscribe to it immediately, such was the dimension brought to the stories; Paul Barnes's beginner's guide to typographical geekiness, without being at all geeky and Richard Turley's comedic run-through of Bloomberg Businessweek – delivered with enough relaxed vim that you knew he relishes telling the story.
The that-idea-is-so-simple-why-hasn't-it-been-done-before award went (or would have done had anybody been handing out awards, but they weren't) to Boat Magazine for simply travelling to different places and then making a whole issue about that place.
The bitter in a day of overall sweetness for was left me and me alone, I felt. Several of the speakers spoke of their passion for the physical form of printed magazines, but there seemed to no venture into how that could be enhanced or the value explored or enhanced. And so, while it pointed to a very healthy future for printed magazines, there wasn't much gazing into the future and actually the event seemed to largely ignore the revolution happening outside – nobody actually explaining why or how physicality of magazines could have a value in a digital world.
But, maybe that wasn't the point and it was just a glorious celebration of the here and now. And nothing wrong with that.