Trunk call

by Andrew Losowsky in March 2011
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Take one former photo editor of mainstream travel magazine Travel+Leisure, add a talented editorial team and an enviably large contacts book, and the result is, according to its Editor in Chief (and professional photographer) David Cicconi, “The travel magazine for readers of Monocle and Wallpaper*.”

The title is called Trunk, and Stack America’s subscribers each received its incredibly professional issue zero in their latest mailing – a magazine that has already been shortlisted for Best Photography in a Travel Feature in this year’s SPD Awards.

We spoke to David about making an independent travel magazine with professional, newsstand values.

What is Trunk about?
Trunk represents and inspires a mobile way of life by sharing with its readers the most compelling stories that we can find from around the world. It is about anything and everything that forms a part of global culture, be it design, fashion, food, current events, etc.

Part of our mission is also to share with readers what it is to experience the kind of access one has to a culture or a place when traveling as a professional writer or photographer on assignment. Also, I think most travel magazines like to play up the exotic. Trunk embraces what is foreign and unique about a place, but we are also very much about demystifying the world and exploring what is universal and familiar from one culture to the next.

Why did you decide to create your own magazine?
My partners and I wanted to create, what is in our minds, the ideal magazine. One that we would most want to read and work for.

Commercial titles are beholden to the corporations that own them, the advertisers that pay them, and the massive audiences that read them. So, by definition, they have to play it conservatively and make certain compromises to keep so many parties happy.

Obviously the upside is that they are large and lucrative business. For Trunk, I think success may mean only ever reaching a circ of about 150,000. And we’d be ecstatic to have such a niche and sophisticated audience, one that affords us or rather demands of us to never compromise our content or mission.

Everything is very mass market today and so many media brands are moving to the middle to appeal to as many people as possible, and in the process, alienating some very discerning and valuable consumer segments. I think the independent/niche titles can capitalize on that in today’s marketplace, and print is the perfect medium and space in which to do so.

When did you have the idea? Did you ever consider making a different kind of magazine?
I first had the idea in 2003. I never had an idea to do a different magazine, but that said, my initial concept for the magazine was much less refined than it is now. Back then I thought, “Let’s just make a cooler travel magazine.”

Then when my editor and I were living overseas (each in a different place) and working/traveling as a freelance writer/photographer for close to three years, the concept evolved from just “a cooler kind of travel” into a global lifestyle magazine for people with a lifestyle similar to our own or for anyone else with that level of curiosity for what’s out there.

What were the biggest challenges in making it happen?
Lack of money and manpower was our biggest disadvantage. Though there was never any doubt that we could produce the magazine editorially-speaking, as we had a gifted and experienced creative director, design director, and editor-in-chief.

The real challenge was the business side of things – acquiring advertisers and distribution. Our marketing director and I spearheaded that and just started cold calling brands and agencies. I think it was the resumes of the team behind Trunk and the photography and layouts that we had mocked up which illicited such a positive response from the people we approached. And little by little we got the brands and distribution that we wanted.

You used to work at Travel+Leisure. What makes Trunk different?
Trunk really isn’t in the same genre as a T+L or Conde Nast Traveler or even Afar for that matter. Those are all strong magazines with their own audience. And of course there’s always some degree of demographic overlap.

But Trunk, again, is much more about a global lifestyle than it is travel, traditional, experiential or otherwise. Our readers are more concerned with inspirational writing and photography, design, style, and cultural nuance.

Trunk is the travel magazine for the Monocle and Wallpaper* reader, a space with an audience that leads an international existence, but oddly enough has no travel title.

What have you learned so far?
We’ve learned how to create a magazine soup to nuts and from the ground up.

We did everything from producing some of the editorial content ourselves, on a two-month trip to southern Africa, to working with some of the most gifted freelance creatives around, to selling ads, working with printers, distributors, and so on.

It was an amazing experience from start to finish, and exhilarating to watch the magazine come off the press and hold the final product in my hands.

What are your hopes for the next two years of Trunk?
To keep doing what we did with the debut issue and grow it, even if slowly and organically. We have plans for some exciting and relevant brand extension, but that will come once the print magazine is more established.

You can sign up for a free year’s subscription of Trunk by filling in their reader survey here.

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