Magpile Magazine Awards, and more

by Steve Watson in January 2014
Share on Facebook, Twitter or Copy Link

Nominations for the second Magpile Magazine Awards are open now, and I’m very pleased to be serving on the judging panel to help decide the overall winners. The stakes are high this year – the Best Independent Magazine Award carries a £1,000 cash prize, so I thought it was time to speak to Magpile founder Dan Rowden to get a bit more information on the awards and the response so far.

Voting closes on 27 January, so if you haven’t already done so, head over to Magpile and name your favourite magazines.

Thanks for inviting me to be part of the judging panel. We’ve got a week of voting left so I thought it would be good to tell people a bit more about the awards and what you’re doing with them.
This is our second year of running the awards. Magpile started in February 2012 and it was coming to the end of that year when I saw Ruska from Ruska Martin in Germany tweeting some hashtags about the year’s best magazine, so I took his lead and formed the awards quite quickly. I think the whole thing was done in December 2012.

It turned out to be quite a success and it’s just basically a celebration of magazines, using the Magpile users as a nomination team, then getting some good judges to give it some credibility and pick the overall winners.

How’s it going so far?
It’s going well. I haven’t checked total nomination numbers today, but yesterday we had just over 600 in 24 hours, so it’s off to a good start.

Have you seen any titles rising to the top yet?
It’s like in the Stack vote [for magazine of the year]. If one magazine gets going it kind of goes crazy, so The Quarterly has lots of votes at the moment, and I think Story from America got a lot of votes today. This is just me seeing things on Twitter. Outpost always gets a lot of love on Twitter – I think they’re the big three I’ve seen.

How do you feel about that? Because when I was running the Stack vote Intern ran a really effective campaign and skewed the results. Alec [Dudson, Intern editor] was kind of mortified, but I didn’t mind at all. We were asking people to vote, so it’s an open invitation for magazines to mobilise their fans. I obviously called it out in the results, but I don’t think there’s a problem with that overall.
Well the nominations come in and nobody sees them, but when people share them on Twitter both Magpile and the magazines get a shout out, and I don’t think anyone loses out in that.

And you’ve got a £1,000 prize this time, so it’s really worth winning!
I had a crazy idea in the summer that this time I should try to boost the awards a little bit, and I decided that it wouldn’t make sense to give money to someone like Businessweek, who won last year, so I created this new award.

I had six new awards I was going to choose from, and Best Independent Magazine seemed like the best way of finding a magazine to give money to. I arranged some good, relevant sponsors, and they donated money to the prize.

That’s really fantastic. And the definition of ‘independent magazine’ is one that will be arrived at by a combination of the voters and then the judging panel?
It’s not like a strict definition, but I think it’s pretty easy to arrive at that. Most of the magazines on Magpile are independent, so it’s pretty easy to decide on.

I always end up agonising over it, because of the question of whether, say, Monocle is independent. In some ways it absolutely is, but in other ways it’s nothing like what you think of as an ‘independent magazine’. It’ll be interesting to see what the voters collectively decide on.
It’s down to the jury to decide; they’ll form the shortlist, and then from that they’ll pick the winners.

Looking forward to it! Moving away from the awards for a minute, how’s it going at Magpile more generally?
It’s going good. The last two years there has been a big jump in traffic and sign ups for the awards, so it’s an important time for the site. I’d like to dedicate more time to it, but that’s a struggle.

How much time do you actually give to it at the moment?
A couple of hours a week maybe.

Is that all?
Yeah – it’s not a lot. I’d love to do it more.

It looks like a lot more than that.
It runs on its own pretty well, now I’ve built up the base. The store can sell magazines on its own and I don’t have to monitor much because users edit content, so it’ll run itself without too much input.

But new features like the redesign of the pages, which I did in the autumn, and the list feature… that stuff takes some time and I need to put that time aside to get it done.

How about the selling side? That was a big innovation last time we spoke – how’s that going now?
It’s going really well. People like being able to browse and buy magazines from lots of different publishers in one place. Sometimes you’ll see an order of eight or 10 magazines in one go, coming from all over the world, and there aren’t a lot of places that’s possible online. Not with this group of magazines at least.

Companies like Newsstand have quite a good selection, but you’re not buying from the publisher, which I think is one of the big draws for Magpile. People like to know that they’re buying direct and so supporting the publisher a little bit more than if they were buying from a shop, because we take a smaller cut.

It’s 20% isn’t it?
Yeah – 20% of the cover, and then the publisher keeps all the postage.

I think it’s a brilliant idea so I hope it continues to do well. Have you got any other big developments for 2014 you can tell us about?
There are a few ideas in the pipeline, like the second-hand store I was trying to get done last year. I’ve had to push it into this year, but when it launches it will mean users can sign up and say which magazines they’ve got and which they want to sell, so it’ll be an online marketplace for used magazines.

So sort of an eBay for magazines?
Yeah – you’ll be able to log on, and say you’ve got a magazine in your wish list you’ll be able to see who has got it and how much they’re asking for it. So maybe if it’s sold out in the shops you might be able to buy it from Magpile.

When you look through the profiles on the site you see that people have got literally hundreds of magazines, and I’m sure they don’t want them all! So we’ll make it easy to put a price on those magazines and potentially sell them on to somebody else.

The Quarterly
Ruska Martin

Close Icon

Join our magazine club! Subscribe to Stack and every month we'll pick a different independent title and deliver it to your door. You never know what you'll get next...

Subscribe now