What does it take to start a magazine from scratch? I asked 3 women who did exactly that

The definition of DIY.

Have you ever found yourself at the head of an article or feature that makes you type the glossy page, or flip a mouse, flick through or ardently scroll through words and pictures that make you think: how the hell? has this magic materialized?

Publications of musical and cultural variety are the subject of my teenage dreams, as I leaned in late into the night, torch ready, absorbing stories of my favorite artists, musicians and creatives. Insight, design, type and imagery have long lulled me into an escape frenzy, and I often wonder what creative juices must flow for a publication to sing.

Looking for interesting reads? Visit our Life section to find out more about where it came from.

Enter three local founders and publishers, who have worked on musical and cultural content and created their own publications. Each path is unique, but all are emboldened by the ambition and desire to innovate in the field of publishing.

Juliette Young, Gusher Magazine co-founder and co-editor

What made you want to launch a post?

We [Juliette and Gusher‘s co-founder Isabella Trimboli] were frustrated with the low representation of women in rock journalism – not only the lack of coverage and (often) sexist portrayals of the artists, but also the exclusion of non-male voices at the editorial level. We wanted to create a platform for long, nuanced writing about rock music and culture that presents a wider range of critical perspectives. We love art books and fashion magazines and found the typical rock magazine you would find in news agencies to look really dated. So we decided to make a thick and shiny post that looks like a fashion magazine, with graphics inspired by zines, pop art and old punk magazines. We had the passion and the vision. It was exciting and important to us, so we did it.

What happened in the early stages of its start-up?

The first steps came with the name (thanks, Isabelle Trimboli) and logo and brand design. It was pretty DIY at this point – I took the creative direction and the design and learned everything as I went. As co-editors, we defined the general editorial direction and the editors that we had in mind to commission. Then came to find out how to pay for it. We crowdfunded the first issue on Pozible – people really bought into the idea. From there it was about ordering the writing and illustrations, turning the cover, and spending many late nights after editing, design and assembly.

We were very naive and printed with an on-demand photo book printer which cost a ton and meant we didn’t see the magazine printed until hundreds of copies arrived at my sharing house in boxes. Fortunately, it turned out (mostly) brilliant. We kicked it off with a concert at Freda’s in Sydney (RIP) where a bunch of bands of our friends performed. The show was a huge success for us – not financially, but that was not the point. We went to number two, then three and four, each year with more knowledge, skills and grants to move the magazine forward in editorial, visual and business terms.

What challenges arose during the various stages of creating your publication?

The main challenges have always been time and money. We are a two-woman company who did every issue nights and weekends when we were not working or studying. Neither of us have any money, so we spend a lot of time securing funding for each issue (through grants and advertising), paying all backers, and covering printing costs. It is certainly a labor of love.

What inspires your content and creative direction?

I think the magazine is both serious and absurd. We will publish an essay on a union of music workers (Joey ‘La Neve’ DeFrancesco) but will also commission some hilarious reviews of 2000s rockstar reality shows (Brodie Lancaster). We are inspired by great cultural writings, punks, stories about old forgotten artists or subcultures, weird or funny pop culture phenomena… the list goes on.


Erryn Ayres, Wider lines founder and editor

Always wanted to create your own post? Why?

Sometimes I wish someone else more capable had already imagined it and I could just jump in from time to time from the sidelines. But the creation of a publication of my own makes it possible to unswervingly and clearly represent a display of ethics and values. I believe in amplifying voices presented from a specific, honest and organic place.

What do your daily tasks look like?

These tasks look a lot like emails. Lots of liaison with press contacts, contributors, editing and handling of questions and requests to be made. I have a preference for doing chunks of to-do tasks at a time as opposed to slow elimination. While saying all this, some days I don’t touch the emails at all.

What challenges arose during the various stages of creating your publication?

A glance at the site statistics for a given month is indeed very sobering. Sometimes you are wide awake, other times you feel like you are stepping into the abyss. You are not running for popularity, endorsement, or approval from people you know. Everything ends up balancing out if you’re up for the long game, so it’s best not to let it break your stride. Only try to control the things that you can.

What inspires your content and creative direction?

Women. Featuring their stories. I’m particularly inspired to document mature voices that won’t be available forever. I have always tried to fight against ageist attitudes that see maturing voices sidelined when no longer deemed “worthy of interest”. Plus, if any, we appreciate a lol. It is important to me that the character is strongly represented, whether it is from the narrator or from the subject directly. For me, successful creative direction equates to a recognizable and differentiated tone. Of course, not everyone has to accept it. I think it’s pretty fabulous when some corners can’t take it.

What advice would you give to other creatives who want to create their own print or online publication?

Good content will always be valid content, no matter how it is presented. Go with what sticks and don’t over-explain what you’re here to accomplish or desperately try to push an agenda on how you want to be viewed. My goal is to always be a lot more impressive in IRL than online because we all know how sad it is when it’s reversed. To avoid disappointment, don’t expect anyone or anything other than yourself, and don’t demand that someone do something that you are not ready to do on your own.

It’s a lot of work for very little reward, but a slow, steady approach leads to a lasting pattern. If you crave instant rewards and gratifications, I would suggest you shift your attention elsewhere. If you are able to manage on your own with very few comments and feel that you can not only fill in but expand a space that no other post has yet closed, this is your ammo and your incentive to show up to many times.


Monique Nakata, Oyster magazine co-founder

How did you decide to launch a publication?

In the early 90s we had a music paper – similar to To beat in Melbourne – [and] it was called 3d world. I was about 19 when I got involved and what I noticed was that there were a lot of magazines that didn’t really cater to a young demographic like mine unless they were it is a purely musical title, like Rolling stone, or feminine titles, like Cart and Cleo Where Vogue. So there was nothing for our generation. I also noticed that there were a lot of really interesting creative skills coming out of young people, art and design schools, and there wasn’t really a platform to showcase them. I wanted something that was a platform to discover talent and explore youth culture on a more responsive level.

What were your daily tasks like?

I worked with the editor a lot – discussing what was going on in the world and coming up with concepts. We searched for talent, worked with the editorial team, and looked at how we could make money through creative advertising opportunities. Because we were such a small team, everyone played bigger roles. Daily tasks always varied, but they were mostly based on getting up, finding out what was going on, having meetings in the morning, figuring out where we are, who we are targeting for editorial content and what to do with it. looking for major contributors.

What inspired your content and creative direction?

I was very ambitious and wanted to make a statement with the magazine. At first I wrote a few stories on social issues, which turned into interviews, instead of a more journalistic approach. We have started to work on the photographic report, which is a medium much more easily translated by our demographics. I think the content was really a creative collaboration. There was a lot of brainstorming – a lot of people were involved. We encouraged our contributors to approach us with some interesting things they had experienced in their travels through life and on their travels. We didn’t have Google at the time, so everyone had to bring their experience and relive it through writing and photography, which was very authentic.

What advice would you give to other creatives who want to create their own print or online publication?

I think you need a point of difference. You not only need to be passionate about the media proposition you plan to launch, but you also need to determine what your point of difference is and be authentic in how you translate that information.


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About Cedric Lloyd

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