Buttoned into a snugly-tailored waistcoat and looking very much the grand poobah of publishing in his white baroque armchair, editorial genius and founder of Dazed and Confused and AnOther magazine, Jefferson Hack, answered questions from The Business of Fashion’s founder Imran Amed on the future of multimedia publishing.
Since Dazed‘s first incarnation as a two tone, single sheet, fold-out magazine Hack has built an empire of cool which counts Dazed Digital , AnOther, AnOther Man and more recently LVMH-owned site Nowness amongst his progeny. Twenty years on and Hack still works from a punk DIY notion that’s often been big on ideas and short on cash.
“Punching above our way is our ethos. You think of the idea then find the motivation and the talent to make it happen. We wanted to be the most influential magazine not the best selling one.”
Though they became both when President Clinton blamed them for “heroin chic.” Without any industry connections or know-how Hack and his business partner—and photographer extraordinaire—Rankin built a network of creatives out of people they met at bars and parties. With each volume they threw parties replete with art installations and live music to bring the content to life, so people could interact with it. Hence the birth of Dazed Digital.
“We’re a young staff, we’re connected. We listen, that’s my innovation.”
Hack is set to launch a series of ‘satellite blogs’ in September, bringing Dazed Digital’s potential to readers far and wide.
“I want to bring this platform to smaller cities that don’t have an international presence. I want to use our site’s architecture and give them complete editorial freedom, confidence and the dazed badge so they can let rip and show what’s going on in their city. The idea is you can be anything, you don’t need anybody to tell you you can do it. You do it then you become relevant. I want to bring that to the web.”
Does fashion have any footing in the digital world?
“It’s a business model problem. Music and film changed their business plans but fashion has always been late to the game. We’re in an initiation phase where we try everything and it doesn’t always work. But like Malcolm McClaren said ‘better to be a flamboyant failure than a benign success’. Eventually the technology layer will disappear and no one will care how it works, just that it does.”
As to how digital magazines and blogs can be monetized Hack insists he’s no guru that’s going to work it our for you, but points to the various formulas in effect at the moment like content that’s free at first that becomes paying over time, subscriber content, free content but with ads, sponsored content, etc.
Many of the questions twittered in to the live streamed interview were about Dazed‘s iPad app which is set for release in July: “We had to make the magazine beautiful and simple. The images on it are absolutely stunning. But what’s sexy is not having to work within these apps.”
Does the iPad’s success mean the death of print?
“People need the option to engage when and how they want with content. Digital magazines are in the moment, with the information zooming around. Print magazines are like the collective memory, like a souvenir you buy at rock concert.”
What can we expect from the magazines that manage to survive?
“The future is in specialization and niche areas, independent press and print on demand. People will still buy magazines because, like in bi-annuals who have emerged unharmed in the economy, stories can be told in depth.”
Looking into his crystal ball Hack quotes William Gibson: “Future generations will think it’s quaint that we still see the difference between digital and the real.”
As for, as Hack puts it, “some high tech terminator vision”?
“Well they are talking of contact lenses that have all kinds of information programmed into it so when you walk into a bar you have only to look at someone to know what music they listen to, if they’re gay or straight, where they shop. Then there’s projection mapping. And content in nature, like a magazine existing in a drop of water.”
So until the moment we can literally consume glossies, what advice does Hack have for his readers?