Tips from the creator of Longshot Magazine, a publication that is written, edited, designed and shipped within 48 hours.
The magazine was founded by journalists Mat Honan, Sarah Rich and Alexis Madrigal. The mag accepts contributions from all over the world and runs on “basically no money.” For the second issue – produced during August 27-29, an iPad app version was also created in the same two-day time period.
Madrigal, who works for TheAtlantic.com and is a former Wired.com staffer, offers up the lessons he’s learned during his 48-hour experiments in magazine production on Atlantic.com.
Lesson 1: Magcloud makes is possible
Magcloud, a print-on-demand service run by HP, allows you to print out a 60-page glossy, perfect-bound magazine for around $10 (must include an ad on the backpage). “What they allow you to do is start a magazine without the money you’d need to actually print the thing,” Madrigal writes.
Lesson 2: Twitter makes it work
The creators use Twitter to get the word out, request submissions and announce production schedules. This keeps costs low and opens up the magazine to a wide network of potential contributors. Madrigal writes that Longshot “allows us to conduct some of the electric serendipity of Twitter into a specific vessel. In the early days of batteries, they were called, “accumulators.” Maybe Longshot is an accumulator for Twitter”
Lesson 3: Workflow matters more than tools, but the tools help define your workflow
Madrigal admits that the biggest challenge is “managing all the photos, illustrations and text coming in.” The team uses Submishmash, which allows submissions to flow through the tool, making it easier to assign and keep track of all the various parts.
Lesson 4: Streaming the production of a magazine is boring
Because the team has such a blast producing the magazine, they used a live video feed that allowed viewers to see the production in action. Turns out there isn’t a whole lot of action that’s exciting to outsiders.
Lesson 5: If people matter, media isn’t dying
Longshot is the product of upwards of 50 people (with the contributions of dozens more), and Madrigal is proud to point out that “Every single one of us cared deeply about the design and content of words on pages. We love making media and whether it’s print or digital, it’s just what we do and we’ll continue doing it.”
He sees this drive as the key to staying sane in a doom and gloom-filled industry. “If the economics of our industry continue to fall apart and we all end up working in advertising, we could still do Longshot as often as we all wanted to. It doesn’t cost anything but some blood and sweat. And it does something good for that part of us that got into media because we wanted to engage people with the truths of the world.”
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