Notes on starting a local magazine


Collaboration is a word that is thrown around in increasing measure at the moment. It’s in vogue.

But in publishing, where the traditional business models and routes to market are virtually a thing of the past, and when access to funding for small journalism projects is difficult, collaboration is absolutely critical to getting things off the ground.

Recently I launched Tortoise Magazine along with fellow creatives Sam Ryley and Kirsty Dalton. It was focussed on showcasing the creative talent in my home town of Chester.

We wanted to create something different. We wanted to tell some of the interesting stories that drive the work of the city’s creative hubs.
To do that though we needed funding. . . .

Or did we?

Perhaps we just needed hard work, a positive message and a big network of people.

In the end we launched with our minimum viable product, i.e., the smallest and most condensed version of the publication we could get away with. Crucially though, it still expressed our key values and represented the standard of work we wished to become known for.

As we had no money we had to really work on the way we expressed our motives and aspirations for the publication. Only through this approach could we tap into our network of people and invite them to contribute. It was embarrassing not to be able to pay people for their effort, but at least we truly believed they would receive value from the association with our end magazine.

Our model was based around reaching as many people as possible. We knew we couldn’t print many copies on day one, but we also knew that if we could demonstrate even a small portion of the idea, we could attract enough advertising revenue to radically ramp up the printing.
We printed 400 copies of issue 1 and 4000 copies of issue 2.

In essence, we put the economics to one side and said "let’s put something amazing in as many hands as we can and ask for nothing in return". That was our driving force.

And actually it was that simple.

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