This week out of our (now rather ornate and prestigious) magazine rack we would like to share with you the Slow Journalism Company’s Delayed Gratification. A favourite of ours here at The Holborn, Delayed Gratification is a quarterly magazine published about the previous quarter’s news. They pride themselves on being the last to be breaking news. The slow journalism philosophy frames itself against 24 hour news cycles, twitter and up to the minute edge reports. As they say themselves; ‘Like the Slow Travel and Slow Food movements, Slow Journalism is dedicated to taking time to produce something of quality. Unlike most media organisations, we don’t spend our days trying to beat Twitter to the chase. Instead, we allow journalists and editors the time to do what they do best: canvass expert opinion, sift evidence, gain perspective and deliver the final analysis on stories.‘
So we decided to get hold of Rob Orchard, Director of the Slow Journalism Company and sit back with a nice cup of coffee and have a leisurely chat about the magazine and the state of print, newspapers and magazines.
How did Delayed Gratification start? What is it about?
Me and my now business partner Marcus met when we were both in Dubai, aged 22 and both working for Time Out. We had several conversations about if we set up a magazine what kind of magazine would it be. The conversations circled a lot around reactions against other magazine, the plethora of aspirational magazines where the readers capabilities didn’t match the aspirations being pushed. Against this crassly consumerist culture that permeates a lot of the magazine world. So talking together about that for some time the idea started to crystallize around 2010, at that stage a lot of fast and social media driven media was starting to take off; so live-blogging was big, Twitter was taking off, and news was coming up every minute on multiple devices. We felt something was being lost.
The classics case of being first rather than right we often talk about is the Amanda Knox retrial. A Daily Mail reporter was at the trial and misheard, having heard guilty to a lesser charge rather than murder. So a story went up more or less instantly on their website, a long and detailed piece quoting all kinds of people, saying she had been found guilty and was staying in prison. It was as we know the totally wrong story, the complete opposite of what happened. It was on the website for only a minute and a half, though in that time the article got around 70 Facebook likes.
So there is something unsettling going on where these large media groups who have for a long time prided themselves on getting the story right are being pushed by the dynamic of the internet and the algorithms that drive search engines in order to be first. Journalists are on the back foot, and it is awful. All the things you want from a journalist, canvasing expert opinion, sifting through evidence, corroborating sources and putting things into context, most journalists don’t have time for that now. It is all knee jerk reactions. I don’t blame these news organizations, it is the logical thing to do, but it does lead to some bad things.
We wanted to do something that wasn’t that. We wanted to do something that was about perspective, to consider and look back. The other element is that this speed and proliferation of media means that there is a lot of white noise, the sheer volume of information is outstanding, and therefore it is hard to know what is important. So our secondary mission was to curate the news. So we look back over three months and ask what was really important, what did we all miss, revisiting stories once the dust has settle. We also set out to champion print and to show what it can do.
With so much news happening worldwide over three months, how do you choose your content?
We have two very large boards in the office, and they are full of potential news stories and I would say for every ten that go up on the board one goes into the magazine. Obviously in a 104 page magazine you can’t do justice to a whole three month period. So it is a curation job. We look for stories in a way that you would relate to your friends in the pub after reading the magazine, ‘Did you know this…’. Everyone in the Editorial team has their own political affiliations and we have always tried to be non-partisan and just tell stories which are fascinating. The info-graphics allows us to take a large amount of data and let the story to emerge from the data alone and means we don’t put any spin on it. Slow journalism is about long form pieces and investigative work, where we follow a story for three or four months and watch it grow.
It is a beautiful magazine. Tell us about the decisions around production and design.
We looked at a lot of different paper stock and spoke to a number of different printers when we started. We wanted matte, there is something lovely about the feel of matte. The only problem for us, especially with stocking in shops, is that matte does pick up marks and get bent very easily. We actually went for the step down from matte in the end, which is uncoated stock. We went for the size after seeing a number of other publications that we liked in that format. I have many plans for the future, I would love to take the pagination up, maybe to 148 pages. We would have to consider the extra cost of postage.
The design is down to our fantastic Art Director Christan Tait who is an architect by trade and has created a wonderful design The front cover from the start has always been about introducing people to a new and interesting artist. Its a challenge each magazine to find an artwork which is square, fits the colours and is topical. The internal design is a reaction against a usual magazine internal structure, we don’t have page numbers and you are navigated by date through the months. We moved away from the usual format of features in the middle, columnists in the back, a designated sports or arts section; in order to have a large amount of flexibility and be able to react to what a three month period presents us.
Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming issue?
We have have some great stuff, in particular we have an interview of Hugo Chavez done by Gabriel Garcia Marquez two week before Chavez took office. The interview has never been translated into English but we got the rights to publish it. One of the greats of literature talking to one of the most divisive and interesting men in South American politics. We also got a great piece around a fast food shop in London, looking at the characters who work the night shift. They coming from all across the world and because of the collapse of certain economies often many of them have PHD and MAs. We also look at Syria and a journalist who was out there for a long time and followed this 24year old Syrian round, a university student who was radicalized. He died in January and the article is about the last three months of his life. We also have some great info-graphics, including a wonderful one about the Oscars. It’s going to be a really nice issue.
In terms of magazines any office favourites? Ones you take inspiration from?
There are lots out there. Monocle in particular, especially their design and production. They invested in print at a time others weren’t, they were the torchbearers for the multitude of independent magazines to follow. They are very smart and have a fantastic brand. Recently picked up a magazine for the first time called Colors Magazine, which is a title from Benetton. It is an incredible, chunky and fantastically designed magazine with great content. Their latest issue is on how the news is made. Really like Hot Rum Cow, a really fun magazine, doing some great stuff. There is a ton of stuff out there, hard to keep up.
As a successful independent magazine what do you make of the health of the industry at the moment?
Lots of great indie magazines coming out, and if anything the pace of release is growing. I believe over the next 5 years you will see a willowing out, a lot of the big established titles are going to go by the wayside. As we are already seeing a lot of those big titles are not sustainable in print form. It is a really great time for the independent sector, though saying that a fair few of those new indie titles will go as it is fundamentally such a hard balancing act. Part of the trick is to keep turning up and power through, a lot of new titles get to maybe issue 3 and disappear. Things will change a lot, people don’t want to pay for news anymore but are willing to pay for longer form more considered journalism. A great development as well has been these temples to magazine and the printed word have emerged, magazine stores and newsagents stacked full of great titles.
What’s in store in the future for Delayed Gratification?
Well we are looking at doing a series of events, potentially around the topic of booze. Looking at doing a regular podcast as well. Could do a lot with the info-graphics, potential for us to do a series of posters with them. Though am keen to always draw everything back to the magazine.
MHG & RO