Steve Watson set up Stack after spotting a gap in the market. A lot of people don’t live near a great magazine shop, so it’s difficult for them to find something really good to read. Stack acts as a filter, selecting the best independent magazines and delivering them direct to your door. It was started nine years ago, in December 2008. We spoke to Steve to find out more.What is your background?
Before I went full-time on Stack I was editorial director at Human After All, where I helped to create magazines and other editorial things for corporate clients including Google, PlayStation and the World Economic Forum.
I discovered independent magazines in the early 2000s and fell in love with these beautiful, extraordinary titles, but I realised that most of my friends had never even heard about them. I assumed that was just down to the magazines not being able to pay for advertising, but one day I was speaking with Danny Miller, the publisher of Little White Lies (I started writing for them soon after they started), and he told me the real problem is distribution – it’s still a real struggle for independents to get their magazines in front of the right readers. I started thinking about how you could make it easier for publishers and readers to discover each other, and Stack launched at the end of 2008.
Grace is our editor – she runs the blog and social media channels and makes sure that there’s always an interesting new magazine for us to be talking about. My background is in content marketing, and that’s the way we’ve promoted Stack from the beginning. These days my contribution is limited to hosting the Stack podcast and making occasional video reviews, but there’s always so much other stuff to do!
And Vicky is our subscriptions manager – we used to use a subscriptions agency but they just couldn’t give the level of service I wanted, so these days all subscriptions management and customer service is done in-house. Vicky is basically the nicest person I know, and she’s incredibly organised and also loves independent magazines, so she’s the perfect person to speak to our subscribers if they need to contact us.Can you give us four reasons why print is still so popular and why at times it beats digital design.
I love the way that a print magazine can be completely absorbing – your breathing slows down, you lose yourself in the page and give it your complete attention. I read a huge amount on my phone and computer, but I tend to read quickly and skim for the important bits, whereas print encourages me to take my time. Also, the double page spread is a pretty amazing invention – you can take in the whole expanse, and almost simultaneously focus on the smallest detail, which means a good designer can lead your eye around the page while also leaving you free to find your own way. That control and pacing is really important to the whole reading experience.What do you look for in a great magazine?
All the magazines we send out on Stack need to be built on a clear and original idea. We’re living in an age of content excess – there’s so much stuff out there to read, watch, listen to or play, often for free, that there’s just no point in publishing anything if it doesn’t help readers to see the world in a new light. That could mean a really serious piece of journalism or a silly little aside, but it has to be made by somebody who really cares about contributing something new and interesting, rather than repeating what they’ve already seen elsewhere.What would you say were the most inspiring magazines of 2017?
I really enjoyed a magazine from New York called Good Trouble. It’s a large format newspaper dedicated to protest and what it calls “good trouble, necessary trouble”. It carries a powerful message but also has a lovely lightness of touch – really impressive stuff.Which magazines have had the best reaction from your readers?
There isn’t really one that stands out from the rest. That sounds like I’m sitting on the fence but its true! I think it’s because our subscribers are so varied – they are by definition a group of people who want to be surprised by something from outside the mainstream, so my job is to keep on searching out the best stuff and sending it their way.The end of this year will see your 10 year anniversary – are you doing anything special?
Yes! We’re working on a rebrand and relaunch at the moment. It’s all still early days, but it’s very exciting. And a bit terrifying.And finally, does this business ever make you feel like creating your own publication?
Ha! I do have a couple of ideas for magazines I’d like to make. Maybe one day…