Why We're No Longer a Print Magazine (And What's Next)
🍒 To kick off our new monthly series, Editor in Chief Magdalena talks about the magazine industry, the end of an era, and what’s to come in this January Editor’s Letter. 🍒
In March of 2017, our Web Editor Elizabeth Stilwell dropped a link in Slack — where our editors chat amongst each other — with the caption “OH NOOOOOO 😵.” The aforementioned link was an Eater article, announcing the end of Lucky Peach.
For those unfamiliar, Lucky Peach was the trailblazing brainchild of writer Peter Meehan and restaurateur David Chang. It was foremost a print magazine (with a companion website) that valued graphic design almost as much as it did esoteric food writing. The first issue I ever bought ruined traditional magazines for me forever. When Lucky Peach folded, I mourned. I had long conversations with my editorial staff, the theme of which was always: What does this mean for the future of indie print magazines? I felt a twinge deep in the pit in my stomach.
Nearly seven months later — and halfway through their November Issue — Nylon folded their print magazine as well and sent shockwaves throughout the publishing industry. I owe Nylon for my love of magazines, and the fact that this Conde Nast media giant — with sister magazines in Japan, Germany, and more — couldn’t survive was hard to wrap my brain around. The simple truth was, however, that people just don’t consume (and pay for) content the way they once did. Media as we know it has been forever and indelibly changed. Investors have decided that profit lies in clickbait, video, and social media engagement and, as a result, print is a dying art form. Again our editors huddled. I felt the same pang in my gut, this time stronger.
Meanwhile, as these publications we held so dear jarringly disappeared, Selva Beat Magazine was hanging on by our fingernails, despite the success of our website. We never identified as a business and, as such, we always prioritized content over profitability. I paid staff and production costs (models, illustrators, etc) with my own paychecks. I worked overtime and got more freelance gigs as we began to grow. We all gladly worked ourselves to the bone because we believed, and still do, that it was important to breath new (and diverse) life into environmentalism.
But despite my good intentions, the magazine industry (indie or not) is indeed a business — one that does not give you a break for giving it your all or burning the candle at both ends. Instead of backing down, we decided to lean into another dream of ours and launched the Selva Scouts in June of 2018. Through this membership program, we were able to cover our day-to-day costs and connect with our audience on a personal level. We skirted Instagram’s oppressive algorithm and posted authentic content, like behind-the-scenes shots and opinions, that would otherwise tank on social media. In November, The Austin Chronicle crowned us the “Most Environmentally Conscious Lifestyle Mag” for their annual Best of Austin awards. This all bode well for us as a brand but still wasn’t enough to save us as a magazine.
Issue 05 continued to be produced, at a snail’s pace, whenever we had the funds and time to do so. Occasionally, a photographer or model would e-mail me, rightfully asking: when is this issue going to print? Deep down, my editors and I knew the real answer: anytime really but not without irreversible financial damage to Selva Beat.
Then, in November 2018, Rookie closed its doors. Rookie, which started in 2011 like Lucky Peach, was an online (and print) magazine made for and by teenagers. I championed their content, which always felt sincere, authentic, and unlike anything else on the internet. Like before, I mourned. But as I read Tavi Gevinson’s final editor’s letter, I also began to panic. While other publications chose to pin Rookie’s demise on Gevinson’s growing older (and out of the editorial mindset), those of us at Selva Beat somberly read between the lines. Capitalism, which has always stacked the odds against women in media, was the true catalyst for Rookie’s end.
Yet again, I felt that pain in my figurative gut, only this time it was too sharp to ignore. While I didn’t want to make the dissolution of magazines that were so important all about me, I also couldn’t ignore the deeper implication. Being a print magazine at all costs, both metaphorical and literal, was not a hill I wanted us to die on. For that reason, like Nylon, we’ve decided to shutter our print magazine right before the finalization of our sixth issue.
We had to make a choice about what we valued most as a publication — which is, above all, activism through creativity. Subliminal environmental awareness, as I like to call it. In that regard, I feel really optimistic about our future. Even if I only look at the work we’ve published this past year, I’m bowled over by the innovation of this team. We turned our food scraps into skincare to bring awareness to food waste in the beauty industry. We made $1 thrift finds editorial through some simple tailoring. We made eco-conscious fake blood for Halloween and quizzed you, is this a horror movie or a climate change documentary? We bucked green blogger trends by going all in on color, patterns, and mindfully casting diverse models with which you could connect.
What does the future of Selva Beat look like? Well! We’re going to keep pushing the envelope by bridging the gap between ardent environmentalism and the real lives of young people today. Throughout this month and the next, Issue 05 — the cumulative work of over 30 individuals — will be released on our website. We’ll also continue embracing the web as our medium and pouring our hearts and souls into more high-quality, sustainable editorials and articles. And if you’re interested in what that journey looks like behind-the-scenes and want to support Selva Beat, you can become a Selva Scout today for just $3 a month! ;)
Editor in Chief