Stepping into the tiger cage

Sam Bradley is the Publisher of Counterpoint, an independent magazine featuring original writing and amazing illustration. Each issue has a different, unique theme and comes packed with thoughtful features and gorgeous original artwork.

They showcase brilliant illustrators alongside the work of the best new writers and journalists, and have been shortlisted for Stack’s Best use of Illustration award three times.

Here, Sam writes about his experience at the International Magazine Centre’s first Troika workshop – join us for our second on 9 September.


I’m not a confrontational person. I wouldn’t last a minute on Newsnight. Nor would I stand up very well on Dragon’s Den. So, the basic concept of a troika had me spooked. Three industry experts evaluate your magazine, your business – your passion project – right in front of you? Sounds like an ambush. It sounds, to be frank, like a parent’s evening.

But I love talking, and thinking, and even occasionally arguing, about magazines and what they can do, even when there’s the chance of having my hard work poked, prodded and prognosed. And this was a rare opportunity to do that with three proper publishing heads, face-to-face, or at least Zoom-to-Zoom.

Which is how I found myself presenting my magazine, Counterpoint, to a small panel of magazine veterans. I would present a potted version of the mag, identify a single problem, and the three talking heads would suggest a number of solutions in a set amount of time.

Counterpoint

The elevator pitch is simple enough. Counterpoint is an indie general interest magazine that publishes new, fascinating journalism with original illustration. We’ve been in print for about five years and publishing for seven, a side project we started as students that grew legs and arms. It’s Risograph printed and hand-bound by my co-editor, and deals with a different (sometimes very odd) theme each issue, and we’re very proud of it.

My question, given the magazine is produced on a particularly thin shoestring, is how we could improve our marketing efforts. There are, of course, any number of ways to bring a magazine to its readers – but there’s only so much time in the day, and only so much cash to splash around.

“So having three guides think aloud, talk each other through potential panaceas
to our problem, was actually invaluable.”

So having three guides think aloud, talk each other through potential panaceas to our problem, was actually invaluable. Given my question was one that nobody in the industry has ever truly solved, that discussion could go on for ages, but controlled format of the troika helped streamline the discussion.

In the short time we had, we managed to range over the entire marketing operation, such that it is, behind Counterpoint and managed to pinpoint areas of focus such as using social media to drive pre-order sales; pushing ourselves to the front of the project for a bit of PR; relying on our extensive back catalogue of evergreen content to provide fresh digital content. All good advice, and all solutions that are in reach.

“Since then, we’ve taken that advice forward.”

Since then, we’ve taken that advice forward. Our next issue is coming down the pipe right now and we’ve been focusing on pre-orders to make the most of that launch week splash. Evergreen content will take a while to prep, but it’s a great way to fuel our website with fresh content and provide readers with a way of sampling the magazine before buying the next print edition. As for PR – the journalist in me recoils at the idea of making myself the story – but we’ll try it, in time.

It’s been going well, considering there’s a pandemic and probably a recession on right now. So, from this non-confrontational mag maker, I’d recommend stepping into the tiger cage – it’s only fifteen minutes, after all.


Join us for our second Troika on 9 September – find out more on our Events page.