Is a magazine to browse with a great coffee at your favorite cafe, or snuggled up on your sofa. Learn more about Melbourne’s cafe scene through intimate interviews and meandering photography. Interview with the founder Rebecca Hughes
Can you tell us about your magazine?
Mostly this magazine is about creating the perfect job for myself! But – the journey:
I have loved cafes since my 20’s, back in my hometown of Christchurch. I love the combination of writing, and coffee. Sitting in a beautiful cafe completes the experience. In London in the Early 2000’s I launched an online magazine about coffee and cafes named ‘Grind Magazine’. I meet many of the players on the London coffee scene at the time. My own passion for cafes was totally the customer experience – the interiors, the service, the quality of the coffee etc. Starting Grind Magazine meant by default I started to learn a lot about coffee itself – about preparation methods and the origin of coffee and huge variety of taste profiles. I then spent a few years in Ireland working full time in photography and starting a family. The coffee took a back seat. Upon moving to Melbourne 4 years ago I decided it was the perfect time and place to get back in to cafes. I launched Melbourne Cafes Photo Blog as a way to get familiar with the Melbourne Cafes scene and also as a portfolio for my photography. I investigated publishing a book but the costs were terrifying! I re-directed my efforts into a magazine, mostly because the size made it easier to put together both time wise and financially. My kids were still preschoolers at this time and I had limited work hours.
And editorial wise?
I kind of followed my instincts, editorially. The stories very quickly became personal and intimate stories about the interviewees journey into coffee or opening their cafe. I didn’t want to write reviews – reviews are so subjective, and besides there are a hundred blogs (and newspaper columns) dedicated to reviewing cafes. I am actually quite an introvert, and usually keep to myself – this magazine has allowed me to sit down with people and get their stories in a way I would never do without the ‘journalist’ job title!
Why choose print? What kind of paper do you use and why? What about typography?
I have been deeply inspired by the current publishing trend for photography-heavy beautifully designed magazines printed on uncoated paper. I have always preferred matt to glossy (even as a photographer) and when magazines like Frankie and Kinfolk came to press is was like ‘finally!’ I love the understated simplicity yet engaging beauty of these publications. In terms of my own design I made it up as I went along and played around until I was happy. I often use pen and paper to doodle layout ideas if I am struggling. It can be easy to get caught up in playing with software – pen and paper brings you back to basics.
How’s the public response?
This has been really well received by coffee people and creatives. Many other people who have harboured the idea of publishing have given me a pat on the back for actually doing it. There was certainly scepticism at first by some potential stockists as they didn’t know where it would fit in, in their stores. It sells really well at stores that stock local design goods and specialist gift and book stores. Also some of my cafe stockists have a high turnover. The magazine needs to be carefully placed (on the counter works best) to sell well as it is an unknown and I don’t advertise.
Good print mags get a lot of love that doesn’t always translate to sales or advertising. How are the sales? Advertising wise, do you have a traditionnal approach of selling an ad page or more of a brand ad approach?
I always do a drop of hundreds of free ‘shop copy’ magazines via supportive Melbourne coffee roasters, who distribute to their wholesale cafe customers. This is a great way to blanket Melbourne with each new edition.
I sell direct from my website all issues plus the art prints as featured in each edition. I also have around 30 stockists. Now, at Volume Three there is more of an appetite from stockists – their customers were anticipating the release of the last issue and had been hounding them to get it in!
I do not have a marketing background – this is probably my weakest area – there is no end to what I could be doing to market this publication, especially with social networking – but I only have so many hours in the day. I Both my kids are in school now – so I work school hours. Time is limited, especially when there is still a household to run (saunter). Also working alone on the project does mean it gets exhausting always having to motivate myself to keep pushing forward. My best ideas often come from chatting to others about what next or new ideas.