Who are you and what is your background?
Rachel Signer, publisher of the print-only indie magazine about natural wines, Pipette Magazine. I’ve been a natural wine journalist for five years. I started when I lived in New York, then I moved to Paris and then to Australia, where I live now.
In what city?
Adelaide Hills, South Australia -- the nearest city is Adelaide.
Can you tell about us, about your magazine
Pipette Magazine was born because there was no place to publish serious journalism about natural wines, which are made without additives from organic grapes. These are very special wines and those of us who enjoy them also like to know the story behind them, how they are made, the producer’s background, and so on. I created Pipette so that writers including myself around the world could publish these stories in a beautiful layout with top-quality photography and artwork.
We bring stories about natural wines to people around the world, whether they are just learning about natural wine or already well involved in the industry. Our voice is mostly approachable although we also discuss technical aspects of winemaking. We treat wine from a humanistic perspective; there are no scores or ratings. Generally, writers and photographers pitch me ideas although sometimes I assign them. Years of traveling to visit winemakers and tasting at natural wine fairs have given me strong background knowledge, which helps inform how I choose what goes into each issue of the magazine.
Print: Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why? Typography?
I love reading physical books and magazines! We spend too much time in front of screens. We use high quality, uncoated recycled paper, and the magazine is printed in Berlin. There are numerous fonts in the magazine but the main one is Exchange.
How's the public response?
We often receive notes from readers telling us how much the magazine has inspired them or helped them appreciate natural wines more. I think the articles can really provoke people to think differently, not just about wine, but about the world more generally. Wine is a lens into many things: politics, language, consumption, aesthetics. Our readership is growing every day, with new subscribers signing up all over the world, and stockists approaching us eager to carry the magazine.
Can you give us a tour of your local media scene?
I’m not sure about the local media scene in Adelaide specifically. In Australia, there are various independent magazines. But I am constantly traveling, spending months at a time in Europe, so I don’t feel tied to one particular media culture. In New York, the most popular drink website is PUNCH (punchdrink.com) and they do wine reviews as well as features in a contemporary way. As well there’s Eric Asimov, a very thoughtful and progressive wine critic at the New York Times.
Business: Good print mags get a lot of love, but is not always translated to sales or advertising. How're the sales? Advertising-wise, is it a normal approach of selling an ad page or more a brand ad approach?
Fortunately, we are able to get by mostly based on sales. For Issue 3 we have accepted two ads from small, like-minded businesses that we are happy to showcase. We won’t ever have tons of ads and we’ll never accept ad money from a brand that doesn’t align with Pipette’s overall sensibility.
What is your online strategy?
We post frequently on Instagram and Facebook. I also write an occasional newsletter.
About design, what does your brand represent/reflect?
Pipette is dedicated to showcasing unique emerging artists who work by hand. We feature two or three different illustrators in each issue, and our forthcoming Issue 3 will have an illustrated cover. One unique thing about Pipette is that we try to work with creatives who are somehow connected to or passionate about natural wine. I’ve found that it creates a common link that facilitates working together.
We also collaborate with our contributing artists on merchandise, such as wine tote bags and prints, which is a lot of fun.
What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?
I’ve always loved writing and editing and I feel so privileged to do it. Some days I struggle to keep up with the orders coming in through the Pipette website, and the spreadsheets can be a bit much to handle, but I’m so grateful!
What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
Everything I’ve done for Pipette, I’ve done basically for the first time. I’ve had to learn about budgeting, paper quality and size, distribution--which I do by myself, rather than through an official magazine distributor--and so much more. The biggest challenge might be communicating with stockists. There are some who find that the magazine doesn’t work for their shop and I really wish I could discuss in detail what the problem is, so as to find a solution, but it’s impossible to find the time.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a magazine?
Start a Kickstarter, bring in some friends, create a written agreement so that you can resolve any differences that will arise, and don’t compromise on your vision. Magazines are a great place to take risks; if it ultimately fails, you will only have two issues but will have lost nothing. If it catches on, you’ll have found a wonderful local or global community to create within.
Pipette Issue 3 comes out in June and then Issue 4 will be out in November. In the meantime, we have some events taking place in Milan, Venice, and Berlin. Follow us on Instagram at @pipettemagazine to stay in the loop, or sign up for our newsletter.