Four years ago we stumbled on the following somewhere on the web: “Offscreen - a print-only magazine about the people behind the internet and technology.” Naturally, our first thought was “Why make a print magazine for people who spend most of their time online?” It certainly piqued our curiosity, and that’s how we came to order our first issue of Offscreen. It was also issue No1 – a brand new magazine. Today, we happily received Issue No14 at the SiteGround office.
Four years is a lot in Internet time, but all the while little changed about the voice of the magazine — if anything, it only got better. It is still an independent publication that's edited, designed and published by just one man: Kai Brach, a web designer-turned-publisher. It takes courage for a web designer to start an independent print-only magazine in the Internet age, but to keep it going strong for years takes hard work, dedication, and lots of love for the web folk. At SiteGround we share that same passion for people who use the internet and technology to be creative, solve problems, and build successful businesses. That’s why we are happy to announce we finally got a chance to get involved and sponsor Offscreen - and we are also doing a little giveaway to mark the occasion!
We wanted to give our clients and blog readers a chance to check out the magazine more closely as well. So in the spirit of Offscreen’s longform interviews with spectacular people from the web, we decided to turn the attention to its maker — we asked Kai a few questions for the SiteGround blog! His interview is packed with insights about running a one-man business - be it offline or not. Read it below.
Win a copy of Offscreen No14
For those of you who are not yet familiar with the magazine—and for the devoted fans like us — we have prepared a stack of copies of the new Offscreen issue. Anyone who shares the interview on Twitter with an @Оffscreenmag and @SiteGround mention by May 15th will enter a draw to win one of these copies. We will announce the winners on Twitter on May 16th.
Meet Offscreen Magazine's Founder Kai Brach
Congrats on publishing issue 14! What have you learned since starting the magazine four years ago?
Ugh, everything! I'm a web designer by trade and before producing issue 1 I had never 'touched' print. So issue 1 really was just a big experiment. I had no idea I would still be doing the magazine four years and 13 issues later! I've recently published this really long Medium post about making an independent magazine that includes pretty much all the things I've learned since starting out. But there is much more to learn still. It's amazing how much depth there is to certain disciplines of design, such as typography, that you only really discover when digging deeper into print and traditional graphic design.
Besides the technical and operational skills that I've learned, how to grow the business and make it sustainable beyond just a one-man show is something that I'm currently focusing on getting better at. I've got some bigger changes coming up later in the year, after issue 15 is out. Stay tuned!
Are you happy with how the magazine has grown over the years?
Offscreen is definitely a niche title with a clearly defined audience that's a lot smaller than that of many lifestyle titles. Therefore it's hard to compare my magazine with the more mainstream titles that print tens of thousands of copies. The growth has been very moderate and slow. I've produced 3000 copies of issue 1 and now I'm printing 5000 copies. I'm not interested in growing for the sake of growing and I don't like wasting things. I generally have a conservative approach to growing the business and rather sell a small amount at a high cover price than flood shops with thousands of cheap copies – most of which would be pulped anyway. My approach has always been to find 1000 true fans I can really connect with rather than a faceless mass audience.
Having said that, I do want to grow a little more this year so that I can hire a few casual writers/editors to help me with the magazine and some other ideas I have for the brand.
Do you read a lot of books and magazines yourself? If so, which ones do you recommend?
Because I make a magazine, people always assume that I'm a huge bookworm. Unfortunately, because I spend so much time reading, writing and editing I tend to relax either by watching some show on Netflix or going out for a run or a hike. Funny enough, my girlfriend is a huge book lover and it's not unusual for her to go through a book a week (mostly fiction). Paradoxically (?!) most of my reading happens on a screen, on Pocket, where I read a lot of articles, most of them related to business or tech. To be honest, I always worry a bit that I'm not doing enough research on the business side of things. There is always so much more I could do to Offscreen as a business/brand, but I guess those concerns are common to the self-employed.
While I rarely read them cover to cover, I do like collecting magazines. I draw a lot of inspiration from them for Offscreen. And there are now so many different titles out there, it's very difficult to pick just a few to mention here. Have a look through Magpile and magCulture for some inspiration. I don't really have any favourites – well, I guess I do, but they change all the time. Currently I'm in love with Lunch Lady and This is Paper. I look at them from a editorial design/publishing angle more than that of a typical reader, though.
What are some of the digital tools you use to make and manage the magazine?
I've compiled a long list with the apps I use for Offscreen on my blog. As you'd expect, for the design part I rely on a lot of Adobe products (Indesign, Lightroom, Photoshop, Illustrator mostly). For the writing/editing phase I'm a big fan of Google Drive because their collaborative and sharing features for documents are fantastic! And for the business side of things I use a lot of different web and native apps: Zoho Invoice, Receipt Bank, 1Password, Fantastical, Droplr, Campaign Monitor and many others.
By the way, I always try to find new apps that help me with my day-to-day work. I really enjoy finding new tools – so much so that I created a newsletter to share my findings. 😉
What's powering your website? Do you use any CMS or backend for your shop?
It's a little bit embarrassing to admit, but the current version of the site is mostly a bunch of 'static' PHP pages connected to a custom order management tool for my orders. For the blog I use tumblr.
I'm not a developer, so when I first set up the website I had to put together a working site relatively quickly. What you see today has evolved from that. It's very basic but it has served me well and is extremely flexible in case I want to implement changes or run some special campaigns.
However, I'm planning on a bigger revamp later this year. Not sure what I'll be using yet, but I'm thinking of a simple CMS for the blog, like Craft, Kirby or Siteleaf. I won't need a feature-rich platform like WordPress. I've been looking into Shopify for the ecommerce part, and I really like their product, but I think as a magazine that relies largely on subscribers, I'll end up creating something a little more custom to make it easier for my users to stay in control of their Offscreen subscription.
What are you doing after this interview?
Today is Saturday and I shouldn't really be sitting on my computer (bad habit!). My partner and I have been making more of an effort to get out of the city over the weekends and enjoy the many National Parks and beaches in Victoria (our state). We got a short camping trip coming up next weekend and so we'll be gathering and checking equipment for that later today.
I've also got some magazines to ship to local readers and conferences here in Melbourne and so once I'm done with the interview I'll box up some mags and head over to the post office. Almost all of the shipping of Offscreen is done from a warehouse in Berlin, so when I get a chance to send smaller batches of copies to my readers directly I always like to add a personal touch through a handwritten note. As someone who spends so much time in front of a computer, I know how lovely it is to get a handwritten card with your magazine when it arrives in the mail. Nothing trumps the physicality of paper!