Left-wing magazine content to avoid industry fads

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Three large, fast-growing publishers leftist political magazine Jacobin said at a Delacorte conference Monday that they were content to focus on print and niche audiences instead of chasing the digital media staples of video and scale.

On October 23, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Bhaskar Sunkara, Creative Director Remeike Forbes and Associate Editor Elizabeth Mahony joined Columbia Journalism School Professor Keith Gessen George Delacorte for a conversation on socialism, the design of their publication and building a solid subscription base.

The quarterly print magazine promises “socialist perspectives on politics, economy and culture”. It was launched in 2010 but has grown rapidly. Its paid circulation has grown to over 36,000 from 19,263 in June of last year, and its website now attracts more than one million views each month.

“I think longer Jacobin has existed, the more people understand what our style and content is, the easier it has been for us to attract writers who can do it well enough, ”says Mahony, who joined in 2015.“ I think it’s been there. has become in itself.

Jacobin has the equivalent of 12 full-time paid employees, including three designers. Forbes, who holds a master’s degree in fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, says the magazine invests in design because the majority of its content is available for free and design is an integral part of print edition sales. . Sunkara estimates that 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from print subscriptions. “You have to print well,” says Forbes. “You have to think about the product itself that is also appealing to people and that they are happy to have on their shelf. “

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Articles found on Jacobinthe website and its print pages contain articles on wealth inequalities, the mass protest power, and the economic reasons The Puerto Rico Crisis After Hurricane Maria. The anti-capitalist tone encompasses topics as diverse as environmentalism (theme of issue 26), the NBA and health. “We sometimes joke that if a bot spits a Jacobin article, it would be: “It’s not culture, it’s economics!” ”, Says Mahony. “Which is a really didactic way of saying that we think there are some really material structural causes for what we’re seeing in front of our faces right now.”

While the magazine often emphasizes the importance of unions, it also highlights when they have not acted on behalf of their members. After extensive coverage of sexual harassment and assault in the post-Harvey Weinstein era, associate editor Alex Press reflected on his personal experiences to explain why collective action can help make workplaces safer, but Morgan Spector, in a separate article, pointed out the failures of the Screen Actor’s Guild to help its members.

“I have seen this happen in real life where a union stops sexual harassment and one of the main problems with sexual harassment is due to lax management,” says Mahony. “I have seen this happen many times when unions have held bosses accountable. “

Sunkara had advice for people who were considering starting their own magazine: “Start with how you’re going to make money, not all of the things you’re going to do,” he says. “The smartest people start with less ambitious short-term goals, but if [the publication] finds its market, readership and support, it could grow.

“The first two years things always go wrong, so a cushion is really important,” Sunkara says. “There are a million other products you could sell that would be more fun to sell and you would make more money – that’s where the ideology comes in. The real mechanics of it are the same. is the sale of knives. “

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Karen K. Ho is a New York-based freelance business, culture and media journalist. She is also a former Delacorte Fellow at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @karenkho.

TOP IMAGE: Jacobin Editor and Publisher Bhaskar Sunkara, Creative Director Remeike Forbes and Associate Editor Elizabeth Mahony (left to right).



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