Launched in April last year as a quarterly print magazine, the UK-based Libertine—a magazine for intelligent women—is about to change platforms and go completely digital. I chatted to founder, Debbi Evans, about yet another magazine that should be on your reading list.
Why did you decide to start Libertine? What do you hope to achieve?
Libertine was launched because I was a frustrated reader. I’d stand and stare at the women’s magazine shelves, feeling by turns ashamed and bored. The stuff I’d pick up —Fast Company, Wired, Monocle—was invariably in a different section, where women weren’t made to feel particularly welcome. If anyone reading this disagrees, I challenge you to pick up one of the above and look at the advertising—who do you think it’s talking to?
How many print issues did you publish?
We published four issues in total. The first was space themed, with the brilliant Gillian Anderson. Then we had history, cities and power, and, most recently, comedy. We made the decision to stop printing following an unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign in May this year. This taught me two lessons: the first is that what people say they want and what they will pay for are two very different things. The second is that there’s an exciting lifestyle brand in Libertine that enough people will pay for—it’s just not in print.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My background is pretty varied. I’ve always worked at start-ups so have done everything from sales to PR to marketing to project management. I trained as a journalist and my longest stint was as editor of a behavioural insights consultancy, Canvas8. This was a great background to launching any kind of business—my days were spent reading about new business models and trends, and commissioning academics and psychologists to write about what was coming next.
Since you’ve launched, do you think the outlook on magazines aimed at women has improved (more intelligent magazines rather than just fashion/beauty or celeb gossip), or do you think there’s still a long way to go?
Actually, yes! In London alone, there’s been two or three other launches (Riposte and Ladybeard are two) and there’s a couple of highbrow female-focused porn magazines (Adult, and there’s another whose name escapes me right now) that I find particularly interesting.
I also think a shift has been felt in the mainstream with Porter and Stylist magazine although sadly the advertising-focused business model means editorial freedom is slightly more limited.
When will the online magazine be launched?
We’re doing a soft launch of the new site in mid-late October, with a bigger announcement in early 2015.
Do you have regular writers on board? Do you accept contributions?
Our content model is changing slightly, mostly because we can’t justify paying for contributions anymore until we’re more established. Having said that, I’m always happy to read submissions and offer feedback/advice where I can.
What have been some of your favourite stories that you have published?
There’s an essay by Kate Mew in the second issue of Libertine, called “Used Future.” It was all about the cultural and philosophical problem of seamless, closed technology (e.g. Apple), illustrated using the metaphor of Star Wars. I also really love a couple of the photo stories we published—about a girls’ boxing academy in Kenya and about women who’d chosen to keep their grey hair.
After your re-launch, what’s next? Any long-term plans?
Our long-term vision is to challenge gender stereotypes and be a platform for change—in media and beyond.
Title image source: creativesocialblog.com