Creating Your Own Magazine Online
by Cheryl Whittaker Views: 1486
All of Mash’s volunteer team have other projects on the side; it’s what brings such diversity and richness to our platform. Richard Dancsi, our Tech Advisor, has created an alluring online magazine, Yakuzuzu. Our Editor in Chief cornered Richard to pick his brains on the why and the how of the magazine, how he pulled together a team of volunteers, and what the future of Yakuzuzu looks like.
Cheryl Whittaker: Why did you start up Yakuzuzu? Did you see a gap or did you want a slice of a certain pie? Were you inspired by anything in particular?
Richard Dancsi: It’s hard to point out one exact day when we decided to start Yakuzuzu as a magazine. I was having these long conversations about the meaning of life with Marlene, my co-founder, and these talks used to end with us sending each other a list of articles or links to check out—about inspiring people, amazing projects and what not.
I was just about to turn 30, looking for my next big project, and I was pretty fixated about certain topics, like where to live, how to find sustainable happiness, and so on. It was also the time when Marlene decided to hang her surfboard on the wall, leave the surf instructor lifestyle and settle down in Vienna.
We didn’t have much other than questions, but we figured that the meaning of life might be crowd-sourced—so if we could ask enough people about their path to happiness, we might eventually crack the code to our own.
The magazine format seemed to be a good platform on which to explore all sorts of creative ideas, talk to many people and find a way to work with Marlene. We have quite busy lives, but now we have a good excuse to meet up every month or so to exchange thoughts. The magazine also works for clarifying Yakuzuzu’s message, extending our team and our reach, step by step.
Cheryl: “Life worth living” is the magazine’s tagline, but let’s get a bit deeper: beyond “lifestyle magazine”, what is the message of your medium?
Richard: There is this whole generation of young folks out there, who seem to have pretty much everything one could possibly want; and if not, a whole world is set up to fulfil those wants.
By the time a new song comes out, we are already bored with it. People and relationships are a commodity, and we use the most powerful artificial intelligence only to create better ads. In this pursuit of happiness we seem to have lost the ability to actually be happy.
And of course, there are many people out there in pursuit of happiness. I spend a lot of time in Berlin, where seemingly everyone is a travel blogger or writer. It all seems to be very selfish and unreal, though: for us, travel should be about learning new things and new ways to live, and not about exploiting those places for our needs—how many conversations have you had with people who seem to have learned only one thing in Thailand: that it’s cheap?
Yet, we are definitely not alone. There are quite a few people out there with similar thoughts, who are curious and try to create amazing things. Yakuzuzu wants to learn from them, talk to them, or even better, be one of them.
Cheryl: How did you build an editorial team? Are they all volunteers?
Richard: Luckily, we somehow managed to bring Yakuzuzu to life without much financial help, thanks to our great friends: most of our infrastructure is sponsored, and we’ve received a lot of help with the servers, cloud resources, and graphics so far.
That’s also true for the content: we are contacted by more and more people who want to contribute in one way or another, although we are quite conscious about keeping the message. In our small team right now, among others, we count neuroscientists, diplomats, and a mathematician as well. That also means that we are easily sold on science, and we would rather not try to bullshit around those topics: if we write facts, they better be solid.
Cheryl: Did you have any prior experience in this? What have you learned? Is there anything you’d do differently, knowing what you know now?
Richard: Absolutely! One of my first ventures, at the age of 10, was a tiny magazine in primary school: I was drawing cartoons, two of my friends were writing articles, and someone’s mom was making the photocopies. It was a lot of fun to co-create something in the afternoons and at weekends, and with the money we made selling the few copies, we bought candies in the corner shop every Monday.
Just a few years after, when this new medium the Internet came about, I started to work for one of the major online publications at the time. That was while I was still in high school and I’ve changed career path a couple of times since then, but I still enjoy writing and I’m a regular contributor to some larger magazines.
I guess this is just one of those things you can’t stop once you get started. In my daily job I’m working with programmers and host very technical workshops with startups, but on the side I’ve always been busy creating blogs, comics and other publications, some of which have won awards or got noticed in other ways.
The point is always to keep experimenting, and this is exactly what we want to do with Yakuzuzu.
Cheryl: Is your print edition is planned for release by Christmas. What do you see are the benefits of print in additional to digital?
Richard: For us and for Yakuzuzu, the print edition is a good test of our team at work: while Marlene and I could get a blog set up ourselves, we couldn’t possibly do the print edition alone. In the past year we’ve managed to get awesome contributors and help, and we needed to bring this to the next level: to work with designers, and content editors, not to mention bringing on board the financial support that can cover the printing costs.
As for actual benefits, we don’t aim for success in financial terms. None of the team members envision Yakuzuzu as a viable source of income, so all we want here is to get our message out. But:
Paper magazines do have an advantage: they are touchable-smellable-physical products, and that opens up new dimensions to be creative with, or, if you like, new channels to communicate through.
Even the paper we choose will send a message, not to mention the format and colours. Creatively, we can also play with layouts that simply cannot work on any digital display. We don’t have any data supporting this, but I feel like this is important: if it wasn’t, why on earth do solely digitally published books still have a cover?
It is a massive gamble, but we do think the fact that magazines are crazy expensive to print is a huge plus on our side: even if it’s a big investment now, we expect to gain a tiny bit of prestige-boost by being present in the Zine-world as well, and not only operate as a blog that anyone could have started.
Cheryl: Before you get back to the magazine, could you leave our readers with some pointers?
- Keep sustainability in mind: keep a nice-and-easy editorial schedule.
- Keep track of opportunities and even more importantly, people: don’t miss follow-ups, or take months to respond.
- Focus better: be strategic about every communication channel in the long run.
- As for more positive advice, and probably the best I’ve got: just get started!
Cheryl: Thank you, Richard, for sharing your know-how and your thoughts on the digital vs print debate, a debate that is ongoing and will probably be for some years to come. Mashers, what are your thoughts on the debate? Will digital eventually win out?
Our Chief Editor, Cheryl, has been with MASH since day one. Her poetry has appeared in Riot Angel magazine, and one of her short stories was published in This Is It. Cheryl’s creative streak also reaches to art, craft and photography, and her favourite way to combine all these passions is in art journaling and mixed media. You can view Cheryl’s work by visiting her website: www.cswhittaker.com