creative Q&A's, minimal design

Q&A with… Dan Rowden of Magpile

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This is the second guest post by Olivier Legris. Olivier is a French planner working at an English advertising agency. Over to him…

Covers   Magpile

Who said digital will kill the magazine business?

Started as an Excel spreadsheet and on its way to become the Wikipedia for magazines, the website Magpile is the ultimate digital supporter for an industry that even the most optimistic publishers couldn’t have dreamt of.

studiothreetwofive interviewed Magpile’s creator Dan Rowden to find out a little bit more about the project.

Hello Dan, first of all can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

My name is Dan, I’m a 26 year-old web developer. I’m originally from Cambridge and I graduated from Helsiniki 3 years ago where I studied media engineering, which includes a lot of web stuff, radio, animation and digital printing. I’m now living in Saudi Arabia, where I’m a User Experience Designer for a new Science and Technology university.

So how did you catch the “fever of magazines”?

When I was a teenager, I was a subscriber of Mountain Biking UK, I was really into it. After that, I didn’t read any other magazines until 3 years ago, when I started reading MonocleThis introduced me to more independent magazines and I started to look for more.

Mags   Magpile

How did the Magpile project emerge?

It started as a spreadsheet where I would write down the magazines I owned. And then it wanted to do better- I started to build this personal project. At the beginning, it was not designed to be a huge project but it naturally grew to what it is today.

But at the beginning, did you have in mind to create a social platform around magazines?

It was not intentional but I guess it all grew altogether. It seemed natural to implement social features to share the magazines you love with your friends. I wanted to launch as soon as possible. So one year ago, I started with a invite-only mode, to limit the number of users. And then, it became open to the public in June 2012.

Cereal Magazine   2 on Magpile

How successful is the website?

I’m very happy with the numbers. We have 52 000 unique visitors and they do spend a lot of time on the website. The community has registered over 1300 titles and 6600 issues.

Recently, the platform opened a store. Do you manage all of that? Are you living now with stacks of magazine in your apartment?

I wish! Maybe one day. At the moment, it’s a marketplace. Magazine editors sign up and can sell directly their magazine via the platform. The store platform is just a module I developed handling the emailing and billing but you do buy directly to the editors, they are the ones sending the magazines to you.

The website is absolutely beautiful, and you can see the amount of work behind it. Are you really on your own?

Yes, I do build the site only by myself. However Milja, my wife helps me a lot. She does not code but she comes up with great ideas for features, and also helps me identifying some issues. She is kind of half advisor/half focus group.

Alongside this, Kai from Offscreen magazine, Steve from Stack Magazines (a curated online store of independent magazines) and Jeremy from Magculture (THE blog about magazines) are also giving me some advice and promoting the platform.

So what is the future of Magpile?

At the moment, it is just a side project. I can only work on this during my free time. But maybe one day, I hope it may turn into a full-time job.

I have a lot of ideas, but time is very limited, it’s all about making choice about which idea to implement. I really want to work on a recommendation engine, that will be able to recommend new magazines depending on the ones you likes. For the moment, the trending list or the cover wall is a way to do it but I want to make the “discovery aspect” better.

Cereal Magazine magazine on Magpile

While the recommendation engine is not ready yet, any magazines you would recommend to our readers?

The Outpost a middle east cultural magazine; Boneshaker a magazine about cycling from Bristol; Offscreen a magazine from my industry.

Thank you very much, a last word for our readers?

Feel free to join and use Magpile but once you’re off, go read some magazines! 

And finally, studiothreetwofive’s magazine picks on Magpile

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Fantastic Man / The Gentlewoman bi-annual magazines around interesting people and fashion. Fantastic man is for him, Gentlewoman for her. 

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Cereal Magazine a new quarterly publication covering food and travel. Beautifully presented, with a colour chart at the beginning and quality paper.

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The Modernist about 20th century modernist architecture and design with a view from the North of England.