Three Kickstarter magazine entrepreneurs share their stories

There are more than 1,700 magazine media projects listed on Kickstarter, some successfully closed, some open and some unsuccessfully closed. The top 300 (there are more) have received pledges worth some US$4.5m (closed and live campaigns), with the top ten most funded projects getting between $66,659 and $105,097 in pledges. 

The projects cater to all kinds of interests, through print, online, digital or multi-channel magazines. Similarly, the entrepreneurs are from a variety of places and backgrounds.

Cobus Heyl talked to three entrepreneurs who ran successful start-up campaigns (and are at different stages of early launch phases) on Kickstarter. 

In part one, below, they tell more about their projects, the support they received from Kickstarter and how business is doing. Having nailed their colours to the mast with their plans for print, in part two, which we will run in our Innovation newsletter on Monday and on, they share (one) their thoughts on “why print magazines” were part of the projects, and (two) as entrepreneurs, with, in the case of two a track record in digital, their thoughts on the future of the medium.

Here are their stories, in their own words.

GFF Magazine

GFF magazine ()

• Kickstarter pledges: $94,587 from 822 backers (closed April 2014)

• See the Kickstarter campaign here

• Location: San Francisco, USA

• See their website here

• Their second issue is now out

Erika Lenkert (pictured), the founder, describes herself as being “obsessed with outstanding dining experiences” since her “well-fed San Francisco childhood.” She has been a food journalist and author for 20 years, has been “gluten-free since 2001, even while developing hundreds of recipes for Every Day with Rachael Ray, reviewing restaurants for the San Francisco Chronicle, authoring cook books, and writing for Food & Wine, Food Network, Bon Appétit, Travel & Leisure, and InStyle.”

Erika Lenkert ()

About GFF magazine

GFF is a food lover’s magazine that happens to be gluten-free. Its focus is on exceptional food, cooking, writing, and photography that’s playful, gorgeous and useful. It’s gluten-free because I have been gluten-free for near 15 years, but that’s never been a big deal for me. I have always cooked from whole, fresh ingredients, which result in delicious, naturally GF foods. I created the magazine I wanted to read.”

Were you surprised by the Kickstarter support?

“We didn’t give too much thought to other crowd-sourced fundraising platforms. Kickstarter seemed to have the most traction, so we went with that. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any promotion from Kickstarter or much support from the Kickstarter community. We had to go out and get support from our own communities – friends, colleagues, the gluten-free community – and bring them to Kickstarter. Surprise is not the word I would use to describe the support. The support didn’t just come to us. We worked day and night through the entire campaign and begged everyone we know and didn’t know to reach that goal. So surprised, no. Relieved, extremely grateful, overwhelmed, and exhausted? Absolutely.” 

How is the business doing?

“The magazine continues to be really well received. Every day we receive emails from people thanking us for creating GFF. That’s really satisfying. And for our second issue, we’re in more than 1,000 stores across the US. Still, we’re really new. Building visibility in the marketplace – with readers and advertisers – is critical to our business. That can’t happen fast enough!”

Akiba Anime Art Magazine

AAA magazine ()

• Kickstarter pledges: $74,003 from 1,548 backers (closed October 2013)

• See the Kickstarter campaign here

• Location: Tokyo, Japan

• See their website here

• Plan to launch the first issue soon, and from there on quarterly

AAA Magazine will be published by JH Lab, of which the three main members are JohnHathway (“with no space”), Dr. Nakagawa Kozi and Kevin M. Louis (pictured), who explained more.

Kevin Louis ()

“JohnHathway is a graduate of Tokyo University, majoring in Quantum-Limited Physics. He is is an active member of the scientific community as well as being an artist. His critically acclaimed art works have been featured in galleries around the world. He is the driving creative force behind all of JH Lab’s projects.

“Dr. Nakagawa Kozi graduated from Keio University with a major in commerce and business, and holding a doctorate in strategic management. He is the head of JH Lab’s business management. He has worked with companies around the world creating successful business models since his days at university. He dreams of making the JH Lab commonly recognised, worldwide brand.

“I (Kevin M. Louis) am originally from America and majored in Japanese Studies from Willamette University. Passionate about anime and manga, I act as the international liaison for the JH Lab, managing its growing international fan base.”

About AAA magazine

 “AAA came about from frustration at seeing rip-offs, poor imitations and thematic misunderstandings of what is anime, manga and other subjects that make up the whole of otaku culture. As such, we set out to collect works from various artists and professionals in those related industries here in Japan, to then display and explain them to a non-Japanese audience. 

“As with any culture you do not grow up with, there will naturally be misunderstandings. We want more people to understand and appreciate the otaku culture, like we do. The magazine title stands for Akiba Anime Art. Akihabara, often shortened to Akiba, is the veritable core of otaku culture, so we wanted that to be the same core we centre our magazine around. Anime, and the anime style of drawing and colouring is very easily identifiable, and influences nearly all artists coming out of Japan. And, art is of course the main focus we have for our magazine. We feature artists, guides on how to make character-themed lunch boxes and interviews with major production companies as well as local shops catering to otaku needs. But the art, the created visuals, along with brief introductions to and interviews with those artists, is what we want our audience to most appreciate.”

Were you surprised by the Kickstarter support?

“Yes, yes we were! Who wouldn’t be? We knew that there were supporters of anime, of otaku culture and of art in general, sure. But the intense outpouring of current and potentially future fans made us feel we were doing something great. We knew we were making something there was a strong niche for, and that people truly wanted.”

How is it going?

“It is going slowly. We plan to launch the first issue soon. We (JH Lab) are a very small group of people working with professionals from multiple disciplines, and at varying levels of availability. Our translators, for example, are passionate volunteers who help when they can while having other obligations and responsibilities. Coordinating across multiple fields with a variety of busy individuals hinders how quickly we can put our product together. Should AAA Magazine take off, as we hope it does, we will however be able to allocate more responsibilities to dedicated members of the JH Lab.”


Holo ()

• Pledges: $71,494 from 944 backers (closed in December 2012)

• See the Kickstarter campaign here

• Location: Toronto, Canada

• See their website here

• The first issue is out and they’re working on the second

About HOLO

HOLO is a magazine about emerging trajectories in art, science and technology. We published our first issue in 2014 and will be releasing the next one in coming months,” says the editor-in-chief Greg J. Smith (pictured).

Greg J Smith ()

“We focus on an emerging wave of artist-researchers who are working at the edges of disciplines and creating work that kind of defies categorisation. Beyond taking our readers into the studios of these artists, we also visit leading galleries and labs, investigate new tools, and instigate vital conversations.”

Were you surprised by the Kickstarter support?

“Yes and no. While we certainly did not expect to receive 200 per cent of what we asked for, we did know we have an audience in place before our campaign began. Our publication is tightly connected to, we’ve been writing about art and technology there for years and have a sizeable readership there. So we knew some of those readers would be game to support our foray into print, but apparently quite a lot of them were!”

How is the business going?

Things are going really well – probably as well as they could for a magazine that is an issue old. We took some lumps figuring out the workflow to get our first issue to press, but have a lot of great production and distribution relationships in place now. We’ve made a conscious effort to keep sustainability in mind with every decision we make. We’re trying to grow our readership, but not do so in a way that yields negligible returns (e.g. focusing on selling more magazines via our online shop vs. setting up more distribution deals with slim margins).

*In part two of this story, which we will run in our Innovation newsletter on Monday and on, they share (one) their thoughts on “why print magazines” were part of the projects, and (two) as entrepreneurs, with, in the case of two a track record in digital, their thoughts on the future of the medium

Some Kickstarter stats

In February this year, Kickstarter said since its “launch on 28 April 2009, over $1.5bn has been pledged by more than 7.9 million people, funding more than 78,000 creative projects.” In 2014, “3.3 million people from around the world pledged more than half a billion dollars (that’s $1,000 a minute) to bring 22,252 projects to life.” There is more here.

Contact Cobus

Contact him if you have thoughts to share on this story, or have your own story to tell.

Don’t miss

• FIPP’s Innovation in Magazine Media World Report, which will launch at the Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin on 23-24 March.

• The FIPP Insight Forum and Awards where top research projects from around the world are presented and dissected and discussed to see how (or if, if you must) multi-platform magazine media still works.

• The FIPP World Congress, which includes the Innovation Forum, on 13-15 October 2015 in Toronto, Canada. The Forum will build on the best innovation case studies included in the 2015 World Report, as well as innovations happening between now and the Congress.

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