It Takes an Electric City

Lightbulbs (photo by B Mroz)
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Welcome to volume 2 of Electric City Magazine!

It’s hard to believe, but Electric City Magazine launched one year ago this month. Over the past year, we’ve used these editorial pages to speak as openly as possible about the thinking behind what we do, and the process of making it happen. So, as we hit our first anniversary, we’d like to reflect on the past year—our successes and our challenges, and what they say about this community and about the difficulty of building something that will last.

First, the good news, and there is a lot of it. When we started this magazine, we hoped that it would find an audience, and we have been amazed at the reception it’s gotten. So many people read the magazine regularly and engage with our content. We are humbled each day by the passion and creativity of this community and the love that they show us, and challenged to do better by your criticisms and commentaries.

Now that we confidently know how to produce a monthly magazine, we’re able to look toward the future, and how we want to grow this thing.

We are supported by an incredible team of writers, photographers, and more—people who put their talent and time into the paper for so much less money than they deserve. And we believe that we have told important stories about the city—stories no other media organization is telling.

Now that we confidently know how to produce a monthly magazine, we’re able to look toward the future, and how we want to grow this thing. You’ll see some evidence of that in this issue, in our first-ever arts-themed cover story, and in our new Wellness section (see “The Art & Science of the Meal: Braising” and “Sex & Women’s Health: Digital Delights”), where new writers will give practical advice for daily living. Working on this magazine has been an absolute joy, one we hope to continue for many years.

But this has not come without a cost—literally.



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They say no business makes money in its first year, and we are certainly evidence of that. While the community has been quick to embrace the magazine, advertisers have been slower. This is understandable: they too are trying to survive, and putting money behind something relatively untested is always a risk. As we get more established, more and more advertisers are joining on, but progress is slow.

Further, we made a number of decisions in conceptualizing the magazine that were based in ethics, but financially problematic. First, we decided to keep the walls between advertising and editorial as high as possible. We are one of the only media organizations in town who don’t allow businesses to buy coverage, creating ads thinly disguised as articles. We tell the stories we want to tell. We believe that, in doing so, we build a relationship of trust with our readers, and advertisers will follow—but that’s a longer, more complicated process than the quick cash of so-called ‘advertorial.’

We’ve also decided to pay everyone for what they produce for us, instead of exploiting the goodwill and volunteer culture of the creative sector. Our writers, photographers, designer, distributor, and web developer do good work for us, and they deserve to be paid for it.

This is an expensive business.

Paying freelancers, plus the costs of getting a monthly magazine printed, has meant that our core team—editor-in-chief Gabe Pollock, contributing editor David Tough, and business manager Amanda Mackey—still haven’t been paid for our work. For David and Amanda, whose work is part-time, they rely on other jobs for money, and fit their magazine work in between—like a hobby, instead of the job that it should be. For Gabe, whose work is full-time, that’s meant relying on the kindness of strangers (and significant financial contributions from parents).

It’s a reminder that the opportunity to create something like this isn’t equal for everyone. Unlike many, we had the connections to get start-up financing. Part of the reason we were embraced so quickly is because of our cultural capital as active members of the community. And we only had the audacity to create the magazine because we had a strong support system behind us, should things go south. These resources are rare and special, and we are reminded of this privilege every day.

Don’t get us wrong: we are confident that Electric City Magazine is sustainable in the long term. As we say, advertising dollars are increasing every month, but the rate is slow, and in the present, that makes things hard for our team.

We are hoping that some of the people who have been so supportive of us over the past year will be willing to put some money behind it.

In December, we launched a Patreon page. Patreon is a crowd-funding site where patrons agree to give monthly to the magazine, in exchange for rewards, special behind-the-scenes exclusives, and the knowledge that they are helping us keep the magazine going. We are hoping that some of the people who have been so supportive of us over the past year will be willing to put some money behind it. If you like what we do, please give. We have so many plans for this magazine, and we want to see it grow.

 

Support Electric City Magazine today on Patreon.

 

Cover photo by B Mroz.

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