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Pitchfork In Print – Why A Successful Online Magazine Is Adding A Print Prong To Its Repertoire. Mr. Magazine™ Talks To Pitchfork President, Chris Kaskie, About Collectability And The Romance Of Print

November 27, 2013

Pitchfork Review Cover Romancing Print… one Pitchfork at a time!

Pitching print, the online entity, Pitchfork, a successful daily Internet publication devoted to music criticism and commentary, music news, and artist interview, is excited about the tangible nature of their new ink on paper magazine/journal-type publication. President of Pitchfork, Chris Kaskie, believes the time has come for the music website to broaden its horizons. And instead of print being a step back into the dark ages, Kaskie thinks the time has come for a more “collectible” counterpart.

Not that he doesn’t believe in the permanence of digital, but more along the lines of celebrating long-form content and the creativeness of print design. His excitement about the new publication is contagious as he talks about cultivating music fans from all generations and allowing them to share in the same creative words of music he hears in his own head.

So sit back and enjoy Mr. Magazine’s™ interview with Chris Kaskie, President of Pitchfork as he talks about impacting music fans with the new “collectability” of a printed product.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Pitchfork is delving into print when other publications are going to a digital-only format: The way in which we’re going to go into print is a little bit different from people who are steering away from it have done. A lot of the places that are getting away from print have long since been print first, digital second businesses.

On whether print gets a ten out of ten rating when it comes to a publication’s sustainability: It’s a headier idea of what we would probably end up giving a 10.0, which is just the idea of celebrating music, celebrating long-form content, celebrating beautiful design and trying to do that ourselves and putting our own little impact on the world for fans who would hopefully be interested in it. It’s more about that than giving print a perfect score because everything has its flaws.

On the fact that humans love that sense of physical ownership: Well, the idea of ownership has obviously changed and I think the processes haven’t changed as much as the definition. Just like Pitchfork is a magazine and has been. If you read it on the internet, you’ll never be able to own it beyond your computer or your phone.

On whether or not the print publication is trying to reach the same audience as the digital version: To be totally honest, there’s not a strategy with regards to who we’re trying to attract with this other than music fans. Our creative team here works on ways to further the way in which people engage and how to read and contextualize the stuff that we put out there.

On what’s next for Pitchfork after this brand expansion: But in terms of specific growth ideas beyond that, now that we’ve accomplished a few things this year whether it is event-based or focusing on the international, there are a few things that we’ll continue to evolve, but at this moment I can’t think of anything that’s going to be like, “Hey, this is where we are next.”

On what keeps him up at night? So that’s what keeps me up at night, just how to keep that going. Because there are some seriously brilliant people working here who will continue to work to transform the way in which people think about Pitchfork and other media like Pitchfork in the long term. And to be leaders and innovators in that and continue to have respect for our audience is paramount.

CK headshot 1 2013And now the lightly edited transcript of Mr. Magazine’s™ interview with Chris Kaskie, President of Pitchfork.

Samir Husni: When magazines like Paste and Spin fold their print editions and they say they are going to be online, you’re doing just the opposite. What gives?

Chris Kaskie: The way in which we’re going to go into print is a little bit different from people who are steering away from it have done. A lot of the places that are getting away from print have long since been print first, digital second businesses. There’s a lot of, which we’ve even learned in our small example, overhead that comes with that. There are roadblocks and frustrations that come with getting something into print and putting it out there. It gets expensive and when you scale to the point of where they had probably scaled with their print circulation, it was probably financially untenable.

At the same time, we were working very hard to create and redefine what it means to be a magazine in a digital publication on the web. And as we continued to do that it was always taking cues from the history of print and being inspired by it. But recognizing that there’s disposableness just like there is with magazines, or newspapers; you get your monthly copy of a magazine and it’s just a normal, glossy thing and you read it and you toss it. It’s not something that you feel like you want to keep.

We stepped back and we said: we really don’t want to do a magazine, per se. It’s more like a hybrid between a journal and a book and a bit of a magazine, but something that’s worthy of collecting and putting on your bookshelf for a long time and referring to over the years and complementing what we’re doing everyday online and how fast we’re working. So creating modest goals and expectations of what we could do there from a business standpoint was obviously important and putting creativity in the quality of content and design first and also making sure we create sustainability with how we operate, that was really our goal. And we’re in the beneficial position of having a successful digital publication, so taking some of the cues from that and understanding what people would want and treating ourselves like the music fans that we are, that love music media and love it in all forms and what kind of things we might want to keep for ourselves in doing that.

To draw a very loose parallel to the way we created our music festivals, there are a lot of music festivals out there and we’ve been doing ours in Chicago for about ten years. Why get into music festivals? Well, it’s really so we could indulge ourselves and create a festival that we would want to go to and is a perfect example of our perspective and it’s pretty fun.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I’ve read is that you’re giving print a ten out of ten, referring to the most revered rating system you give to bands and music; are you really giving print ten out of ten?

Chris Kaskie: Well, instead of giving print per se a 10.0, I think it’s giving the idea of permanence, and there is permanence on the web, mind you, and it’s the same thing. All of our content would be available to you forever on the internet as long as the internet is still online. So the permanency is there, it’s just more in the way you’re engaging with it, thinking about it and contextualizing it. Just like people download MP3’s and subscribe to streaming services, music seems much like probably websites seem, like they’re moving very quickly, and you can go from one thing to the next very quickly, and of course it’s the way we all live our lives and we’re very happy to live our lives celebrating that, and if you’re a band, it’s the equivalent of putting it on vinyl and having someone buy your record and putting it on the record shelf. Then you would know you’re going to have that record forever, even though it’s on your iPod.

It’s a headier idea of what we would probably end up giving a 10.0, which is just the idea of celebrating music, celebrating long-form content, celebrating beautiful design and trying to do that ourselves and putting our own little impact on the world for fans who would hopefully be interested in it. It’s more about that than giving print a perfect score because everything has its flaws.

Samir Husni: But how about that sense of ownership? I’ve heard this so many times, that as human beings, we like to own physical things and having my music on my iPad or iTunes; it’s still not there, it’s not mine.

Chris Kaskie: Well, the idea of ownership has obviously changed and I think the processes haven’t changed as much as the definition.

Just like Pitchfork is a magazine and has been. If you read it on the internet, you’ll never be able to own it beyond your computer or your phone. You don’t own your MP3’s, you might have bought them, but you’re basically borrowing them and downloading them and they should exist as long as your device exists.

There’s something romantic about, not print per se, but the idea of having something that is tangible and that you can celebrate and enjoy. The festival is a good example too. You can’t take the festival home with you, but having that experience is something hard to replicate. It’s more of a celebration of all that we do and all that we want to do and taking the cues from how to create a business around it that makes sense and is sustainable and doesn’t overstep its bounds and how to choose the content that we publish and the way its presented, designed and the people that we get to work with.

It’s a very romantic idea of owning it and being able to contribute is really the goal versus saying that we have a publication that we’re releasing, which is great and it will continue to be good because we have that, but it serves a different purpose and all the purposes are equally valuable.

Samir Husni: So are you trying to reach the same audience that you have now on the web or on digital?

Chris Kaskie: To be totally honest, there’s not a strategy with regards to who we’re trying to attract with this other than music fans. Our creative team here works on ways to further the way in which people engage and how to read and contextualize the stuff that we put out there. If you’re a music fan and you like to buy records then this is the same thing.

It’ll take some education for someone that’s less attuned to that. My nieces who are sixteen and seventeen years old don’t really think about magazines like this. They don’t think about books or journals and they don’t think about the care that something like this is given and put together with. But that’s as much of a relevant audience for this as someone who’s older or is more attuned to buying records because they understand what this means.

It’s a fun balance because it can both satiate the desire for someone to have something to collect as well as provide inspiration for some kids who really like what this means and the idea of inheriting their Dad’s record collection.

It’s more of an ideal that’s being targeted than it is a specific group.

Samir Husni: As you expand the brand, now you’re everywhere; what’s next for Pitchfork?

Chris Kaskie: As we expand the brand, in 2013 we accomplished a lot we wanted to do. There was a lot for a long time that felt like something we wanted to do, but we didn’t need to do and that’s the way we’ve been appropriately able to grow our business presence.

It’s the constant goal of having what we do in the context of where people are experiencing music and where they want Pitchfork or where they’re listening to music and having Pitchfork be a part of the conversation, for lack of a better term, of what’s happening when someone’s gauging and listening to music or reading about music.

So if you’re on a streaming service, you have no clue, if you open up a digital streaming service or something, where to go. It’s just like going to a restaurant that has 55 pages on their menu; you have no idea where to start or end. And that’s where we fall in. So it’s being in places like that as much as it is having Pitchfork everywhere. And continue to be strategic.

But in terms of specific growth ideas beyond that, now that we’ve accomplished a few things this year whether it is event-based or focusing on the international, there are a few things that we’ll continue to evolve, but at this moment I can’t think of anything that’s going to be like, “Hey, this is where we are next.” We’ve just peppered the world with a whole lot of stuff and we’re doing it all by ourselves. We’ve got to make sure this all works.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Chris Kaskie: What keeps me up at night? Beyond my children? What keeps me up at night is the fact that we are reaching a point which is inevitable where there is a lot that, at one point, the same way that I, and I hate to say run my family, but I think about the way my family works; you look at things and you say, “Do we want that? Do we need that or do we want that?” And most times it’s that you want it and don’t need it and just don’t worry about it. And you do what you need to do and you create a good life for yourself.

So that’s the goal of Pitchfork is to make those decisions the same way. A lot of stuff looks fun and may be great, but we don’t need to be doing that. But that stuff is converging now and being an independently owned and operated company that has our hands in different things and just keeping everyone inspired and everyone that works so hard for us to continue to be inspired and have our audience. And to think about ways to innovate, instead of thinking about things we want to do and may not need to do. And now it’s like what we need to do is actually what we want to do.

This year alone we did our third Pitchfork music festival in France, we did our ninth Pitchfork festival in Chicago, we launched a film publication, we launched applications, the Pitchfork Review, which we’re talking about now; so that’s a lot for us, giving that we have under 50 people working for us full time and limited resources.

People look at you and say, “Wow! Pitchfork is huge.” But we’re also like a little family that’s just trying to do our best.

So that’s what keeps me up at night, just how to keep that going. Because there are some seriously brilliant people working here who will continue to work to transform the way in which people think about Pitchfork and other media like Pitchfork in the long term. And to be leaders and innovators in that and continue to have respect for our audience is paramount.

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  1. […] the whole article Pitchfork In Print – Why A Successful Online Magazine Is Adding A Print Prong To Its Repertoir… on the website Mr. […]



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