h1

Bringing the Passion and Love of Soccer (Really Football) Into the Pages of a New Beautiful Magazine: 8by8 Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Robert Priest and Grace Lee.

December 17, 2013

eight-by-eight When you hear the names Robert Priest and Grace Lee, the first thing that comes to mind is a great design team. Between the two of them they have designed, redesigned and reinvented an endless number of magazines. But, today, in addition to their design work, they have new titles: Robert Priest, founder and editor and Grace Lee, founder and creative director of a new magazine of their own creation 8by8: The Magazine The Beautiful Game Deserves.

I asked them to share with me the pleasures of moving beyond design into creating and editing an entire magazine. Last Friday I posted the Mr. Magazine™ Minute with the two of them, today you have the entire intriguing Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Robert Priest and Grace Lee. Get ready, set and go…

As with any Mr. Magazine™ Interview, first the sound-bites followed by the lightly edited full transcript. Enjoy.

The Sound-Bites:


On what 8by8 is trying to accomplish:

From our point of view, we’re trying to have a voice in football — world, global football. We’re trying to make our way into that arena. I feel that we’ve got something to say. There’s a lot that goes on in soccer that’s underreported. There are some major issues in here, even about the World Cup. And I feel like we have this other dimension that’s our bread and butter, we make things look good.

On the use of illustrations in 8by8:
I felt that by adding the additional element of illustration where it’s really a political commentary that the idea of it goes back to classic cartoon where you sort of have a dig at something. It allows you to say something that you can’t ever get in a photograph. You can say that diving is an issue or you can say something about a personality without being mean-spirited, but you can just say something and people will just kind of subliminally go “Oh yeah, of course.”

On why a creative director has become the editor in chief of a soccer magazine:

Also, you know, there’s that thing where I’ve worked on men’s magazines and political magazines and business magazines and women’s magazines, but I’ve never had a chance to do a sports magazine. So this is my chance.

On whether or not 8by8 is a vanity project:
No, not at all. We’re in this to make money. We’ve had this discussion and it’s a good question. It’s not a vanity project at all. It’s something we know about and it’s something that we know we can make look good and I think once you get six or 10 or whatever it ends up being on your table; I think this is going to be a really nice body of work.

On the expensive cover price ($15.99):
You’re going to eliminate some people that would like it but they can’t manage that — it’s true. It’s an audience of people who are, we imagine at that price, going to be well-educated, prepared to pay that kind of money and love the thrill of the game and the look of it. But we do know that and we do know that we are going to miss out on some.

On the lost art of illustration in magazines:

It is, but you know for the longest time it also says now, modern…For me the way we’re assigning illustration with the combination of veterans and young kids at our school, I’m very conscious that they are modern-looking, energetic, colorful, the likenesses have to be perfect. Then you can start making a point, as I said the idea of political commentary through illustration. And I feel like it again separates us from literally every magazine because hardly any magazine uses illustration anymore or if they do it’s for decoration and there’s no decoration here — it’s pure editorial commentary.

On a detail-heavy magazine like 8by8 appealing to the current ADD generation:
I feel like that it fits with the ADD audience. Most of our articles are 1,500 to 2,000 words; they don’t go on for 12,000 words. And then the pacing of it is very exciting. It’s not a traditional magazine in the sense that there’s a front of the book and then there’s a well and then there’s a back of the book. It’s almost wall-to-wall feature.

On attempting to duplicate ink on paper with digital:
The simple duplication doesn’t have the emotional pull for me that that does. I can see the same image on the screen and I appreciate it but there’s something that literally drives me — it’s like a drug — to this. So I personally don’t think so, but I’m sort of getting up there so I’m quite prepared to be wrong on this.

On the future of 8by8:

This would be an all-out brand and maybe do other extensions of sports magazines off of this. We would like to up the frequency, we would like to have a daily web presence, we would like to have a TV channel and we would like to have products.

On the future of magazines:

I think the future is where each magazine is a kind of club. You’re a member of 8by8 and for that you get this gorgeous magazine, information off the web, you go to their parties — only subscribers go to their parties and events — information comes to you as if you’re just a very select person.

On the challenges 8by8 is facing:

Grace Lee: Distribution is one, marketing is the other, getting it out there, getting people to see it and know about it. That’s extremely hard I think. There’s a lot of word and mouth and all of that, but how do you get it to a bigger audience. You can create fantastic products but if you can’t market them you’re not going to do well.

Robert Priest: We’re being pretty aggressive and we’re learning a lot about social media and what that can bring to us. We’re learning how that works. It’s fascinating really, isn’t it? That’s it — we need to get it out there, we need for everybody to know about it.


And now the lightly edited transcript of Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with Robert Priest and Grace Lee of 8by8 magazine

Robert Priest and Grace Lee

Samir Husni: Last year it was Howler, this year it is 8by8. Tell me about the evolution of Robert Priest and Grace Lee from Howler to 8by8.

Robert Priest: The genesis of it is that we wanted to start a magazine here at Priest and Grace when we first started our company. We looked around and we knew we wanted to do a soccer magazine or a site but something soccer related and we went to England and we looked for editors and it was just a long process and we never found anybody who was good. And we found these two youngish guys – George Karushy and Mark Purvey.

Grace Lee: Well what happened was we were like, forget it, and let’s just start something. So we remembered George, who was an intern at Portfolio — we were both at Condè Nast Portfolio. And he helped coach one of Robert’s soccer teams. And we’re like he’s a soccer guy, let’s contact him and see if he can help start producing some content with us. We contacted him and he said that’s strange let’s meet because I have an idea too. So when we met he wanted to start an American soccer magazine and we said that’s funny because we want to start more of a European soccer magazine and we thought we could combine the two and that’s how we started.

RP: So we designed the identity for it, we designed the logo.

GL: The website, all the identity pieces. They had nothing to do with the decisions on any visual aspects of it. It was completely ours.

RP: It just turned out that it just wasn’t a good fit for any of us really so we ended up deciding to part company. As you probably know we did very well with the design in terms of shows and awards and stuff like that. But we still wanted to continue, but we wanted to change the editorial content to more European, not to deny America at all — the US men’s national team and some MLS for sure, but we wanted to work with the content being some of the very best soccer you can get. And so it ends up being a largely European, South American content and as you know you can do a publication in more or less any country about anything. It works fine. What would you say the percentages of overseas orders are, Grace?

GL: I would say about 40 percent which is, I think, kind of unusual.

RP: But I think again it’s early days for us and we’re getting the word out, we’re progressive on social media and all of that.

SH: Howler looked great. It felt great. It’s sort of like what ink on paper is supposed to be in this day and age, in this digital age. Tell me a little bit about 8by8. Now you are in control of the editorial and in control of the design. What’s the mission? What are you trying to accomplish?

RP: From our point of view, we’re trying to have a voice in football — world, global football. We’re trying to make our way into that arena. I feel that we’ve got something to say. There’s a lot that goes on in soccer that’s underreported. There are some major issues in here even about the World Cup. And I feel like we have this other dimension that’s our bread and butter, we make things look good.

It’s not an all action soccer magazine, it’s a sort of selected action. Every photograph is curated. I think I looked at 500,000 photos acting as the photo editor. I feel that with that kind of attention to detail I want to bring this sort of romance back into soccer but I also want to address the issues within soccer. I felt that by adding the additional element of illustration where it’s really a political commentary that the idea of it goes back to classic cartoon where you sort of have a dig at something. It allows you to say something that you can’t ever get in a photograph. You can say that diving is an issue or you can say something about a personality without being mean-spirited but you can just say something and people will just kind of subliminally go “Oh yeah of course.”

And so to me it’s about the personalities of the game. I sort of grew up with this weird magazine called Charles Buchan Football Monthly and my first impressions of that were that all these portraits, really kind of bad headshots of people coming at you all the time, well that really made an impression on me — just to look at the guy’s face who’s so dazzling on the field and just read into his personality. That’s what this is, it’s kind of pushing that further, commenting on the personality, it’s giving everybody sort of a straight look, that feeling of “Who is this guy?”

SH: Everybody who I told that I was going to interview Robert Priest said, “You mean the creative director?” But I said he’s also the editor in chief. How has that transformation gone? Did it come naturally or did Grace help?

GL: No. I’m not a soccer fanatic, I don’t know very much about soccer. But when it comes to making a magazine that’s what I love to do. So in terms of editor in chief that’s his entire background — he’s obsessed with soccer and I don’t think anybody would of known about it but he knows more than most people so it was a natural progression.

RP: Also, you know, there’s that thing where I’ve worked on men’s magazines and political magazines and business magazines and women’s magazines but I’ve never had a chance to do a sports magazine. So this is my chance.

And then beyond that I have to say it was a kind of shock to be doing the editorial assigning and as much as when you read stories by writers and then you get something that isn’t as good back, the notion of whipping a story into shape is so much more important than I ever imagined and thankfully we’ve been very well supported by a couple of line editors who are geniuses so that we are in good shape right there.

But I don’t presume to go too deep with writers with the structure of the stories — my line editors do that — it’s more to do with the overarching feeling and the idea and the writing, of course. If the writing is crappy, and a lot of soccer writing is, that’s what I want to avoid.

SH: So is this more of a pursuit of a passion, a pursuit of a dream rather than a business model, that you hope to be rich and famous some day?

RP: No, not at all. We’re in this to make money. We’ve had this discussion and it’s a good question. It’s not a vanity project at all. It’s something we know about and it’s something that we know we can make look good and I think once you get six or 10 or whatever it ends up being on your table; I think this is going to be a really nice body of work. But we’re relentless about making sure this is a success. And that’s not that easy. Obviously starting a new magazine — you are the one person in America who knows the success rate and it’s pretty low. But we’re completely convinced that there are enough people here, let alone the rest of the world, to support this easily and we’ve just got to reach them.

SH: A cover price of $15.99 is pretty hefty.

RP: You’re going to eliminate some people that would like it but they can’t manage that — it’s true. It’s an audience of people who are, we imagine at that price, going to be well-educated, prepared to pay that kind of money and love the thrill of the game and the look of it.

But we do know that and we do know that we are going to miss out on some. We’ve noticed a lot of other magazines are being highly priced right now, sort of indie magazines. We feel that the value within this is more pronounced than some of the magazines out there that can sell for $25.

So we feel like we’ve put a lot of energy into it and we think the readers can understand that. That’s certainly the first response, that they can’t believe the amount of detail. It is pricey and we are going to lose a certain number of readers, but the readers who get it really enjoy it and I feel like there are enough of them.

SH: Do you feel like this is the future of print — for ink on paper we have to go after the customers who count rather than just counting customers?

RP: The idea of an almost limited run with a high-quality product perhaps oversized on very nice paper can be the future if it’s backed up with other things. We’re not going to get to a site for a bit, but we are going to back it up with an app. We go back and forth on a daily basis. We have the app done but we just want to make sure that it makes sense. Once you start you can’t go back. That’s a thing a lot of magazines are facing right now because I think they would go back.

GL: I don’t know if they’re even monetizing off of it.

SH: You mentioned in the beginning the use of illustration — we used to say that if you can’t get a real picture, use an illustration. Your concept is different — it’s the opposite. Why?

RP: First of all, I love illustration. I acknowledge the fact that illustration has been going downhill, not downhill, but it’s been less used in major publications. It’s just a fact.

GL: When we’ve worked on redesigns for major publications the editor always wants photographs because it says realism, which is sad.

RP: It is, but you know for the longest time it also says now, modern. For me the way we’re assigning illustration with the combination of veterans and young kids at our school, I’m very conscious that they are modern-looking, energetic, and colorful, the likenesses have to be perfect. Then you can start making a point, as I said, the idea of political commentary through illustration. And I feel like it again separates us from literally every magazine because hardly any magazine uses illustration anymore or if they do it’s for decoration and there’s no decoration here — it’s pure editorial commentary.

SH: What is the reaction so far — what’s some of the feedback?

RP: 99 percent positive. To be frank, early on people were confusing why we looked like the first two Howlers. Because Howler now doesn’t look anything like us. Once you’ve done a few issues nobody’s going to worry — if they want to buy either they will.

I think it’s a very precise look and it kind of talks about where Grace and I work together. It’s very precise work and very detailed work. I feel like that just seems like it’s thought out — it certainly is. But the detail is really worked on a lot. All the facts, all the information, it’s a lot of content.

Picture 27 SH: Some will say Grace and Robert are wasting their time. We have an ADD generation — they don’t pay attention to details; their attention span is roughly 2.5 seconds. So who is your audience?

RP: I feel like that’s not the audience that we’ve got. For instance, there’s that timeline about Arsenal that people have been lapping up. Just as recently as this morning someone wrote that they had spent nearly the whole day just wading through it, reliving their past and understanding their further past and understanding their future. I feel like that’s fine. Not everything is so detailed…

GL: I feel like that fits with the ADD audience. Most of our articles are 1,500 to 2,000 words; they don’t go on for 12,000 words. And then the pacing of it is very exciting. It’s not a traditional magazine in the sense that there’s a front of the book and then there’s a well and then there’s a back of the book. It’s almost wall-to-wall feature.

RP: It’s really important, the order of the pages, and I know it is with other magazines but I’ve always felt that I was as good as anybody in terms of the pacing. I remember GQ with Art Cooper, he always used to really listen to my ideas of which order the stories should be because I always felt that I just had that natural sense about that. And I think it really helps.

SH: One of the things that struck me when you told me that you’re doing this; now you have to deal with distributors you have to deal with this and that. What happened to the Robert Priest and Grace who used to enjoy the design and the beauty and now they have to deal with the ugly part of the magazine business. How is that?

RP: Grace really is the business brain. She’s a very quick learner and we’ve learned a lot really, haven’t we, Grace?

GL: We learned a lot the first time around when we did Howler and I streamlined it the second time around, knowing all the things that we shouldn’t have done, and how to make it easier on ourselves. But personally the ugly part is the part I love. I love doing that stuff and figuring how to get it out there, why it works, building the website, how do we distribute. I love knowing all that stuff.

Then I love designing on top of it but I love doing that part of it. To know only one aspect of the magazine you feel so sheltered, when you come out you realize there are so many things to doing — the physical shipment and storing that nobody ever thinks of.

Picture 26 SH: Do you think you can ever duplicate the beauty of design on ink on paper in the digital world and will it have the same lasting impact, the same lasting effect?

RP: The simple duplication doesn’t have the emotional pull for me that that does. I can see the same image on the screen and I appreciate it, but there’s something that literally drives me — it’s like a drug — to this. So I personally don’t think so but I’m sort of getting up there so I’m quite prepared to be wrong on this.

GL: I feel the same way. I’m drawn toward print too and when we are duplicating it for the iPad it looks great, but the size is so constrained and then the movement and the restrictions. You can do a lot more and add interactivity and video and sound and stuff like that but it still doesn’t feel the same to me either.

And it’s interesting because the only thing I do read on my mobile stuff is The New York Times, which is very disposable, and New York Magazine and The New Yorker and that’s about it. I love the designs of Wired just like everyone else but when I see it on the iPad it falls flat. So I’ll never ever purchase it for my personal use so it makes me wonder if I won’t even use it, why anyone would purchase our iPad version of it. We’re definitely going to do a digital version of it, but I just don’t know if it’s going to live in an app or if it’s going to live on the web. That’s where we are.

SH: Will you also charge $16 for the app?

GL: Yeah, I will actually. Because the content is the same and like anybody in the publishing industry knows, doing a magazine on your own is incredibly expensive, especially if you don’t have the volumes that the bigger companies have. It will be free to subscribers. People think the money in distribution and paper costs a lot; actually it’s more content than anything.

SH: If you can put your futuristic hat on — first on 8by8…

GL: This would be an all-out brand and maybe do other extensions of sports magazines off of this. We would like to up the frequency, we would like to have a daily web presence, we would like to have a TV channel and we would like to have products.

SH: In general what is the future of magazines in this country?

RP: I think the future is where each magazine is a kind of a club. You’re a member of 8by8 and for that you get this gorgeous magazine, information off the web, you go to their parties — only subscribers go to their parties and events — information comes to you as if you’re just a very select person. I’ve heard this from Condè Nast, the idea that Vogue is suddenly this big printed magazine on even better paper than this and it’s a small run and you get it and you get to meet Anna Winter, you’re at the party, you’re meeting the models, you’re meeting the various people in the issue. It becomes something else.

It is a brand but I think that brand is going to become more spread out. I feel like print will always be there but I think it will become a component of the brand.

SH: What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing?

RP: You talked about it yourself. I think distribution is the biggest challenge.

GL: Distribution is one, marketing is the other, getting it out there, getting people to see it and know about it. That’s extremely hard I think. There’s a lot of word of mouth and all of that, but how do you get it to a bigger audience. You can create fantastic products but if you can’t market them you’re not going to do well.

RP: We’re being pretty aggressive and we’re learning a lot about social media and what that can bring to us. We’re learning how that works. It’s fascinating really, isn’t it? That’s it — we need to get it out there, we need for everybody to know about it.

SH: My last question for you — what keeps you up at night?

RP: I’m driven crazy by contributors who don’t call me back within 10 seconds. I want to know that they’re going to write that story or they’re going to do that illustration for me. It drives me absolutely bonkers.

GL: I think it’s finding time to do this honestly. It’s been great because we’ve been getting a lot of recognition and jobs from it, but at the same time I want to do this and we’re so stretched thin. But at the same time I guess that’s a good problem.

SH: Thank you and good luck.

About these ads

2 comments

  1. […] the whole article Bringing the Passion and Love of Soccer (Really Football) Into the Pages of a New Beautiful Magazine… on the website Mr. […]


  2. […] Para mí, la forma en que estamos asignando las ilustraciones es una combinación de veteranos y jóvenes que recién comienzan. Soy muy consciente de que tenemos que conseguir un aspecto moderno, enérgico y colorido. Las semejanzas tienen que ser perfectas. Se puede empezar con la intención de puntualizar un detalle, como ya he dicho, mostrar una idea o intención través de la ilustración. Y siento que de nuevo esto nos separa de, literalmente, todas las revistas Porque casi ningún ejemplo de la revista actual utiliza más, o si lo hacen es más bien como una decoración y pero en nuestro caso la ilustración es tan importante como la nota en si misma”- (ver nota completa en Mr. Magazine). […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,716 other followers

%d bloggers like this: