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Just Like Print: This Dinosaur Isn’t Extinct. The Mr. Magazine™ Conversation With Steven Gdula, Publisher And Editor Of Dinosaur Magazine…

April 16, 2014

It’s Alive And Kicking And Showing Its Stuff In A New Ink On Paper Magazine That Targets Those Of Us Fifty And Older – Which By The Way – Is A Generation More Relevant And Active Than Ever Before

“… The three main themes behind the name. The idea of print being exciting or going extinct, the idea that there’s this diminished cultural relevance that gets put on people that are a certain age, and the idea that the magazine itself is large.”… Steven Gdula, Publisher and Editor of Dinosaur Magazine…

dinosaur2 Big, bold and vibrant – three words that describe the new magazine Dinosaur to a T. The oversized beauty is amazing to say the least. Targeting an audience of 50 year-olds and over, the premier issue focuses on Baltimore and each subsequent emergence afterward will feature a different city.

Steven Gdula Steven Gdula, Publisher and Editor of the magazine, is as exuberant about his new egg hatching as a proud “Dinosaur” parent would be. Behind the name lives the idea that sometimes people of a certain age get pigeon-holed or stereotyped with certain monikers, dinosaur being one of them.

That being said, this magazine proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that being a “dinosaur” isn’t a bad thing at all.

And now sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Gdula, Publisher and Editor of Dinosaur magazine.

But first the sound-bites…


On part of the reasoning behind a three-page magazine introduction…

And we hoped that it wouldn’t be too indulgent, but we found it necessary in this climate with so many publications unfortunately folding that we needed to make our case for the direction of the magazine.

On the three themes to the magazine…
The idea of print being exciting or going extinct, the idea that there’s this diminished cultural relevance that gets put on people that are a certain age, and the idea that the magazine itself is large.

On the city of Baltimore, which is featured in issue No. 1…
There has always been something percolating there, something sort of rumbling just beneath the surface. And in the last 10 years it’s just now started to get its due. And it’s exciting to witness.

On the Eureka moment for Dinosaur…
Once my domestic partner, Lon Chapman, and I had the conversation where we had the Eureka moment of when he was encouraging me to re-launch this small culture zine that I had in the 90s, and I said…well, of course…the line that came out of my mouth, “What would I call it now? Dinosaur?” And that was our Eureka moment.

On the biggest stumbling block to launching the magazine…
The biggest stumbling block: getting advertisers to commit to something that while they trust you and understand your vision, until they can see it and hold it in their hands it’s outside their realm.

On the most pleasant surprise in regard to launching Dinosaur…
I think the reception, we knew that we had created something beautiful and we knew we had created something that people in our demographic would relate to. I didn’t anticipate just how strong the reactions were going to be. And it’s been humbling and just overwhelming.

On what keeps Steven Gdula up at night…

I worry about keeping this venture going, because I have asked people who I’ve worked with, as I said previously, for decades now, I’ve asked people to come along and be a part of this with us and I don’t want to let them down.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Steven Gdula, publisher and editor of Dinosaur magazine.


Samir Husni: Out of the 200-plus new magazines that are published with a regular frequency, usually only about five or 10 of them jump out at me and tell me I need to talk to this person. With yours, I came back last night from New York and the first thing I told my assistant is that I’m going to try to do an interview with Steven. Anybody who is willing to take three pages to write an editorial, introducing a new magazine, to me is a person who knows what he is doing…

Steven Gdula: Thank you very much. And we hoped that it wouldn’t be too indulgent, but we found it necessary in this climate with so many publications unfortunately folding that we needed to make our case for the direction of the magazine.

We wanted to show the necessity in our opinion for this type of publication right now in the marketplace and just to give people enough background so that when the reader would dive into that editorial they would feel hopefully an immediate sense of belonging and an immediate sense of identification and know that, yes, we were speaking to hopefully a position that they were finding themselves in at this point in their lives as well.

SH: What’s behind the name of the magazine, Dinosaur?

SG: It was certainly a Eureka-type moment based upon having, I think, a good sense of humor about myself and where I am at this point in my life. There are also so many other factors considering print is seen by some as part of the media that is going extinct.

The idea that the magazine itself was supersized and larger and would occupy a pretty good chunk of real estate on a coffee table or on a nightstand or wherever it was being displayed in a home.

And also the idea that there is a diminished cultural and creative relevance that gets attached to certain people of a certain age. I think that having been writing about the entertainment industry for a good portion of my freelance journalism career, I encountered people from time to time who were just 45 years of age addressing the issue of how much time they had left to be considered relevant with their output.

And that really stayed with me, especially as I was approaching 50 and the idea that you are a dinosaur and that what you are doing is no longer relevant and you are no longer contributing something of worth whether it be your creative output or whether it just be your opinion.

I’m reading right now Joe Orton’s diaries and I found it interesting that his partner was referred to by many in their social circles and their artistic circles as a middle-aged non entity. And I think at that time I think he was only in his mid to late 30s I believe.

That struck me because it would’ve been something that ended up in that editorial for the first issue of Dinosaur had I encountered before. And also, the South American writer, Jorge Luis Borges, who in one of his stories referred to someone as being middle aged and they were at the point in their life where their features were rendered infinitely vague.

And I was thinking about all these negative things that people are saying and people have said about the demographic that I’m now a part of. That was not my experience and that was not the experience of the people around me. And as we started talking about pulling this all together what was striking to me was how many of the artists that inspired me when I was growing up and when I was cutting my teeth and forming my own aesthetic, how many of those people were still active.

And the one person that I think that I mentioned in the editorial, specifically David Bowie, coming out after 10 years of supposed retirement with some work that stands up to some of his most brilliant moments in his career and he was 66 years old.

So I think that pretty much touches upon the three main themes behind the name. The idea of print being exciting or going extinct, the idea that there’s this diminished cultural relevance that gets put on people that are a certain age, and the idea that the magazine itself is large.

SH: You’ve crisscrossed the country. You fell in love with Baltimore, then D.C., now San Francisco. There’s sort of homage to Baltimore in the first issue. How are you trying in this magazine to connect the culture to the towns, to the audience?

SG: That’s a really good question and I hadn’t really thought about it. I was thinking ahead of the other cities that we’re featuring. Issue No. 2 will feature Detroit. Issue No. 3 will be Harlem. Issue 4 is Pittsburgh.

So I think that as far as particular relevance with Baltimore, it’s a place that’s been overlooked and just recently is starting to get its due in the media. People are seeing it as its own city and its own culture. Whether that has something to do with the Ravens and their success as well as an influx of new money that’s coming into the city in the form of the Four Seasons and Michael Mina has two wonderful new restaurants.

The food scene there has been developing I would say in the past five to seven years and has been very exciting to see, but there’s always been this vibrant, creative community with bands that some of which have now gone on to major label success and to great touring success. I’m thinking of especially Beach House.

There has always been something percolating there, something sort of rumbling just beneath the surface. And in the last 10 years it’s just now started to get its due. And it’s exciting to witness.

I have many good friends. My art director/partner in this endeavor — he and his wife are also our web team. I’ve known him since I moved to the city. Baltimore is a great place to be as funky, as creative, as unrestricted in your forms of expression as you want to be. I think that tying that into the culture of the first issue, we were looking at, “well what are some of the things that are overlooked that are now starting to be seen as valuable?” Of course people in our demographic feel this way.

And Baltimore just seems like a nice destination to include because visually it’s interesting, artistically it is as well. There’s a lot going on and I hesitate to use the word renaissance because I think that gets used to the point where it’s just no longer effective, it’s lost its meaning.

dinosaur2 SH: Having just mentioned that, I wanted to go back to that moment of conception, when the idea just cemented in your mind, did you go to Joe and say, “Let’s do this?” Who came up with this? All these things that you’ve just described about Baltimore are also in the magazine… I mean the magazine is very artistic, beautiful, the design, the size of the pictures, the whole package. It is indeed a coffee table magazine that demands pick me up, look at me. How does that come into being? Was it you and Joe sitting down and talking? Was it only the two of you or was there a whole bunch of folks that discussed this?

SG: Once my domestic partner, Lon Chapman, and I had the conversation where we had the Eureka moment of when he was encouraging me to re-launch this small culture zine that I had in the 90s, and I said…well of course…the line that came out of my mouth, “What would I call it now? Dinosaur?” And that was our Eureka moment.

I sat with that idea for a few days and realized that one of the things that I always missed was the gorgeous coffee table-sized magazines that were a part of my formative years. And I knew that there were other people out there that missed them as well.

Joe was somebody that I had known from that same circle of writers and artists who were getting up and doing open-mike poetry readings, that’s how Joe and I met. And I knew of his work as a graphic designer and as an artist and we had kind of had conversations over the years where we knew that we had the same aesthetic, well similar aesthetics and definitely an appreciation for visuals that pushed the boundaries a little bit, either literally on the page or I should say pushed the boundaries of what people expected from visual presentation in a magazine.

Joe and I both did small chap books, poetry books back in the 90s. So I knew immediately as I started to conceptualize that he was the person that I wanted to work with on this.

I sent him an email knowing he was extremely busy but I just said do you think that this is doable. I know that we both like large format art and music magazines and culture magazines and he wrote back immediately and said the short answer is yes.

Because we also realized that there was nothing on bookshelves, on the magazine shelves that was appealing to us the way the magazines that we grew up with had appealed to us. We also realized that a lot of our interests were still the same.

So in this ongoing conversation as we laid this idea out in our heads we were talking about the need for beautiful photographic spreads, interesting typography, and I had even said at one point that I loved the Arena, the Face, Vanity Fair in the 80s was spectacular, Interview magazine even Ray Gun magazine into the 90s. They were the types of magazines that I would leave open on the kitchen counter or on the coffee table because the visuals were so inspiring.

And Joe immediately knew what I was referring to and agreed. And we missed the idea of holding those things in our hands. You can pull up a beautiful image on your iPad and there are certainly gorgeous, gorgeous apps out there for various magazines, you can pull that image up on your iPad, you can pull that up on your computer screen. It’s not the same experience of having that tactile sensation of the glossy magazine. Joe is the one who really wanted to push for a certain weight for the paper.

We were in agreement as far as how everything should look and Joe took it one step forward and said this needs to have some heft. And the pages themselves need for practical reason because they have ink on them that we don’t want bleeding through, just so when the pages turn the idea is reinforced that this is something of substance, this is something of significance, the magazine itself, the image on the page, the words on the page.

And we knew some great photographers. I had worked with a couple of people before in Baltimore and some out here on the West Coast and I knew people that would be able to carry this out. Joe’s eye for framing is, he’s just incredibly gifted in that regard. He sees things that other people don’t see. And that’s why, again, why he was the perfect person to pair up with for this project.

SH: What was the major stumbling block in the road to launch the first issue?

SG: Only one? The fact that Joe’s extremely busy; he has a consulting business for user experience. And he and his wife also have a web company. So he was extremely busy. I was calling, I’m going to use the word favors, but I don’t want that to be misunderstood because everybody had been paid. And that was another thing that we wanted to do.

We felt that too many careers had been devalued by the web with writing just being posted and reposted and reposted. And in many cases, writers and photographers were being asked to work for free.

So it was very important to us that everybody was paid a fair wage for what they were doing and a competitive wage. But so when I say I called in favors, I reached out to people that I have worked with in a number of fields over the last 25 years. And a lot of them have a full time job and are actively engaged in some sort of side project as well. So time was an issue.

We had no trouble getting people to understand the mission statement and the direction, so that was easy. More than anything else it was a matter of commitment of time because people were stretched a little thin — like most creative people now, if they don’t have one full-time job then they have several freelance gigs that they piece together. So, that was certainly an issue.

And another thing was, it’s difficult to see the idea of the magazine without something to show people. So we went through a period of shopping around the brand and asking people to commit to advertising. That was the biggest stumbling block: getting advertisers to commit to something that while they trust you and understand your vision, until they can see it and hold it in their hands it’s outside their realm. So that was difficult. When we had people say yes, we will place an ad with you; in some cases they didn’t have an advertising budget in place for a while so we actually had to create their ads for them.

SH: So what was the most pleasant surprise?

SG: Reception. Emails like yours. The way people pick it up and immediately send an email to one of us, it’s been slow getting traction on Twitter and our Facebook presence isn’t even over a 1,000 yet. But I think that the reception, we knew that we had created something beautiful and we knew we had created something that people in our demographic would relate to. I didn’t anticipate just how strong the reactions were going to be. And it’s been humbling and just overwhelming.

SH: Steven, my last question to you is what keeps you up at night?

SG: What keeps me up at night? That’s a great question. And I limit my caffeine intake after a certain point in the day because of that.

I worry about keeping this venture going because I have asked people who I’ve worked with, as I said previously, for decades now, I’ve asked people to come along and be a part of this with us and I don’t want to let them down. And that is a source of some tossing and turning and more than one night glancing over and seeing 3:30 a.m. on the digital clock.

Because you know, it is a risk as I know you are fully aware. It is a risk and I’m asking people to take time that they could devote to something else to work on this project with us. And their commitment has humbled me. And I also want to prove that there is a need for this type of publication that targets this demographic. And we’re seeing it already. I just want to make sure that it lives up to the expectations that we have for it.

SH: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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One comment

  1. […] the whole article Just Like Print: This Dinosaur Isn’t Extinct. The Mr. Magazine™ Conversation With Steven… on the website Mr. […]



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