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Gym Class Magazine: Reborn & Serving Up Quality Journalism In The Best Format To Consume It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steven Gregor, Founder, Gym Class Magazine…

January 24, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Relaunch Story

“I don’t think listening to vinyl is the best way to listen to music necessarily. Technology has maybe improved the way people can listen to music, but I think magazines are still the best way to consume quality journalism.” Steven Gregor…

When a print magazine is resurrected, Mr. Magazine™ rejoices and never more so than with the iconic Gym Class – born first from the passions of a man who has always been in love with magazines and breathing once again from that same passion. Steven Gregor created Gym Class to promote and support magazines and that mission is still prevalent – but with the new Gym Class, he is determined to curate the best of the best in journalism.

I spoke with Steven recently and we talked about the reborn magazine and his decision to theme each issue of the new Gym Class and republish stories that tell the most compelling, the most factual and the most comprehensive content out there in the world today. Steven is determined to become a curator of content extraordinaire. And that determination is palpable when he talks about Gym Class and his never-ending love of and for magazines.

So, I hope that you enjoy this delightful conversation with a man who believes in magazines and in what they stand for and represent. From joy to entertainment to information, there is no better way to consume quality journalism than with a great magazine – and Steven Gregor, founder of Gym Class Magazine, has created and curated what he feels is one of the best. Read all about it here in the Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On the story of Gym Class Magazine:It’s been almost 10 years since I started Gym Class; I started it in 2009. And it started as a very small zine. And it started as a zine which was a riposte to men’s magazines. So, it wasn’t a magazine about magazines at all, which is maybe why it wasn’t such an obvious match to the world. Overtime, it became a magazine about magazines, and it developed from there. The reason why I decided to stop publishing with the 15th issue was I felt like things had changed, because my main priority with Gym Class was promotion magazines and I felt like, obviously making a magazine is a massive financial undertaking, and it felt like so much of the conversation around magazines was happening online or in person at events. I didn’t really feel there was much need for a magazine about magazines anymore.

On the name Gym Class and it sounding like an exercise magazine:I have to say I receive a lot of comments from Instagram and social media from gym and fitness people. Basically, Gym Class started as an alternative, independent magazine or a zine for men. And I thought that the majority of mainstream magazines that targeted men promoted this idea of what was involved with the “ideal” man: the successful job, the fancy car, the attractive partner, the big house; all of that sort of stuff. And I didn’t really respond to that all that much. So, I decided to make Gym Class the opposite to that, a riposte to that. And it had the strapline at the time “For the Guy Chosen Last,” so that’s where the name Gym Class comes from. It was a magazine for the guy chosen last in gym class, the opposite of the guy mainstream magazines, I thought, were telling me that I needed to be.

On deciding there was a need for a magazine like Gym Class and why he continued with it rather than starting a new magazine:To be honest with you, the motivation for Gym Class was about making something that I wanted to make, so I never did take a stand back and identify a magazine about magazines as being a niche or there being a hole in the market for that type of magazine. I never thought about it like that. It was just that I started Gym Class because I wanted to make a magazine about things that I was interested in, and just because I am so interested in magazines, that side of things took over.

On what motivates him to do what he does:I wish I could tell you. I’ve always loved magazines. I was that kid who was chosen last in high school gym class; I was that person, that young kid. What I used to do after school; I didn’t go play sports after school, I used to go hang out at the local Blockbuster, over local news agents, and somehow it seems so unusual now, but back then I was fortunate enough in the suburb that I grew up in to have massive news agents with an international range of magazines, which was very unusual. The person who ran the shop was quite happy for me to just while away an hour or two quite regularly and just flip through the magazines. So, I was very lucky.

On how he would define the DNA of Gym Class today:At the heart of the project, the heart of making Gym Class is still to promote magazines. So, I did that in earlier issues with interviews with magazine art directors, designers, and editors. This time I have decided to republish articles from other magazines based on a theme. Each issue of the new Gym Class will have 10 feature articles and they’ll all be previously published from other magazines and they’ll all be about one thing which I will choose. And the new Gym Class has the strapline culture in case you missed it. In the new issue there are articles with magazine makers previously published in New York Magazine, The New York Times newspaper, California Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker; so it’s about curating a reading list of articles.

On whether he thinks people miss a lot in this fast-paced digital world:Gym Class has come back, first and foremost, to promote other magazines and other publications, but there is a little bit of motivation there to provide an alternative to social media, which is so much a celebration of the very newest of everything. And so much does get missed. So, hopefully Gym Class can present people with something they may have missed, which they didn’t know they had missed or they didn’t know they would have enjoyed.

On what role he thinks print plays in today’s digital world:I think there is a requirement on print, perhaps more than ever that what is included on the pages of the magazine is the very best it can be. That’s not to say that it can’t be frivolous, because I believe it can be. It can be pure entertainment. But what it does need to do is be of the highest possible quality of what it is presenting. It’s not about being first doing something, it’s about being the best at covering it.

On whether he feels some people’s comparison of print magazines to vinyl records is a fair one:I hope not. And I say I hope not because I feel like I have records on the shelf only because there’s an element of nostalgia there, an element of wanting to collect something. With magazines, of course there are people who collect magazines for nostalgia and the desire to collect them exists, but I hope that magazines continue to thrive because what they’re doing is vital, not from their nostalgic comfortable position on the sofa with warm socks on. I hope magazines are more relevant than vinyl.

On whether he thinks Gym Class is trying to be a curator for the content out there:Definitely. I think of Gym Class now, from the next issue, as being a carefully curated reading list. It’s about only including the best of what I found on that particular theme of that particular issue. It’s about celebrating and promoting the very best. If people read it and then go on to read the publications that are featured in it, then fantastic. I think everyone needs to think more about what they consume. They need to take a responsibility for what they consume, and I feel like only then will the publishers who are interested in the best of the best hopefully grow.

On anything he’d like to add:Only to say that I’m quite interested to see how people respond to it, because it is very different to what it was the last issue. It’s very different to that. The new Gym Class is first and foremost a celebration of quality journalism and quality writing, so I hope people respond well to that, and I hope they’re open-minded to it.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:Apart from the title Gym Class (Laughs), I would like them to think of me as someone who champions the very best of magazine publishing.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him:(Laughs) I think that people think that I have more magazines than I have. And a common misconception among people who don’t know me is that there’s a much bigger team involved in making Gym Class, whereas the team 90 percent of the time the team is just me.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home:The radio will be on; the radio will definitely be on. And I will probably be looking at my iPhone. I hate to admit that and it’s embarrassing. (Laughs)

 On what keeps him up at night:(Laughs) That’s such a hard question. I worry a lot about social media and its addictiveness and how much of it I feel is a waste of time. We were talking earlier about magazines providing a curated voice and I feel like that is harder and harder to find on social media. I feel like I have to endure a lot of stuff that I’m not interested in to every once in a while get one of those nuggets that I love or that I find interesting or inspiring. A good example is I am really not interested in hearing anything more about the American president, other than from The Guardian newspaper or the television news that I might watch here in London, in the U.K.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Gregor, founder, Gym Class Magazine.

Samir Husni: The first time I saw Gym Class Magazine it was Issue 11 and I just said, “Wow!” It was great. And I wondered why I hadn’t seen it in the States before Issue 11, and then the next time I picked it up was Issue 15 and I was saddened to learn it would soon be gone. But now you’re back. So, tell me the story of Gym Class.

Steven Gregor: It’s been almost 10 years since I started Gym Class; I started it in 2009. And it started as a very small zine. And it started as a zine which was a riposte to men’s magazines. So, it wasn’t a magazine about magazines at all, which is maybe why it wasn’t such an obvious match to the world. Overtime, it became a magazine about magazines, and it developed from there.

The reason why I decided to stop publishing with the 15thissue was I felt like things had changed, because my main priority with Gym Class was promotion magazines and I felt like, obviously making a magazine is a massive financial undertaking, and it felt like so much of the conversation around magazines was happening online or in person at events. I didn’t really feel there was much need for a magazine about magazines anymore.

Two years past and I still loved magazines as much as I always had, and decided to give it a go. The challenge was to bring Gym Class back but not to what I had done before, but to think of a new way of promoting and supporting magazines.

Samir Husni: Let’s go back to 2009 and tell me what was the idea behind the name – when you hear Gym Class, you think it’s another exercise magazine.

Steven Gregor: Exactly, and I have to say I receive a lot of comments from Instagram and social media from gym and fitness people. Basically, Gym Class started as an alternative, independent magazine or a zine for men. And I thought that the majority of mainstream magazines that targeted men promoted this idea of what was involved with the “ideal” man: the successful job, the fancy car, the attractive partner, the big house; all of that sort of stuff. And I didn’t really respond to that all that much. So, I decided to make Gym Class the opposite to that, a riposte to that. And it had the strapline at the time “For the Guy Chosen Last,” so that’s where the name Gym Class comes from. It was a magazine for the guy chosen last in gym class, the opposite of the guy mainstream magazines, I thought, were telling me that I needed to be.

Samir Husni: When you did decide there was a niche for a magazine about magazines, when was that realization and how did you decide to act upon it; rather than starting a new magazine, why did you continue with Gym Class?

Steven Gregor: To be honest with you, the motivation for Gym Class was about making something that I wanted to make, so I never did take a stand back and identify a magazine about magazines as being a niche or there being a hole in the market for that type of magazine. I never thought about it like that. It was just that I started Gym Class because I wanted to make a magazine about things that I was interested in, and just because I am so interested in magazines, that side of things took over.

And when people started to notice Gym Class, it tended to be, I’m a magazine art director myself, and I noticed that it tended to be other art directors/designers from a magazine or publishing background that responded to it. And that’s just how it developed. There was no masterplan.

Samir Husni: Did you fall in love with that combination of words and pictures and ink on paper? What is it that motivates you to do what you’re doing?

Steven Gregor: I wish I could tell you. I’ve always loved magazines. I was that kid who was chosen last in high school gym class; I was that person, that young kid. What I used to do after school; I didn’t go play sports after school, I used to go hang out at the local Blockbuster, over local news agents, and somehow it seems so unusual now, but back then I was fortunate enough in the suburb that I grew up in to have massive news agents with an international range of magazines, which was very unusual. The person who ran the shop was quite happy for me to just while away an hour or two quite regularly and just flip through the magazines. So, I was very lucky.

Where did that come from? I have no idea. I grew up in a very traditional suburban family environment and I think maybe magazines offered a window to a more exciting or glamorous world and I guess it was the same with movies, hanging out at Blockbuster. It was this window to a new world, a new exciting world. Of course, this was years before the international social media.

Samir Husni: Magazines were the Internet of the previous years.

Steven Gregor: This is where we got our culture, our news, our gossip; it was our sense of escape and escapism.

Samir Husni: And being connected to the world; we were connected through the pages of the magazines, whether I lived in Lebanon or the United States or the U.K., or France; all of these magazines that ended up at the news agents wherever a person lived were from all over the world.

Steven Gregor: Yes, it was amazing. I grew up in Australia and the first magazine I remember loving was the Australian edition of Smash Hits Magazine, the pop music magazine. But I also remember equally discovering Wallpaper Magazine for the first time, which was truly international in what it covered and what it presented. And I remember that blowing my mind, the idea of this international person.

Samir Husni: If you were to define what you envision as your DNA now for the born-again Gym Class, what would it be?

Steven Gregor: At the heart of the project, the heart of making Gym Class is still to promote magazines. So, I did that in earlier issues with interviews with magazine art directors, designers, and editors. This time I have decided to republish articles from other magazines based on a theme. Each issue of the new Gym Class will have 10 feature articles and they’ll all be previously published from other magazines and they’ll all be about one thing which I will choose. And the new Gym Class has the strapline culture in case you missed it. In the new issue there are articles with magazine makers previously published in New York Magazine, The New York Times newspaper, California Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker; so it’s about curating a reading list of articles.

The next issue is called the Magazine Issue so it’s about magazines. Moving forward, the theme won’t be about magazines. It could be about film or TV or music, something like that. And the idea is by republishing quality articles from other quality publications, therefore we’re promoting both magazines. And hopefully someone reads Gym Class and then goes on to purchase or subscribe to one of those magazines that has been republished in Gym Class.

Samir Husni: In this digital age, where everything is moving so fast and so quick, you want to remind people in case they’re missing something, but do you think they’re missing a lot of things?

Steven Gregor: (Laughs) Gym Class has come back, first and foremost, to promote other magazines and other publications, but there is a little bit of motivation there to provide an alternative to social media, which is so much a celebration of the very newest of everything. And so much does get missed. So, hopefully Gym Class can present people with something they may have missed, which they didn’t know they had missed or they didn’t know they would have enjoyed.

Samir Husni: What do you think the role of print is in today’s digital age? Do you think print should continue being done as it was in 2009 or  is today’s print totally different?

Steven Gregor: I think there is a requirement on print, perhaps more than ever that what is included on the pages of the magazine is the very best it can be. That’s not to say that it can’t be frivolous, because I believe it can be. It can be pure entertainment. But what it does need to do is be of the highest possible quality of what it is presenting. It’s not about being first doing something, it’s about being the best at covering it.

Samir Husni: A lot of people compare print to vinyl records. Do you think this is a fair comparison?

Steven Gregor: I hope not. And I say I hope not because I feel like I have records on the shelf only because there’s an element of nostalgia there, an element of wanting to collect something. With magazines, of course there are people who collect magazines for nostalgia and the desire to collect them exists, but I hope that magazines continue to thrive because what they’re doing is vital, not from their nostalgic comfortable position on the sofa with warm socks on. I hope magazines are more relevant than vinyl.

I don’t think listening to vinyl is the best way to listen to music necessarily. Technology has maybe improved the way people can listen to music, but I think magazines are still the best way to consume quality journalism.

Samir Husni: Looking at the industry as a whole, you said that print should be quality journalism, and yet there’s still a lot of fluff and a lot of junk out there. How do you think the public, the audience, can differentiate between what’s good, bad, ugly; do you think a publication like Gym Class will help the audience curate and to show them the best of the best? Are you trying to be a curator for the content out there?

Steven Gregor: Definitely. I think of Gym Class now, from the next issue, as being a carefully curated reading list. It’s about only including the best of what I found on that particular theme of that particular issue. It’s about celebrating and promoting the very best. If people read it and then go on to read the publications that are featured in it, then fantastic. I think everyone needs to think more about what they consume. They need to take a responsibility for what they consume, and I feel like only then will the publishers who are interested in the best of the best hopefully grow.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Steven Gregor: Only to say that I’m quite interested to see how people respond to it, because it is very different to what it was the last issue. It’s very different to that. The new Gym Class is first and foremost a celebration of quality journalism and quality writing, so I hope people respond well to that, and I hope they’re open-minded to it.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Steven Gregor: Apart from the title Gym Class (Laughs), I would like them to think of me as someone who champions the very best of magazine publishing.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Steven Gregor: (Laughs) I think that people think that I have more magazines than I have. And a common misconception among people who don’t know me is that there’s a much bigger team involved in making Gym Class, whereas the team 90 percent of the time the team is just me.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Steven Gregor: The radio will be on; the radio will definitely be on. And I will probably be looking at my iPhone. I hate to admit that and it’s embarrassing. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Steven Gregor: (Laughs) That’s such a hard question. I worry a lot about social media and its addictiveness and how much of it I feel is a waste of time. We were talking earlier about magazines providing a curated voice and I feel like that is harder and harder to find on social media. I feel like I have to endure a lot of stuff that I’m not interested in to every once in a while get one of those nuggets that I love or that I find interesting or inspiring. A good example is I am really not interested in hearing anything more about the American president, other than from The Guardian newspaper or the television news that I might watch here in London, in the U.K.

I really don’t need all of the noise. All of the comments; all of the opinions. I feel like I’ve reached the peak of the American president. So, worrying about all of that stuff does enter my mind, things that I let in and have no interest in. That’s a concern. The real concern is if there are people that social media is their whole diet, that’s quite scary.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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