In My Opinion: Neil Braidwood: Reflections on Magfest, Scotland’s very own magazine festival

IF, like me, you’re a bit of a magazine junkie, and can’t go past a newsagent without making a purchase – or, at the very least, a browse of the shelves – then you should have been at the sell-out Magfest earlier this week.

It was a half-day celebration of magazines, in Glasgow. But there was a sting in the tail; the subtext was: ‘think differently about digital’.

Well, we all know people love their iPhones and iPads, so it’s only a matter of time before our publications either shift to the screen or die.

Or do they?

Kicking off the proceedings was heavyweight media guru, Mike Soutar. Mike left Scotland long ago, to cut his teeth at magazine giant, IPC, before founding his own publishing company, ShortList Media. You know the rest. ShortList and Stylist, the ‘freemium’ mags his company produce, have massive print-runs, and an even wider reach.

Mike revealed how new ideas were nurtured and developed, showing many iterations of an e-shot that eventually became ‘Mr Hyde’, a classy, cool, but above all useful email delivered to 90,000 highly-targeted men across the land. Daily. It’s publishing. But not as we know it.

Next up, social media whirlwind Cathy Ma, who had us captivated from the beginning with her case studies from her time at IPC. A self-confessed geek, Cathy now admits she “rules the world”, as she truly understands how to engage the consumer through Facebook and Twitter – building on the strong community already created by the printed version of a magazine. The best of it was, almost everything Cathy told us about had cost next to nothing, and just required imagination, and of course, a little bit of geek know-how!

Our very own Nick Creed, co-founder of The Drum magazine – a recent winner of Business Magazine of the Year at the PPA awards – explained how, after 25 years, The Drum is much more than just a magazine – it’s a brand.

It’s still about content – and good content, at that – but it’s about how you ‘slice and dice’ it that matters. It could be reaching out to their 69,000 Twitter followers, or engaging users through the international flavour of the regularly updated and researched website. Nick revealed that the digital side of the business now accounts for 40 per cent of the company’s revenue – mainly through subscriptions and tickets to events.

Our keynote speakers were Kieran Meeke and Jochem Wijnands, the Netherlands-based duo that have turned publishing on the iPad upside down. You just don’t know it yet. Comparing their software – PRSS – to the Holy Trinity of the Mac, laserwriter and Pagemaker software, they argued that PRSS is simple enough to allow anyone to publish their own magazine, just like the desktop publishing explosion of the eighties.

A bold claim indeed, but their first magazine app, TRVL, is simple, innovative and powerful. This visually stunning travel publication, built specifically for the iPad, is cloud-based, so loads in record-breaking time, even in the live presentation.

Flicking from left to right, as you would read a normal magazine (in the western world at least), there is no getting lost, or spiralling away from what you were actually looking at. The photography is sumptuous, stories well-written, and new cities uploaded weekly.

It is free, unlike many other magazine apps which are simply free shells, charging later on a per issue basis. The question kept coming up about how TRVL makes any money, but we were assured that advertising is sold, and can be inserted or updated depending on specific requirements.

There are kickbacks too, from sponsor companies like British Airways, Canon and Virgin, who pay a fraction of a cent per reader. With over a million readers of TRVL so far, it’s not so difficult to see that TRVL and PRSS may be blazing a new trail.

If you are interested in future PPA Scotland magfest events, visit and register to receive updates and get involved.

Neil Braidwood is head of CMYK magazine design and publishing company. He is also vice-chair of PPA Scotland.