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Ideas. Writing. Culture.

10 Feb '15

Island magazine rethinks digital publishing: increases print run by 200%

Posted by Kate Harrison

Island magazine has announced today that from 2015 it will only be available in a print edition.

While many print magazines over the past decade have been embracing digital publishing,
even to the point of retiring their print editions, there is a quiet countermovement taking place,
whereby print is back.

Island magazine is one of Australia’s leading literary quarterlies. Based in Hobart, Tasmania,
Island has been evolving within Australia’s media ecology for the past 35 years. It began life as
The Tasmanian Review in 1979, but after only five issues it changed its name to Island Magazine,
reflecting its national scope. Now, after many more variations and adaptations, near death
experiences and unexplainable resuscitations, Island magazine is going print-only.

Since Matthew Lamb became Editor in 2013, Island has been moving in the direction of embracing
print, in an operational sense, but also exploring print culture, in an editorial sense.

And it has paid off.

In 2015, Island’s print run will see an increase of 200%, with more stockists being added nationally.
By going print-only, the magazine will be more readily available, becoming more widely accepted by
a growing readership. ‘The reason behind the magazine’s increasing success,’ said Lamb, ‘is our
creative team: Fiction Editor, Geordie Williamson, Poetry Editor Sarah Holland-Batt, and Art Director,
Michael Brady, who started at Island with me in 2013.’

The rationale for this print strategy is simple: Island is not just a magazine, it is a literary magazine.
‘For good or ill, literature, broadly construed, does not make for good click-bait,’ said Matthew Lamb.
‘Ideas are not memes. Writing is more than data. And culture is something other than a para-social
echo-chamber. That’s not a standard we should be measuring ourselves against. Trying to make what
we do fit that way of doing things involves letting go of something that I think is worth holding on to.’

But this is not an anti-digital stance. To accompany the move to print-only, Island has revamped its
website, where subscriptions are easily available (at a reduced rate of $49.50) and increased its social
media presence. Kate Harrison, Island’s Operations Manager, explains: ‘It is about using the digital tools
available to us more strategically, as a supplement to the print magazine, not as a replacement. It’s like
a museum or art gallery - you can read about them in the press and you can see pictures online, but at
the end of the day, to get the full experience, you have to make the effort to actually visit the place. It is
a physical experience. The only difference is: we can post that physical experience to your house!’

But will this next step work?

‘That’s not the right question to ask,’ said Matthew Lamb. ‘The real question is: Would Island rather be
a dissatisfied Gutenberg than a satisfied Angry Bird?’