The sponsor interviews – Idealog magazine

Over the next month or two we’ll be bringing you some interviews with the speakers and sponsors of Webstock 09. We think they’ll have a lot of interesting things to say, and you’ll get an idea of some of things to expect at the conference.

So first up is Idealog magazine.

Idealog has been in existence since December 2005. In that period they’ve won business magazine
of the year each year since launch; last year Editor, Matt Cooney, was business editor of the year and art director, Adrian Clapperton, was designer of the year (business). They also won the Qantas Media Award for best feature website.

We talked with Matt Cooney from Idealog.

Webstock: Matt, what sets Idealog apart from its competitors?

Idealog: It’s business as unusual, as a recent cover puts it. You won’t read in Idealog about hedging, stock prices, boardroom politics or the supply chain. We’re about ideas and the people who have them, and how an insight is taken to market.

It’s a great beat, ranging from biotech to special FX. We cover design, music, science, fashion, advertising, technology, moviemaking, marketing, and other creative pursuits. And because a healthy creative economy requires a creative society, our stories venture beyond traditional business topics into art, urban design, education and social entrepreneurship. We hope that Idealog will appeal to fashion designers and scientists — and that perhaps they’ll realise how much they have in common.

Idealog is more than a magazine: we also have an events series and Idealog TV, and we’ll be introducing a social network in 2008.

Webstock: You call yourself, “the voice of the creative economy”. Does New Zealand have a “creative economy”? And if so, is this going to be more, or less, important, in the face of the global economic recession?

Idealog: New Zealand has some standout creative stars — Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor, for example — it’s known internationally for the quality of its advertising, the indie music scene is on a tear and the fashion industry gets stronger every year. But creativity to us includes fields like science and technology.

Creativity and intellectual property are more important than ever. That’s how we can add value to our primary industries, but exporting ideas and IP is also the most effective way of reaching offshore markets. It’s the perfect riposte to issues like food miles and methane. Think of Ponoko, Starnow and Xero — or Weta, NOM*D and Hamilton Jet — export businesses built with a bit of cash and a lot of talent.

Webstock: Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve interviewed, and why?

Idealog: It’s you, Mike. Runners-up include Steve Ballmer — not for his insights, but for his sheer manic enthusiasm; and Josef Roberts, the guerilla marketer who launched Red Bull in NZ and Oz when it was barely known and is now trying to turn Burger Fuel into a global brand. He’s received a lot of stick for the Burger Fuel float — and it’s a tough mission — but I wouldn’t bet against him.

Rod Drury is a local hero — a serial entrepreneur who inspires everyone around him — and Ray Avery is a social entrepreneur who really is changing the world.

Webstock: Is print dead, or dying? What’s the future for magazines like Idealog?

Idealog: Woah … where to start …

The short answer is that one day print will be dead. But let’s not write its obituary just yet.

My personal belief is that there will be a market for many years yet for quality magazines: well-designed and -presented mags with longer-form content. Vanity Fair, for example, probably isn’t going anyway just yet, and we aspire to that standard. We put almost all our content on our website but it’s definitely nicer to read the feature stories in print. Web just doesn’t have the user experience yet.

The web does have other advantages, of course, so we do put our content on the website and add web features: Idealog TV, user-generated content, a creative directory, blogs, podcasts, comments, a weekly newsletter and links to cool stuff.

We’re preparing for the future, investing what we can in the website although we don’t yet make much money from it, becoming the country’s first carbon-neutral publisher and printing with sustainably-produced paper and ink. What remains to be seen is whether there is a large enough local market to sustain a rich range of media websites. My fear is that many small independent publishers won’t survive the decline of print. The downside of being an English-speaking country is that the local voice can be lost.

Still, it’s a point of constant frustration to me that established media, especially newspapers, haven’t cottoned on better to the web. Putting all your print content online and calling it your website is totally short-term. There’s no business model there. And there’s so much newspapers could be doing in personalisation, localisation, aggregation and otherisations. Maybe someone else will … VCs, we await your call …

Webstock: What’s Idealog’s perception of Webstock? Why did you become a sponsor?

Idealog: I was a web developer for years before returning to journalism, so I was blown away by the speaker list at the first event — it was clear Webstock was the product of webheads who had invited the people they’d want to hear. And Wellington is just the spot for it.

The second Webstock built on the first, and now that it’s an annual event its momentum can only build. More power to you!

Webstock: Thanks for that Matt. Look forward to seeing you down here in February.