“Print isn’t dead. It’s just that people enjoy certain entertainment and content in different ways,” says Offscreen founder, Kai Brach. Even though the internet and digital technology have been responsible for the steep decline in print publications – especially the daily newspaper – it doesn’t seem to stop people starting up niche, independent magazines around the world regularly. “If you go into a specialty magazine store, you’ll see that every publication that comes out is trying to be more specific in their readership. The more niche you are, the more chance you have of survival,” Brach says. “I think I’ve entered a very unique market – it’s a print magazine that’s about the web. It sounds quite paradoxical.”
Brach has created a physical magazine (there is no digital version) that targets a specific market of tech heads and app geeks. Now in its eighth edition, Brach has spoken to and featured entrepreneurs, designers and developers from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Adobe, Big Cartel and many smaller companies with a significant presence online. “I’d met some people through the websites and apps I’d been using. They told me the back stories of apps that we all use every day,” Brach says, “I really liked that human side of the digital environment.”
Brach, a Berlin native with a background in web design and development, who relocated to Melbourne in 2002, returned from his travels with the concept for Offscreen, but no clue how to create a print magazine. He learned about typography and how to use InDesign via online tutorials and within six months, he was confident enough to structure, design and launch Offscreen. Each issue contains six long interviews with people who do creative things online. Between those there are smaller features on people who are doing nifty things with technology and the Internet. Offscreen has no advertisers in it either. Instead, Brach contacts companies and asks if they would be interested in sponsoring the magazine. All sponsors are given the same, simple, uniform-look page and the money from this is enough to produce an issue three or four times a year.
Brach runs the magazine between Melbourne and Berlin, mainly due to the cheaper printing and shipping costs in Germany. As for distribution, Brach has made all his contacts with stockists personally – the thought of going through a major distributor and having unsold copies destroyed was too heartbreaking – and the magazine is in stores all over the world. Offscreen is available in most big capitals around the world now. “It’s interesting how there’s certain cities where indie magazines do really well and some aren’t interested,” says Brach, “Melbourne’s pretty cool, considering how small the population is. There’s a lot of interest in indie magazines.”
Offscreen is satisfyingly dense, stylish and colourful. Despite its subject, it looks about as far from screen-based content as any print-lover could hope for. Brach says it’s still important for people to, “get off the grid” and turn away from their devices regularly, “It’s a trend that’s becoming stronger. I don’t think people should stop using technology, but I do think there needs to be a balance.”
Offscreen Magazine is currently putting together its ninth issue. Edition eight is available online at offscreenmag.com.
It is also available in all Melbourne magnation stores and Happy Valley in Collingwood.