Along with the likes of Hurly Burly and the Deathgrip book, Olly Forster is pushing the high quality print revival with Sender.
All photos and video by Jacob Gibbins.
Pete chatted to the man behind Sender Mag, Mr. Olly Forster about how you go about bringing a print title to life in the digital age.
What’s this all about? I thought print was dead?
Yeah, dead as a dodo! I don’t think it is, but I’ve certainly seen first hand why that sentiment exists. Print just needs to find its place within today’s media landscape and identify what it can do better.
It’s happening and with more independent and specialist publications popping up all the time, it’s a great time to be ‘into something’ rad. You’ve got titles like Sideburn (motorbike), Ernst (outdoors) and Backwash (surfing) to name a few and all turning heads. From what I’ve seen it’s not going anywhere, on the contrary.
But quality is key and readers need to know they’ve bought a high-end product, that’s the difference now! It’s got to be the whole enchilada: quality content, design, and delivery.
I think that people and more specifically, enthusiasts, are placing more value on these tangible products, which offer them something refreshingly different. The throwaway culture of recent years, I think, is on its way out across all mediums, especially in print.
So what got you inspired to make this project happen?
I love reading inspiring content and I hate staring at monitors for longer than I have to. Print just works. I know it’s not for everyone, but then use that to your advantage I say. Specialist print allows you to focus in on a specific demographic and indulge your audience with what it wants.
Ultimately, I wanted someone else to make Sender because after working for a bunch of titles over the years, I knew what it would take to make it work. But I got sick of waiting so I did it myself!
I’ve been so uninspired by the MTB media of late, so I looked at elsewhere in the print world to get my ideas and my eyes quickly opened to the possibilities… it just sealed the deal.
What made you decide to create a magazine, rather than write a story for a website or shoot a video? Why paper?
Over the last seven years, I’ve written more stories for websites than I care to mention. But with everyone migrating from desktop to mobile platforms, who wants to read a multi thousand-word feature, regardless of quality, on their phone? The appetite is there, sure, but what about next year and the year after… habits are changing and titles have to adapt and evolve.
As soon as your phone is in your hand, tell me your attention span isn’t waning from the get-go? I’d love to make video content, but that’s not my area of expertise, although it is an area we’re exploring, all be it from an editorial and narrative based direction.
From a career standing, I’ve invested years into written content production and it’s something I want to continue with. Ultimately though, I think a high quality, professionally made magazine aimed at a specialist demographic was a gap waiting to be filled and I grabbed it with both hands.
Was it an easy pitch to get all of the contributors involved?
Yeah, it was now you mention it. But then I know these guys and have rubbed shoulders and worked with just about every freelance photographer and journalist out there at some point. I just asked. And people like getting paid too and that was important to me. If you don’t pay your contributors, what are you doing? You’re not helping anyone, that’s for sure!
But I think a big thing for freelancers, who of course represent the backbone of Sender as I’m the only full-time member of staff, it was that they knew their work, would be in print. Print still gets people excited and perhaps even more so these days, which I like. Chris Jones, our designer, is a super talented chap and is well respected in the bike world, and I think that really helped as well.
Is it an easy feat putting together a magazine like this? Having put together a magazine we know that it’s tough… Did this go easy throughout?
No, not at all… It was an uphill battle from the get-go, but I didn’t expect anything less. It, unfortunately, takes a lot more than passion and experience to make a magazine like Sender.
As soon as we had the business plan, we knew what we were up against, financially speaking, to pull Sender off. It takes balls and that means money. That was the biggest hurdle. All or nothing man!
And I wasn’t going to skimp on anything either, be it content, design, manufacturing or distribution, because I’d feel guilty expecting our readership to cough up £10, plus postage, for Sender. I know it’s only two pints down the pub or some grips for your BMX, but it’s still £10. I lost everything in the recession so I’m well aware of what ‘value for money’ means and it is still on my mind.
Do you think the industry has almost come full circle and started seeing the value in bigger, better quality productions whether it’s in print or video?
I wouldn’t say ‘full circle’, but it’s happening… maybe half a rotation? The more progressive brands, for sure, they’re on it and will always lead the charge and it’s easy to see who they are. But there’s still a lot of dead wood in the bike industry.
What did you have to give up to get this magazine in hand?
Lots of time and lots of money… and a few trips and opportunities that would have been more fun than sitting in my office in Bristol, that’s for sure! But for me, the sacrifices are worth it in order to fulfil Sender’s potential and while we’ve had a really successful launch, there is so much more than we want to do.
Oh yeah… One or two! There are so many moving parts to a magazine like Sender: designers, an illustrator, loads of writers, photographers, a sub-editor, the printers, distributors, dealers; the list goes on. Then, you factor in pro mountain bikers, who make up the bulk of our content strategy. Talk about herding cats! Throw in the weather, time zones, etc, so yeah, we had a few but I’ve been doing this a while now and I always plan for the worse because it usually happens.
It was just great to hang out and chat with inspiring people. Rat, KJ, Affy, Olly and all the cats that were in issue one. Just rad people you know and they kept me going when I was hanging, ha-ha!
The contributors: Tommy, Zach, Flange, Loose and the rabble plus all the togs. The designers: Chris and Harriet plus Adi [Gilbert], our illustrator… man, just great people. That’s the key. Surround yourself with passionate and talented people and providing you can foot the bill, good stuff will happen!
Issue two of course! We’re on that now, which will be out in October and it’s pretty much all I’m focused on. We’re also growing the magazine, so expect even more content from the next issue. After that, issue three will be out in early Feb and we’ll make another three magazines in 2018. We’ve also got a bunch of merchandise collabs in the works and some projects we can’t talk about just yet either. Watch this space or Instagram – that’s where you’ll hear about everything first!
Pleases and thank yous?
Just a few, where do I start?
First off, my wife and family who have been immensely supportive throughout the formation and creation of Sender. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Similarly, my friends and supporters in the bike industry – you know who you are and thank you for being awesome!
But the biggest thank you goes to everyone who’s spent their hard earned money on a copy of Sender and shared their experiences of reading the mag with their friends and followers on the trails and on social media. Seeing everyone’s posts on Instagram and all the messages and emails we’ve had over the last 4 weeks…I’m blown away! It takes a lot to leave me struggling for words, but yeah, Sender wouldn’t exist without you.
And last but not least, Pete and Jamie for the interview and taking the time to put this together. Love your work boys!