This is part three of a multi-part series called The New Magazines on the excellent new magazines currently being published in Montreal.
Today, we feature Rake&Co., a superb 120-pages bilingual magazine that is “inspired by the cultural, commercial and social goings on in Montreal” and that looks at “new boutiques, evolving districts, local artists, curious new businesses and much more”.
The previous post from the New Magazine series featured The Alpine Review, a magazine made by Montrealers focused on larger trends happening around the world. On the other hand, Rake&Co. seems more focused on Montreal and the stories of its inhabitants.
Whether it’s learning to grow a tomato plant in a potted farm, discovering a local vintage shop in NDG, organizing a getaway to Saguenay, discussing tables from reclaimed wood or discovering Montreal startups like urban agriculture innovator Lufa Farms, Rake&Co. challenges readers to add a pinch of inspiration and creativity to their everyday. The online presence invites the audience to watch, visit, make and read stories.
The magazine is published by Montreal creative agency CloudRaker. This is especially interesting as organizations think about using original content to capture thought leadership. Rake&Co. is clearly an innovator in this regard. The magazine illustrates how the agency has its finger on the pulse of what is happening in “Montreal right now”, as the magazine’s tagline suggests.
Volume 1 of Rake&Co. is available for purchase! Order your copy here.
Christina Brown, Editor-in-chief at Rake&Co.
Christina Brown is VP Creative and Partner at Cloudraker. She previously worked at Cossette and Palm Arnold. She was also a jury member at the 2011 Cannes Festival of Creativity. Read more stories by Christina here.
1. How did your first get interested in magazines and get the idea to start Rake&Co. specifically?
The truth is, growing up, I wanted to be a magazine editor. It seemed like a career that would be intellectually, culturally and creatively satisfying. Then I landed a plum internship as a copywriter at a big ad agency right out of school and followed that path. Years later, when I arrived at CloudRaker, a digital agency, I was struck by how vital content was in the digital space. I think I started pitching the idea of a magazine about two weeks into the job!
Rake&Co. began as an online magazine almost four years ago (then called “The Rake”) and it served as a talent incubator for the team. We would do interviews, make films, write articles, take pictures, and build things, anything that struck our fancy, really. I wanted the team to have an outlet to hone their crafts around content development using the amazing and nimble tools at our avail and then pass that learning on to our clients. And we did. But along the way, we realized that it was great for internal culture, it was a really satisfying process and we were proud of the quality. So we decided to make it a print magazine last summer.
It was an interesting process because we were so used to having our content live online, which gave us a lot of flexibility in terms of how we told our stories. We found ourselves particularly missing the films we had been doing, so we created films that complimented stories that were only viewable on a mobile device. Some people complained that the films weren’t online, but we wanted the film content to be consumed as a compliment to the magazine itself, something a tablet or phone could do. We didn’t want readers going to their computers and abandoning the paper experience. You don’t sit at your computer and read a magazine, but you will read a magazine with your mobile nearby.
2. Can you tell us a bit more about Rake&Co. and its mission/purpose? Who is your reader?
The only real mission we have is to celebrate the good stuff going on in Montreal. Rake&Co. is by no means a definitive take on the city, nor does it try to be. As a team we are always sharing new and interesting things we’ve come across and the editorial line is really just an extension of that. We are an eclectic group of people with varying interests, but we share the common trait of curiosity. We love discovering the little things happening in the city, like the smaller independent shops that are trying to do business differently or a character you’d like to have a chat with over a drink at a great watering hole or a home that is unusual or compelling.
We didn’t think about tailoring our editorial to a specific reader for the first issue. In creating the magazine, we just assumed that folks who shared our interests would enjoy it. We really set out to create something we ourselves would buy. We were pretty confidant Rake&Co. would find it’s audience organically and happily it did. That said we were totally prepared to fail. We came at it so humbly and were blown away by the reader response. Even though it is an official agency project, it is deeply personal to everyone involved and I think, or hope, that comes across in the final product. We just want to share good stuff about our city with readers who love good stuff and our city.
3. Why is publishing a print copy still relevant in the digital world of today? How do you think about distribution?
The role of print has changed drastically in our everyday lives, but it is by no means “dead”. Sure, it’s no longer where we get breaking news, obviously that is happening online. But as more and more content is available to us digitally, the more precious the printed object has become. There is something definitive and purposeful about committing to print and readers know that instinctively. The surge of independent magazines we are seeing proves that there is still a thirst for the medium and that there are readers who are willing to pay a premium for it. The real question is what role advertising will play in print now that it is losing it’s status as a heavily consumed mass media. This is something that Rake&Co. has us thinking about a lot, for the magazine, our business and our clients.
Our distribution strategy was very simple for the first issue. We just sat down and made a list of boutiques we frequent and respect and where the product lines were a fit with our content and vision. We sold on consignment, as we were sensitive to smaller businesses taking a risk on an untested product. Soon after we hit the shelves in a few targeted spots, we were getting calls for orders from boutiques all over town.
4. What is the editorial process of Rake&Co.? How are the topics for each issue chosen?
We really pull stories from the community around us. We talk to friends and acquaintances and, of course, do a lot of research both formally and informally. But a lot of our best stories come from someone taking a bike ride on a Saturday afternoon and coming across something intriguing or someone saying “Hey, I have a friend who…” After the launch of our first volume, I was inundated with press releases about this or that and I ignored them. If there is PR company involved, then chances are it isn’t the kind of story we want to tell. I’d rather take a stranger off the street and ask them to tell us something about their lives than sell an agenda guised as content through the magazine. I realize that’s somewhat ironic given we are an ad agency, but I do strongly believe in the division of church and state on this matter. That said, brands have a lot to gain from behaving editorially, they just have to be transparent and earn the consumer opt-in.
5. What are you working on now? What’s next?
We are deep into our second volume now and we decided to work with a theme this time: Home. It’s very broad so we don’t feel too restricted, but it’s pushing us to go deeper into creative storytelling. We are really proud of the first issue, but we want to get a bit more playful with how we present our stories.
We are also looking at revenue models that are more sustainable. We’ll remain ad-free in the print magazine, but want to explore new ways of offsetting the cost to consumer at the newsstand and provide like-minded brands the opportunity to connect with our readers.
The other area, which is huge for us, is digital integration. So many publishers have migrated content online, shut down the print version and have simply recreated the exact same model in the online venue. I don’t know whether that lives up to readers’ very high expectations these days. I think advertisers still have an important role to play in print; the big question is in what capacity? We are looking at some pretty exciting technology to resolve that challenge. And no, I cannot say more!
More articles from The New Magazine series by LP Maurice:
This article and The New Magazines series was originally published on Swell.