Wednesday, 30 July 2008

There's a New Mag in Town

This is not the post I had originally intended. Initially I had desired to rave about a new free mag Susology, that has appeared on the shelves, well surfaces, of London’s trendiest shops this week. There’s a glut of free publications at the moment, and although they vary in quality and independence, you can’t really grumble, they’re free after all. But this beauty, it delighted me. It was slick, stylish and most importantly the editorial was innovative and well written. Here's an approximation of my original ideas:

"Wow, this looks good. The paper’s such high quality; that beautiful matt stuff that oozes luxury. With articles on guerrilla gardening, Blek Le Rat, and skateboarding in China, they’re targeting the young hipster market, but the journalism isn’t too obvious. Actually, it’s rather good.

The editorial team have had some pretty smart ideas as well. They’ve commissioned some fantastic artwork, including stand alone pieces from Monorex and Le Gun. Each editor has created a soundtrack to the issue, which they’ve displayed as a double page spread of individually hand-written cassette tapes. It feels personal, and you start to see the magazine as a project, and a labour of love.

Damn it, they’re even championing creative writing, as each issue will feature the work of a blossoming new writer/poet. The layout and typography is so innovative that it makes The Face look as dated as Cross Stitch Monthly. And the tag line is perfect: 'All that we ask is that you pay attention.' I certainly am."

But then it hit me. No adverts. A free magazine, with no advertising? Impossible. So then I started digging. It turns out that Suso is actually a soft drink, and although there is absolutely no mention of the beverage in the magazine, I guess the company's aim is that the reader's newly made association between 'susology' and 'cool' will help to shift more stock.

I admit, I was disappointed. It's cunning branding, truly inventive, but almost too sly for me to feel comfortable with it. As soon as I associated Susology with a product, other than the magazine itself, I immediately became suspicious, doubted it's editorial independence and felt duped. My vision of a team of young, creative editors listening to some hefty tracks as they nurtured their baby into print was shattered.

This doesn't mean I don't think Susology is a quality read. I still maintain that the writing is excellent (especially the pieces from BAD IDEA's Jean Hannah Edelstein) and the art direction is really exciting. I'm just wary that it's trying to sell me something, especially as they were doing it without my knowledge and consent. I'd love to think that I was just being cynical and that the editorial team (also responsible for an edgy blog) were supported by a forward-thinking and somewhat philanthropic corporation. But with suspicions that the "independent" Art & Music Magazine recently bought by the Saatchi gallery may have actually belonged to Saatchi all along, it's difficult to know where a branding agency ends and an objective publication begins.

Whether you feel Suso's methods are pioneering or just plain devious, the articles themselves are definitely worth a look. They'll even send you one for free! Just email iwantyou@susology.com

Artwork by Oliver Hydes for Susology.

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