Sometimes an independent magazine becomes very popular very quickly, and the line between whether it should be considered mainstream or independent begins to blur, calling the old terminology into question. This is the case with Australian magazine New Philosopher, an ad-free publication that has become a favorite amongst readers in its home country.
Labelled as a magazine “for curious people looking for solutions to the problems faced by humankind,” the concept behind it seems born out of a culture interested in mindfulness, self-reflection, and simple living. Noam Chomsky and Peter Singer contribute, as well as a host of writers and thinkers who aren’t necessarily established philosophers, a combination that creates an approachable yet still thoughtful and intelligent tone.
After having gathered significant pace since its first issue two years ago, New Philosopher now stocks in the United States and Canada, and they’re set to launch in the UK later this year. Following the success of the magazine, the team behind the project have also recently started a second ad-free magazine for women called Womankind. We caught up with New Philosopher’s editor-in-chief Zan Boag, eager to learn more about the philosophical quarterly taking Australian newsstands by storm.
Why did you decide to start a printed magazine about philosophy?
When looking around at other publications there seemed to be a gaping hole for content that was intellectually stimulating. Existing publications seemed to seriously underestimate their readers’ capacity to reason and their curiosity about the world around them.
How has the magazine grown over the past two years?
New Philosopher had a modest print run of 10,000 copies of the launch edition distributed in Australia only, and this proved to not be enough. Two years on and it’s now distributed throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in news agencies, bookstores, cafes, gift stores, and art galleries.
Getting into major art gallery stores was a huge lift for the team, as it highlighted that this is as much about art and design as it is about philosophy.
New Philosopher has no ads; it’s funded entirely by subscriptions and newsstand sales. How have you managed to make this model viable?
Plenty of people are sick of the number of ads in the media and they’re prepared to pay a little more to avoid them. Given we have no advertising, we also had to look for other revenue streams. In December we opened a concept store called Poet, where the magazines are sold alongside books, stationery, and art prints.
In light of your success, are you considering upping the yearly frequency?
Rather than putting out the magazine more frequently, we decided to launch another title in mid-2014, this time an ad-free women’s magazine, Womankind. As the only ad-free magazine aimed at smart women in the market, it quickly eclipsed New Philosopher and is currently the third best selling “fashion” magazine on Australia’s leading magazine website behind Marie Claire and Vogue. It’s hardly a fashion magazine by the way, more like one that covers art, psychology. and social matters.
What can we expect for the next issue?
Although we keep the theme for upcoming issues under wraps, I can tell you that there’s an interview with bestselling author and French economist Thomas Piketty, plus we feature the work of an award-winning American photographer. It’s about something that is essential to our survival.