Behind the Scenes of Intrepid Magazine

Emily Woodhouse Adventure Careers, Business and Marketing

It’s almost 6 months since Intrepid Magazine became a solid idea. I’d like to tell you how it’s going. If you’ve been hanging around my little square of the internet for a while, or my little circle of friends (hey guys) you’ll know that I am compelled to be honest. It’s so tempting to say that everything’s amazing and I’m totally on top of everything, because it makes me feel better when other people believe it. Who doesn’t want to look like that start who’s winning at life? Trouble is, so many people are pretending and feeling better about their self image, that the people who aren’t are starting to feel like they’re doing something wrong.

Not me. I honestly don’t have the energy to put on a face right now. Here’s the truth about what life’s like behind the scenes of Intrepid Magazine.

The Great Things

1. An Awesome Team

I’m so grateful to Cara, Sarah and Georgina for coming on board to help with producing the magazine. They are dedicated, patient and know how to hustle when we need to! What’s even more incredible is that they’re volunteering their time. I wish I could pay you guys (and fully intend to one day, if you’d like it) but more on the money issue a little later. At the risk of this feeling like a confessional, I’m sorry if I don’t always keep you in the loop as much as I should. Sometimes stuff just runs away with me and I get swept off just trying to catch up.

2. Lovely Subscribers

Every good word said about the magazine makes it worth doing. Particularly ones from unexpected places. Thank you all for believing in this idea and supporting it. When I hit a low, you help me keep going.


What’s Stressful?

1. Running Around Like A Madman

I find my stress levels (or, panic levels – that’s more what it feels like) escalate in proportion to the number of people trying to grab my time. In this day and age, that’s mostly proportional to the number of emails that I get per day, requiring a response.

Have you heard of the 80:20 rule? Sometimes called Pareto’s Law? It’s a great exercise to work out what’s bothering you. What thing is taking up 80% of my time but producing only 20% of results?

For Issue 2 it was contributors: 80% of my time was taken up with answering the same sort of questions via email. This was (almost) solved for Issue 3 by a standardised commissioning email and a huge FAQ.

For Issue 3, 80% of my time has been taken dealing with opportunities from brands, hunting (unsuccessfully) for advertisers and (more successfully) for discount codes for members. I need to think of a better way to manage this.

2. Admin Side

Dealing this the technical aspects of business for the first time (like bank accounts, companies etc). It’s a bit of a maze, but I think I’ve navigated it correctly now. Phew.

3. The Last Minute Problems

Like contributors confirming they could make the deadline and then dropping out or just not answering emails. That leaves a large space in the magazine that needs filling asap…

4. Biting Off More Than I Can Chew: Being Intrepid

Of course this is going to be uncomfortable. Setting borderline ridiculous goals (like starting a magazine with no experience just before Christmas) and pushing to succeed is how unbelievable things happen. It’s how I get stuff done: challenge expectations of what’s possible. It’s wonderful when it works and pretty tense when it looks like it won’t – for example the crowdfunded adventure grant looked set to fail until SIGG UK stepped in to make up the funding. That only happened because I was brave (cheeky) enough to mention to them that it might not reach funding.

The Big Issues

There are two big issues with Intrepid Magazine right now:

  1. People who forget to order the next issue before the print deadline miss out.
  2. It does not pay for itself (!!)

The two are kind of interlinked, because the more people who order an issue, the less expensive printing costs are per magazine. Here’s the story:

I am determined to pay contributors for their work. Or at least to offer payment (because not all want it). No one can buy their dinner with exposure. The other main cost is printing the magazines. The more you print, the more of a per-item discount you get. There is also a fixed postage cost for each magazine.

I’d been avoiding doing the number because, I guess, I was a bit scared of the result. What I found was alarming. Taking into account just these costs, a single magazine costs £16 to print at the volume we’re producing. I’m charging £6 an issue. Ouch.

I knew we weren’t quite breaking even, but that’s a lot.

The more important calculation is at what point I’d break even (i.e. the magazine pays for itself). For a £6 magazine, it would be somewhere around the 750 copies mark. We’ve been printing 150 so far. Even that’s beyond my crazy goal setting mark for the next issue.

Stick to the motto: I say HOW not CAN’T.

How can  make this pay for itself? That’s the other thing: we’ve printed 150 magazines each issue. It really surprised me every time I came to add up because we were definitely getting lots of new names. Then a few people started to contact me and I realised the problem: people were forgetting to sign up in time. Even if I sent reminder emails.

I can completely understand that. Life is busy but I don’t have the energy to chase for every issue and you don’t want the extra emails. Hmmm….

A Possible Solution

Here’s what I’m proposing. Instead of having a yearly subscription and individual issues, let’s try a monthly rolling subscription. That way, you don’t have to remember to sign up just before we go to print. You’ll also only be paying a little each month automatically and can, of course, cancel at any time.

This model has been working really well so far for the online only subscription.

But the magazine’s bi-monthly, Emily. Yes, I know, and I don’t want to charge you more for the same thing – even though I’ve been undervaluing the magazine (basically paying each person £10 to buy it!!). At the time of writing, I’ve set the “print and online” monthly subscription at £5 with a 2 week free trial, so you can have a read of the previous magazines online to check you like it.

Think of it more like a membership that has a magazine sent with it (like the BMC or National Trust, sort of…) and lost more awesome stuff besides. I’ve added and am continuing to add more value for subscribers. We’ve got a growing list of discount codes, we’re just getting the Test Team started and there’ll be more events and opportunities coming. Plus, you’ll always have access to all the past magazines online, as long as you’re subscribing.

You’ll notice that this still doesn’t get us to break even. Particularly since I’m going to be honouring the old yearly subscriptions until they run out. But this does set the slightly more imaginable target of 300 subscribers. That could actually happen.

Crunch Time

This realisation about how under-priced Intrepid was/is has come at around the same time as a metaphorical bomb has been dropped at work for me. Yes, I do have a “proper” job and yes it’s off the back of this I’ve been paying for Intrepid Magazine so far. When I made the jump I calculated that, at the worst, I’d be able to pay for it out of my salary.

But making the magazine pay for itself has suddenly become a lot more urgent. You see, I’ve only been in this job almost a year and work has just realised that they’ve been overpaying me since I signed on. Yes, really. So when I thought I had enough to get by with the magazine ticking over, now I kind of don’t. Not sure if this is the sort of thing that I should be telling you guys and it’s taught me a huge lesson about being naïve and just taking for granted that my payslip is right… but I wanted to help you understand where I’m coming from and why the changes.

A Small Plea

I don’t want to stop printing Intrepid Magazine. It’s got so much potential and a growing crowd of supporters. I’m not the kind of person to give up – unless there’s no other choice. Let’s not get to that stage!

So, if you believe in what we’re doing and you’re not already a subscriber, please do sign up to the monthly subscription. If you have read even one Issue and enjoyed it, please tell everyone you know about it! We’re in the process of starting an Adventure Bulletin style newsletter too that people can sign up to if they aren’t able to buy the magazine. Maybe one day we’ll be the go to media channel for Women in Adventure.