© Gianmaria Gava

Interview
05/21/2012

"Many Managers Simply Don't Understand Digital"

When they decided to launch a men’s magazine that was only to be sold digitally, Vangardist founders Julian Wiehl and Carlos Gomez were derided. However, they picked their moment perfectly, only two months after the launch of the magazine on 4 December, 2009, Steve Jobs presented the iPad. Vangardist took advantage the new trend for tablets and 24 editions and 7,000 app-users later Wiehl spoke to futurezone about their success.

von Martin Stepanek

Futurezone: What should we understand by the `progressive man` which Vangardist has in its subtitle?
Wiehl:
Being progressive is a lifestyle, being able to make decisions and hold attitudes beyond the usual categorizations and conventions. At the same time we knew that with Vangardist, we didn`t wanted the approach to be too dry and intellectual. Our intention from the start was to produce a well-written lifestyle magazine with great picture-, video- and music-content.

Vangardist has a very positive attitude to gay rights and lifestyles. In the current edition a heterosexual man gets sent on a gay cruising-tour. Do you think that the magazine is danger of being labelled as a gay magazine?
As a progressive medium we are not interested in categories like gay or hetero, we are interested in the man behind that. What is masculinity today? If this means that a man would rather spend time with a man, then he should do it. We as a magazine will not judge or feed stereotypes.

When and why was the decision made to focus on being a digital on-line magazine rather than being a blog or a classic website?
Because of costs it was clear that should see Vangardist as a digital project. A simple website didn`t seem suitable for topics such lifestyle issues or for our focus on pictures and videos. Therefore we decided to produce a flashbook.

The launch of the iPad came at a convenient moment. Was this a lucky coincidence?
The timing turned out to be perfect. Tablet computers such as the iPad are a proof that these gadgets are fully accepted as a lifestyle product by the market. That fits perfectly with our kind of magazine. With our focus on photo-galleries, videos and music we feed exactly that kind of lifestyle readership.

Who finances Vangardist?
For the launch, we got 15,000 euros from the departure funding programme of the City of Vienna. On-going costs are covered mostly by advertising and linking up with fashion and lifestyle companies at photo-shoots.

Did you imagine that financing from advertising would be easier to come by?
We were surprised how cautious companies are when it comes to spending money on advertising on digital media, although the interest was high. A US survey showed that 27 percent of all advertising budgets are still used for printed media, although people only spend 8 percent of their spare time reading printed newspapers and magazines. Online marketing forms only 19 percent of these budgets although people spend a quarter of their spare time online.

What is the reason for that?
I think many companies have the wrong idea when it comes to advertising because their managers still misunderstand digital business. They are not active in the field and believe that if they see their company on a huge billboard or poster it is much more visible than on-line.

Is it possible to earn money selling applications? Should readers pay for digital content?
Of course it would great if readers paid for valuable digital content. We tested several models, from one-off payments, to selling apps for each edition, to a subscription for six months. From the current edition on this will all be free of charge again. The reach of the magazine, currently with 600,000 pages, is much more important for advertising. In the near future Vangardist will be available in the digital kiosk for iPhone and iPad.

Which other platforms does Vangardist appear on? Is an Android app planned?
Aside from the app for iPhone and iPad, which have existed for some time and for which there is also an English version, Vangardist is available on-line. Moreover, we have launched a website that covers current news. We haven`t had many enquires about Android yet. As a lifestyle magazine it was important for us to establish our brand on iPhone and iPad first.

What about HTML5? What advantages would come from using that?
We think HTML5 will be the future and our developers already are already busy with the concept. The magazine will be kept in its existing form but become more dynamic and interactive. HTML5 is also of interest for marketing and to make us more flexible. For example, we could stream current adverts on all the editions of Vangardist which have been published.

Is Vienna a good location for a start-up?
Vienna is a great place for a start-up. There is a lot of creative potential and, regarding the competition, it`s much easier to catch people`s eyes here than in larger centres. As for the team, we are already quite international: We have a local desk for each international story, the copy editor lives in Mainz and the rest of the editorial team is in London. Technical development and conversion as well as the main editorial office, marketing and PR are located in Vienna.

Would you think of moving to another city?
To be in London would be appealing, especially because London is the European centre for lifestyle and fashion in general. The big disadvantage of Vienna is that Austria simply isn`t known the fields of lifestyle and fashion. Furthermore many big labels like Guess, Strellson, Lacoste or Pepe Jeans only service the Austrian market from Germany and therefore aren`t fully represented here. Thus a German headquarters would be advantageous for us.