Decât o revistă reflects and explains, in words and images, ideas and obsessions of today’s Romania.
Decât o revistă (DoR), which translates as Just a Magazine, is an independent quarterly print magazine based in Bucharest that next to looking good, also publishes untold stories of Romanian life. Cristi Lupșa, one of the founders of the magazine, states that DoR is inspired by American outlets such as The New Yorker and This American Life and investigates the struggles and aspirations of a place only 20 years removed from a brutal communist dictatorship.
DoR was created in 2009 out of the belief in the future of the print magazine enviroment- despite the financial crisis and the digital era. The product of a group of frustrated journalists, the magazine has grown eversince, stubbornly trying to bring quality journalism on a difficult market, without any media corporation backing it, instead having a business model that continuously adapts to possible opportunities. Its content is centered around narrative nonfiction, which is called by some slow journalism, and “restorative narratives”, an old concept that got a recognizable name, where „stories are written to bring communities together, inspire hope, and reveal the personal in the universal”. ”Neither was popular in Romania (they still aren’t), and although various forms of reportage and essays exist in all mediums, they are mostly observational and rarely pull back the curtain to reveal the depth of human experience”, says Cristi Lupșa. What most agree on is that DOR was one of the most fresh and vibrant magazine the media industry in Romania has seen in a long time.
Reinventing business models for journalism
Cristi Lupșa says that DoR was developed instinctively, without a business model and market research, which gives them the opportunity to take risks they normally wouldn`t. As any other niche magazine, DoR is struggling, under the pressure of costs, to diversfify the sources of revenue. ”We have to continue to deliver the quality we promised from the start. When you do an independent media product, in a country like Romania with no media culture, the only chance for sustainability is to try as many things as you can. […] I truly believe in reinventing the business models that can sustain journalism”. The biggest cost of producing the magazine is the printing, since most of the people who write are collaborators: each issue of the DoR is the result of about 60 invidividuals. For the first issue, DoR had managed to attract a host of writers, reporters, photographers and editorial designers who agreed to work for free. “We brought someone we met on Twitter to a shooting,” he said. “We asked a blogger to bake a cake for us. We published another blogger’s personal essay. Someone called this crowd publishing”, says Cristi. In the first year of the magazine`s existence, Cristi was the only permanent employee the magazine had; now the number grew to ten. DoR`s revenue comes from sales, advertising, writing workshops, but mainly, around 30%, from subscriptions through their website shop, a sign that the magazine has managed to create a strong community around its concept. Without any resources to promote the magazine through the usual channels, the founders have relied on the word of mouth through the internet: before the publication of the first issue, the magazine already had 1500 likes on Facebook. Today, the number of likes has reached almost 87,000, a significant number for a niche magazine in Romania. “Our Facebook fans are not automatically buyers,” Lupşa said. “But they, too, are our readers — they are the magazine’s community. They are not victims of promotion. They are readers, content creators, people with whom we discuss ideas.”
Content is the driver of growth
DoR does not plan to launch a digital edition of the magazine: the initial investments would be greater than the amount required now for the print edition. „Call me naive, but I believe that the content should be the priority. Good content will always have a future, no matter the shape in which is delivered”. DoR is still searching for a definite business model, one that for now seem to blend traditional journalism with digital ways of promoting it. Their biggest bet though is the power of the true stories in today’s Romania, which has slowly, but steadily, grown the readership, issue by issue. „Our readers are dissatisfied people, who like to ask questions and found our combination of exhaustively documented stories written with literary technique fitting their taste”, states Cristian.