A new BJJ magazine arrived through my doorstep today. It's called Gi Freak and seeks to offer something a little different to the other jiu jitsu magazines currently on the market.
Although thin, it's actually jam packed with cool articles and photos. I like reading blogs but I generally have to make a conscious effort to sit down and plough through the blog list. Give me a choice between reading something on my computer or a hard copy magazine and I'll go for the mag every time.
Gi Freak is a bit like a blog - only one that has the very best bits on display - and in print media form! I am very impressed with the excellent design, photo editing and generally classy effort shown. Sorry tablet fans, but I just don't warm to digital only e-publications.
I wanted to find out more behind the scenes of Gi Freak so I chatted to the owner, Megan Williams:
Why start a print magazine and what makes yours different to current titles?
It may seem kind of crazy during a time when print publications are in decline, but print has definite advantages over digital (we offer both). Permanence is one of them. I love my Kindle, but if I buy a book that I want to go back to over time, I pick up a hard copy. One purpose of this publication is to share content about BJJ that you’ll be able to go back to next month or three years from now, that will still be relevant to the reader’s life as a jiu jitsu athlete and to the community as a whole.
As far as differences go, it really doesn't focus on any one "star". The first issue intentionally calls out the front cover, which only has an image of a gi lapel. There are names everyone will definitely recognize inside (as there will be in every issue…just finished an AWESOME interview with Cyborg Abreu for the Winter issue), but readers will also find contributors they’ve never heard of, ranging from white to black belt. The focus is on the everyday people and families who make BJJ what it is, regardless of their demographic, competitor or not.
It’s also a quarterly publication printed on heavier stock paper. Existing publications tend to come out more frequently and some are less durable. What I think makes it stand out most though, is the fact that it’s ad free…something most BJJ pubs, print and digital, are heavy on.
Yes I noticed this immediately, why no advertising?
From a business perspective, I personally believe that model is dying off, but more importantly, there are no ads because of what I want the driving force behind the publication to be. As it stands, it’s created by the community (anyone can submit their work for consideration through the website) but I also want it to gather its major direction from the readers. The person paying the bills is steering the ship. Since there are no ads, there isn’t as much of a concern about touching on things that might be considered boring, or controversial or weird.
|Digital edition of Gi Freak|
That’s not to say we’d never feature sponsors or any companies (the back page is dedicated to different gi companies who list with GiFreak), but there has to be a reason…they have to come with some kind of content for the reader. It’s definitely a work that’s meant to be both seen and read.
What magazine experience do you have personally?
Honestly? None. I read up on the business when I got started, just to get a feel for what it was all about…pitfalls…things I should be aware of, but after that, I just went for it and am seeing where the concept goes. End of the day, I’m more of a writer. I’ve done pieces for print publications focusing on business school, China/US relations and BJJ, along with digital work for a couple of MMA sites. I’ve loved writing since I was a kid and have a lot of respect for what words mean to a community and to individuals, so I wanted to try something with a broader scope.
Where do you see the title going after the year is out?
Well, the first issue was kind of a test. There was always a chance the publication would launch and people would hate it. Thankfully though, the opposite has happened and I’m seeing really positive feedback. We’ve had orders in the US, UK, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, which makes me really happy. The BJJ community is global and GiFreak reflects that.
The next issue drops in early 2014 and will be the first issue available as part of the new subscription option. The title will also be changing…as much as I love GiFreak.com, the title doesn’t really fit the publication’s purpose, so there needed to be some changes.
The focus of the magazine is going to broaden a bit too. I’m looking to take a deeper look at technique, beyond what’s hot or new. The first issue was about more “soft” topics, which will continue, but future issues will be a little longer and will have more advice readers can apply directly to their training.
How difficult or easy has it been to start this off?
A little bit of both really. Launching a magazine…easier than I expected. Getting good content together? That’s a little more challenging. BJJ has some amazing writers though, along with big names who are insanely accessible and open. Since I serve as editor and a contributor, the hardest part was (and is) holding to my own deadlines. Going forward, I think the biggest challenge is going to be keeping things international, beyond just English-speaking countries. Language can be a huge barrier, but there are ways around that.
Any shout outs?
A HUGE thanks has to go to all the photographers and contributors. It sounds cheesy, but literally, the actual magazine wouldn’t exist without them…like not even one copy. An especially big thanks to Slideyfoot, Brendan and Julia who listened to all my crazy brainstorming and ideas. Definitely though, a thanks to the customers and readers who’ve been willing to give an untested publication a shot.
Gi Freak (or whatever the new name will be) can be purchased in print or digital form from the website here - http://magazine.gifreak.com/