Selfmade Experts: Ricarda Messner on Print Magazines

Ricarda Messner Collage

There are still moments that invoke the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime : “…and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” To create my own magazine was never on my agenda–not that I ever had one when it came to my career. I’m not a great planner. I enjoy the feeling of not knowing what the future holds. Uncertainty doesn’t faze me. Flaneur came courtesy of a personal impulse mixed with a healthy dose of naiveté and plain luck. I had just finished my degree. The idea was there, I met my amazing team, and one thing led to another. Even though I didn’t really know what it meant to launch a magazine, it was clear from the start that, considering our concept and the way we work, our publication would appear in print form.

The first thought at the start of each new new issue, the weeks of work and then finally holding the pages that embody our efforts in your hands—it it the process that fascinates me every time.

The first issue was out, feedback was positive, and newsstands renewed their orders. And so it all continued—every day brought new insights. I didn’t have the slightest idea about production costs, the chaos of distribution, ad sales, marketing…. It was still a matter of cautiously approaching each facet. You have to be patient, particularly when it comes to print. When you have an online website, you can evaluate the data on Google Analytics every day and respond immediately. With a magazine, you have to wait. It has to get into people’s hands, be read and understood. But that’s the beauty of it—to have the time to observe your progress. I received great input from friends who are also self-employed. Positive or negative, I like to learn from the stories and experiences of others. I’m not a fan of books that tell you how things should happen in theory. In the real world, there are just too many exceptions. I find it important to think beyond your industry and not just listen to the opinions of people who do the same thing as you. In the beginning, there was no one in my circle who had launched their own magazine, so I had to look beyond my horizon and at some point it was clear that we would keep going. Besides, I see Flaneur as far more than a print magazine. I am particularly enjoying the current phase where I’m working within the structures that were built in the past two years while pursuing the goal of turning them into a profitable enterprise. My tools are the mistakes I make. Even if that sounds like a cliché, they teach me more than anything. 

These days, I’m overwhelmed by how many young, new titles are appearing and the different strategies they employ. Still, I believe that every print magazine must be able to justify itself—content that works better online should’t go to print and vice versa.

I don’t consider other indie titles competition; instead, we support each other and generate more awareness for our segment together. I’m interested in unconventional, experimental concepts and designs as well as the freedom that an independent magazine enjoys. It’s nice when this freedom is used and succeeds in surprising the reader. Luis Venegas did this exceptionally well with Candy, The Printed Dog, and his other publications.

I also find it fascinating to keep up with other magazines that have been around for a while and to see how they have managed to evolve, become commercially successful, and grow with the reader over the years. (My role models are Pin-Up, I-D,032c).

Collage: Katrin Weber
Übersetzung: Sophie Schulte-Hillen