If you never picked up a copy of MAP Magazine, the Miami based art and culture quarterly, you blew it. It’s gone now–shuttered by a cash-strapped publisher with a completed issue ready for the printer. It’s the cruelest brand of magazine death. That interview with Gore Vidal and Chip Kidd? Gone. That piece on the art scene in Berlin? On a hard drive somewhere. The multiple covers created exclusively for the issue by an esteemed art collective? Wasted time.
We first got word of MAP’s demise from Twitter user themediaisdying. An email to (former) MAP editor Omar Sommereyns bounced. We finally tracked him down and arranged an interview. What follows is a little bit of inside baseball and a lot of hurt. And it’s reminder that the best magazines are a labor of love first and a business second. That might be why the best magazines don’t always make it.
UTNE READER: You only made it to six issues. What happened?
OMAR SOMMEREYNS: Yes, it was six issues, but MAP was a quarterly culture publication packed with content. There was always a lot to read–no cheap tidbits only feature narratives, interviews, a fashion section, and columns.
I knew that it would be a serious challenge. Part of it was the location. In Miami the publishing arena is mostly plagued by vacuous glossies and ad-rags. This isn’t exactly a literary town. It had never encountered a magazine with a truly intellectual and culturally-relevant approach; with more long-form pieces and serious content.
Our subscriptions, feedback on the content, and readership kept growing exponentially with each issue. But the marketing people were still not selling enough ads, and the economic downturn certainly didn’t help. It simply came to a point where the publishers couldn’t afford to produce the magazine anymore.
UR: I remember being surprised to learn the magazine was out of Miami.
OS: MAP was really created out of need. There was nothing like it down here, and we felt that there needed to be, especially since there is a compelling culture scene in Miami that gets overlooked by excessively disseminated South Beach stereotypes. And in addition to covering interesting aspects of the local scene, we offered features and interviews on an international level–from an insider’s reportage on the surreal world of Bollywood to an interview with reclusive and famed French writer Michel Houellebecq.
UR: Are you proud of what MAP accomplished in six issues?
OS: I’m happy we managed to create a visually and editorially stimulating publication with very little resources. I mean, our editorial budget was hardly commensurate to what we accomplished, and we were able to build something meaningful for a while, thanks to the gracious efforts and talents of several writers, artists, photographers, and dear friends of mine. Art director Andrew Bouchie’s innovative design for the magazine was a big part of its success–readers would constantly commend the design, in addition to the stories themselves.
I feel stifled and frustrated since we weren’t even close to reaching our apex, and the creative progression of the magazine was utterly halted. I was still full of ideas and just coming close to realizing how far we could go creatively with MAP.
UR: How quickly did MAP’s publisher shut out the lights? Were you given any warning at all?
OS: I had a sense that things weren’t going well for some time, but I was quite disappointed that we didn’t get to publish our Winter 08/09 issue. It was by far our strongest–a whole new level for us. A few days before going to press, my publishers let me know that the magazine was shutting down, with everything paid for, except we couldn’t afford to publish that last issue. That’ll always haunt me.
UR: Should anybody be starting a magazine like MAP in this climate?
I would never say no. I commend and encourage any endeavors in independent publishing, but people should be aware that it’s really going to be a battle, most notably in establishing a good dichotomy between editorial integrity and business acumen, while trying to make money and stay afloat.
I think we tried our best at MAP. Many great publications and creative activity spring from tough times. It all depends on people’s moxie and true independent spirit, plus constant faith in your vision. And, of course, real financial backing to begin with helps a lot. Nonetheless, with any publication like this, there’s always a risk factor, but you just kind of have to jump in and see if it works.
MAP Magazine launched in Spring 2007 and was shuttered in December 2008. The magazine is still online and worth a visit–if only to download PDF files of each issue for your digital archives.