How to Start Your Own Magazine: Allen Ying on 43

By Meghan Ahearn

© Brendan Klein
Allen Ying included a group of photos from Brendan Klein's bowl-skating series in the first issue of 43.

As a freelance skateboard photographer, Allen Ying was in the habit of buying skateboard magazines. However, when he noticed friends and colleagues weren’t interested in them, he started wondering if he could put together something different. And thus the seed was planted for 43 (which refers to the forgotten name of a skateboarding trick). Ying says he has developed 43 over the last couple of years “from an idea to working on it here and there, until it eventually became a full-on, double-overtime venture.”

His mission was to create a magazine that would capture “how inspiring skateboarding can be,” and he started by researching what was already on newsstands to see “what was going on out there, and what others were doing, to get an idea of what we might or might not want to do,” Ying explains. “I was also researching printing, printers, papers, ink. I felt the best way to keep it unique was to develop it from scratch, and not follow what others are doing, even in terms of what printers or paper they were using.”

Ying ended up choosing an uncoated, eco-friendly paper and vegetable-based inks to print the magazine with—rather than the glossy paper most mainstream skateboarding magazines use. He also opted for a unique trim size, choosing a 12 3/8-inch square that’s approximately the same size as an LP record.

Aside from the format, he knew that if he was going to create a magazine that would represent how amazing he thinks the sport is, the photography would have to be equally amazing, so he approached photographers whose work inspired him and offered them a fee to contribute their work.

“[In the first issue], we featured a group of photographs from Brendan Klein’s ongoing series of pool skating photos,” Ying says, adding that skating in empty swimming pools isn’t something he’s had the opportunity to really have a connection with. However, he admires and appreciates Klein’s approach to photographing them.

Ying, who has associate degrees in Photography and Communication Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, laid out the magazine himself using Adobe InDesign. He got input from a crew of volunteers and like-minded people, but ultimately let the images and the sport be the driving force behind 43’s esthetic. “Skateboarding and the photography together are already enough to look at,” he says.

The result is a magazine with minimal text, full-page images and no other design elements. This is in stark contrast to more traditional skateboarding magazines, which tend to overload the reader’s senses with frame-by-frame shots of tricks, busy graphics and lots of text.

To finance the magazine, Ying contributed his own funds and raised over $20,000 via a Kickstarter campaign, which was enough money to cover expenses and print 8,000 copies of the 40-page first issue in October 2011. He sent about 6,000 copies to skate shops around the country at no charge, recommending customers pay what they wish or get a copy free with purchase.

Because skate shops, which are often locally owned businesses, are usually a skater’s first experience with the sport and a crucial part of skateboarding culture, Ying thinks it’s important for 43 to be sold in them. However, he had to rethink the no-pay model because they haven’t been able to secure enough advertising to support a free publication—one downside of doing something entirely new in an established magazine category.

For now, he’s selling 43 for $10 at independent bookstores, where the magazine has been well received, and for a slight discount at skate shops. He’s looking for a chain bookstore distributor that will be a good fit for 43 as well as an international magazine distributor (he’s currently using Ubiquity Distributors for the independent bookstores, selling directly to skate shops in the U.S. and using a skateboard distributor to get into international skate shops).

Though he’s been pleasantly surprised by the recognition the magazine has received outside of the skateboarding community, including coverage by T: The New York Times Style Magazine and Interview, he still has a few kinks to work out, including 43’s frequency (right now, he’s thinking it will be a quarterly). He admits that the entire process of launching a magazine largely on his own has been challenge, and would advise photographers who want to start their own publication to really aim for something unique. “If you do something that’s actually different, and do it well, it will be noticed.”

Related Articles:

How to Start Your Own Magazine: Skye Parrott on Dossier
How to Start a Magazine: David Cicconi on Trunk
Q&A: Skate Photographer Mike Blabac

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