The most interesting magazine titles in Norway are published independently – and can be read in English.
Yesterday I sat on the jury for this year’s Norwegian media awards, which are presented during the Nordic Media Festival in Bergen in May. The magazine of which I was editor until recently, Aftenpostens culture magazine K, folded last year, which says something about how fast the tides are turning in this industry. Just about every Norwegian media corporation has cut both titles, budgets and staff during the past year, which of course has an effect on the end product. So there I was, in a room with some of my colleagues in the media industry looking at examples from last year’s magazine journalism in Norway. Was the offering on the table uplifting? Impressive? Innovative? No, not really. Certainly there were some nice pieces and several that have set the agenda during that past year, but my overall impression is that magazine journalism in this country is remarkably traditional and produced at full speed by freelancers who are so afraid of being out of work that they write to please, not to dazzle.
Of course, what was on the table did not represent the whole media industry in Norway – several major publishing houses had apparently not submitted contributions and were strangely absent. And just for the record: Newspaper magazines belong to the newspaper category and were not judged by us. But first and foremost, there were some contenders that I missed, candidates that should have been present. The thing is, it’s not like the state of magazine in Norway is hopeless, quite the opposite. It’s just that very often the best quality does not come from major media corporations, but from independent operators, which is something we have seen internationally for years.
One of the Norwegian magazines that continue to impress me, is A New Type of Imprint. It’s published by ANTI, which I used to think of as an advertising agency but which as now asserted itself in so many corporate exercises that I don’t quite know what to call them. When it comes to the magazine itself, the driving force behind it is primarily it’s editor Veronica Mike Solheim. With her at the helm the magazine goes against the grain as far as Norwegian magazines are concerned and concentrates not on international celebrities or major fashion brands, but rather highlights creative industries in Norway in a global language – English – on beautiful paper with first class photographs and art direction. The magazine sometimes remind me of Kinfolk, but I think A New Type of Imprint is more varied and refreshing than the former. Ideally, I wish it was bilingual, as reading about Norwegian culture in English creates a distance to something that should feel very intimate. That said, the feeling that overwhelms me when I read this magazine, is pride. I’m proud to be Norwegian.
A New Type of Imprint has ambitions that extend far beyond Norway, which was made evident when they launched their newest edition in Copenhagen. Other Norwegian magazines such as Recens paper, the photo journal Objektiv and the skateboarding magazine Dank, all titles worth discovering, have had launches abroad and write in English. That is also the case with another title I would like to highlight, which is Bikevibe. The magazine focuses on urban bicycle culture, city by city. First, they visited Tokyo, than came home to Oslo and now they’ve been to Portland. Bikevibe is full of interesting reflections on people who love their bikes and the culture associated with them. The Portland edititon, which is out next week, was made during ten days in that very city, where editor Mari Oshaug and features editor Silje Strømmen rented a house.
Finally, I would like to mention two other Norwegian favorites that have been at it for some time, and that is New Scandinavian Rooms and Josimar. The first is a down to earth interiors magazine edited by Norwegian magazine veteran Hans Petter Smeby (you can read an interview with Smeby in the latest issue of A New Type of Imprint). Josimar is a soccer journal that has had great sucess in one of the most challenging markets when it comes to magazines: Men. The fact that they have both sustained themselves independently for many years is a mark of quality in itself. And they have not, unlike many big titles, attacked the magazines vital organs: Text, photo and art direction. Many large media corporations would have us believe that these are the least important parts of a magazine.
Reading a good magazine is a form of luxury. Not because of all the expensive stuff in there that you can buy, but because time well spent is a luxury in itself, as is insight, inspiration and a sense of self. A quality magazine should give you a feeling of belonging. It should make you proud to sit with it to the extent that you want to show it off to anyone. After all, it’s that rare type of media that isn’t hidden on your smartphone.