One minute magazines are down the pan, the next minute they’re holy items being sought after by big brands in order to put something – nostalgia, mainly – into the grabby hands of their customers. It’s hard to find a trendy brand these days that doesn’t have some sort of editorial arm, but it’s safe to say that few do it with as much style and care as MR PORTER’s Journal.
The Journal runs alongside the brand’s clothing site as a place where people can come to read about style in all its history and curiosities. What we love about the Journal is the commissioned content: every well put together article is backed by an exclusive piece of exquisite illustration, film or photography to give it extra weight. Here’s editor Jodie Harrison on the brand, the online publication and the importance of good curation.
Tell us a little about what you do at MR PORTER, and your background…
I have been the editor at MRPORTER.COM since launch back in February 2011. I edit and commission stuff. I come up with and execute ideas. I manage a small but beautiful team of nine feature-folk at our London HQ covering writers, subs and social media. Prior to that I was at GQ magazine for seven years as the executive style editor. I left because I felt I was no longer learning anything relevant to the world of new media – monthly magazines just don’t move fast enough for me.
Why is it important for a brand like MR PORTER to have a journal?
We don’t have a physical store space where our customers can immerse themselves, so telling the stories behind our stocked brands in an immersive editorial space is absolutely necessary. It gives us an opinion and a space to connect with our customers.
When you first set out, what did you want The Journal to do, and who was it for?
Primarily, we wanted it to inspire men to shop. We wanted to help guide them on trends but in a non-alienating, fashion-speak kind of way. We wanted them to come to us to be entertained, to learn something, to laugh at something and then, if the mood took them, to buy something and experience the thing we absolutely do best – our service.
"I left GQ because I felt I was no longer learning anything relevant to the world of new media – monthly magazines just don’t move fast enough for me."Jodie Harrison, MR PORTER
Did you refer to any other publications or sites when creating it?
Ideas came from all sorts of places – books, vintage magazines, art galleries, photographs, paintings – we all had so many strong feelings on what we wanted this brand to be. It was for men. It was for style. It was for escapism. It was for inspiration. It was for all the MR PORTERs we knew in our life who were not getting what they needed from an online retailer at that time.
You’re one of the only sites that actually commissions illustrations alongside your articles – why do you do this?
Illustration is a wonderful tool that has become a huge part of our editorial DNA. We all grew up reading and enjoying the illustrations in titles such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. There was something beautiful and nostalgic about bringing that art form onto a minimal and modern platform. I just loved the idea. At the start we worked with just one or two illustrators but have a great pool of illustrators that we use regularly.
How do you find the right artists for the right features?
Our lovely, brilliant creative art team are always on the hunt for new illustrative talent and we have even had an in-house illustrator. We try to assign different artistic styles to different articles so that the pace and tone switches with each, and they gain an identity. We also try to only feature one or two illustrated stories per issue so they feel special.
Tell us about the process of choosing content for the site – what do you look for?
We don’t choose content, we create it – all of it – from scratch and in-house. We don’t feature other publishers or brands content, as we want every single article to feel right for our brand and speak to our customer in our voice.
You have a printed newspaper too; how do you differentiate from online content and printed content?
We refer to The MR PORTER Post as our inky incarnation – it features the “best of” articles for the prior and current month on The Journal as well as brand new bespoke content so people can get their MR PORTER fix on the move. Longer read articles are towards the back of the paper, and products are weaved in throughout in a non–forced, organic way.
"We don’t choose content, we create it - all of it - from scratch and in-house. We don’t feature other publishers or brands content, as we want every single article to feel right for our brand and speak to our customer in our voice."Jodie Harrison, MR PORTER
What do you love about publishing online?
How immediate it is. The time between a kernel of an idea to a publishing reality is seriously addictive. Print has its charms, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge consumer of print, but not having to wait three months for an idea you had to come into being in the public is kind of amazing. Online publishing feels like a move forward, not back.
The internet is constantly changing – do you feel like MR PORTER needs to change to keep up?
Absolutely – we are constantly looking at new ways to delight and surprise our readers – this means challenging our offer on a continual basis, bringing in new features, making interesting new friends who we shoot and interview, developing our design, developing our video. It never stops. Change is part of our daily vernacular.
What other websites do you feel get content just right?
COS has a very lovely, simplistic feed of articles I read weekly. Titled “Things” it’s a compendium of all the things I love. Design, music, eclectic lifestyle curation all delivered in a beautifully simplistic and no-nonsense manner. I also like Vice for all the opposite reasons – funny, rough and a real measure of global street culture and trends.
Behind the Screens
The “golden era” of independent publishing has seen an awful lot written about magazines; their enduring influence as well as the challenges facing the industry. Sometimes those discussions have overlooked the amazing things happening in online publishing so in November, we plan to rectify that. For the next few weeks we’ll be speaking to the people who have been beavering away at making the internet a very pleasant and addictive place to visit, finding out their secrets and asking them why they do what they do.