Glossy Talk: GRIND magazine

Glossy Talk: GRIND magazine

While Rupert Murdoch's The Daily has been the centre of the media's attention this week, a small Gold Coast based publisher got my attention with a custom title called GRIND. The magazine is published by Connect Custom Publishing, a division of Business News Publications, on behalf of the Zaraffas coffee chain.

The content, design and editorial vision are a cut above – it's printed on 100% recycled paper using soya bean ink with a range of content traversing topics from eco-science and innovation ('What the frack is going on?' tackles the coal seam gas industry) through to the arts and, of course, coffee. The magazine is full of flavour, taking you to New York, Lamington National Park and Papua New Guinea. I read it over an hour with a cappuccino only to find myself craving a "cafe cortado".

Custom publishing is really coming into its own as brands endeavour to make authentic connections with consumers beyond traditional advertising, and GRIND has the makings of a benchmark title in this regard.

Editor Jason Oxenbridge tells us more about the magazine...   

How did GRIND come about – were you one of several companies to be commissioned to pitch? I approached Zarraffa’s CEO Kenton Campbell with the concept in 2009. At that point he had too much going on, but we always knew it had the makings of a great magazine and we re-convened early in 2010 to set the wheels in motion. Kenton was setting up Ecoforce at the time, and that formulated the crux of content for the first issue and the ensuing cover story. The result is a magazine that at its roots is about community, culture and coffee with an emphasis on sustainability and features on travel, music, food and lifestyle; all from one of the greatest locations on earth – Australia.

What were some of the key editorial elements Zarraffa’s wanted to convey? It had to have a slant on coffee obviously, but also embody the ethos that goes with that culture and Kenton’s passion for the conservation and protection of Australian wildlife and habitat. Add a splash of fine wine, delicious recipes by adept guest chefs and profile pieces on people that are making a real difference by reducing their footprint on the planet and propelled by the innate desire to leave it in better shape for the next generation. Zarraffa’s is such a strong brand and Kenton is an enigmatic character with ideas popping all of the time. It’s our job to endear the reader and to make them feel part of the broader Zarraffa’s family and all of its many facets.

Are your contributors mostly on-staff? We have four journalists working on GRIND and also regular contributors including Ross McKinnon, the curator of the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, who is our resident gardening guru. Our guest chefs are revered in the industry and always delight with dishes to garnish the season.

What has been the response to GRIND? The response has been incredible and it is starting to get a real cult niche in the market. The soya bean inks we print with are rich and retain a strong smell and saturate beautifully into the Carbon Neutral recycled paper. We have had responses from artists who we have profiled in the magazine including Marcia Hines, Michael Franti and Xavier Rudd, all who share a similar philosophy on sustainability, travel etc. When we launched in 2010, we also got a lot of media attention from publishing industry websites and publications due to the Carbon Neutral aspect. 

GRIND has a $4.95 cover price – is this usual in custom publishing? Do people mistake it for a "freebie"? Quality journalism, photography and art is expensive, so the product has to be commercially viable for the client. Given the content is so diverse, it doesn’t read like a traditional custom magazine where the emphasis is largely on the key product (ie; Zarraffa’s) – it’s subtle and I think we have created a nice balance. We have a partnership with Fairfax distribution for our corporate titles and recently sent them a copy of GRIND. They loved it and are urging us to distribute into newsagencies in addition to the 45 (and counting) Zarraffa’s stores in which it is sold.

When can we expect issue three? We are working on Issue 3 now and it’s a tremendous rush and challenge to improve the magazine each time. Who knows what’s around the corner, but if we can continue to change perceptions, enlighten, educate and entertain, all while bringing people closer to the Zarraffa’s brand, I think the magazine has a very bright future. It may sound clich├ęd, but it’s a very rewarding project and I feel privileged to be a part of it.

Where does Business News Publications sit on the custom mag spectrum?
We developed the custom publishing arm Connect Custom Publishing in 2009 to complement our core business publications after identifying a gap in the market for high quality, independently crafted products, which would then benefit clients and add a new value-add to their marketing objectives. It’s been fantastic to bring this exciting new dimension to our stable of magazines and has allowed us to expand our team and bring more talented people to our publications.

How many titles do you publish and for whom?
We publish 9 publications – six within our Connect Custom Publishing division. They are GRIND, Biz News, Precinct, Profit, Lotus and the Gold Coast Master Builders Awards magazine. Our three signature titles are Gold Coast Business News, Brisbane Business News and Brisbane Legal.

GWAS Note: Here's wishing issue two's cover girl Stephanie Gilmore, the golden girl of Australian surfing, a swift recovery from the brutal attack she weathered in December.

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