As issue three hits newsstands, we sit down with Editor-in-Chief Danielle Pender to hear how the magazine’s found its footing
Since it’s launch last year, Riposte Magazine has earned a steady stream of praise from the likes of The Guardian, Mag Culture and Eye, amongst others. Now three issues in, we sit down to talk to Editor-in-Chief Danielle Pender about how the title has evolved over the last 18 months, interviewing the late Deborah Sussman and why in order to grow, the magazine needs to be more than just a collectors’ item…
How has the magazine evolved since its inaugural issue?
Danielle: Since issue one, we’ve worked on commissioning as much of the visual content as possible. I think this has really made each issue stronger. We’re also developing our process and approach all the time and we’re learning with each issue – I think it’s good to constantly review and evolve. Once you stop doing that and fall into a staid formula, things become boring for you and the reader.What about your editorial agenda: how’s that developed over three issues?
We’re a lot clearer about the role each section of the magazine plays, which makes it easier when planning the content, but also gives us room to play around. In the Meetings section, we try to make the interviews as personal as possible so you really get the feeling you’re “meeting” that person, rather than reading media trained responses.
The features are more fun and visual striking and the essays are dedicated to exploring issues in a more in depth way. I’m from a curatorial background so our approach isn’t so traditionally editorial. We pull together a range of interesting stories and people to curate content that has a vibrancy to it. I think that’s the beauty of magazines, they’re there to explore ideas and play around with formats. We don’t work on themes as I find that quite restrictive, I’d rather read about a variety of different women and stories and be surprised at what’s coming next.
Tell us about your role as Editor-in-Chief.
As we’re a small team, it’s pretty all-encompassing. I develop the overall editorial content ideas and commission the various contributors we work with. I also work closely on commissioning visuals and developing the business side of things. I love the diversity and the challenge of each element. I think this is pretty standard when you start something off, and as you grow you bring in people who are smarter than you. I’m looking forward to bringing in those smart people!
You’re a print led magazine, and when you launched, you were pretty vocal about wanting Riposte to be a tactile, timeless reading experience. With three issues under your belt, have your feelings about the role digital can play changed?
I think the print magazine is key to what Riposte is about, we want it to be something which people look forward to reading, flicking through and collecting.However, I do think that digital is hugely important in developing your audience, giving them relevant content in between issues and also as a place for us to profile interesting stories that perhaps don’t fit in the format of the magazine. Digital is a really rich platform and I’d love to be able to develop more moving image and podcast based content as a way to tell fascinating stories. At the minute, this is tricky with limited resources.
Do you think we’ve started to feel that ripple-effect yet, where other, larger publishing houses are realising that women want more from magazines than sex tips, fashion tips and beauty tutorials?
I think there’s a definite shift in thinking about women in the media and their wider role in society, but with larger publishers, a lot of the time their content is dictated by advertisers and shareholders, so the room to do something really interesting isn’t really there.
What’s been your personal highlight from the last three issues?
We’ve featured some really amazing women. I’m constantly surprised by the generosity and humility of the people we feature. Women like Francoise Mouly of The New Yorker, Nelly Ben Hayoun, singer Samantha Urbani and the late, great Deborah Sussman really stand out. Deborah knew she had cancer when we were talking to her but she was so incredibly generous with her time and her advice. She had so much energy and lust for life – she was a total one off.What does the future hold for the magazine?
We’re working on developing Riposte as an umbrella brand with a number of different strands. The print magazine would be at the centre and then surrounding it will be events, conferences, consultancy work, products and wider publishing. We’re really excited about developing the brand and creating things we feel are missing.