Sender Magazine is a proudly independent printed journal that explores the mountain biking scene. The first issue was released in July 2017. Olly Forster, Bristol-based founder and editor of Sender, talks about the journey that brought him to launch a print magazine, and the creative ideas behind it.
What inspired you to launch this as a print publication?
I’ve worked in the media industry for eight years now, bouncing around and working between large titles, so I could see how social media was really changing consumption of content. You’ve got a huge migration of people who were reading predominantly digital titles, and now just consume all their content through Instagram or YouTube. What I see now is this huge growth in consumption levels, mostly via smartphones. But, do you really want to read a 1000-3000 word feature on your phone?
Print is really great at connecting with people on a different level – can consume at a leisurely pace. It’s easy to just to fold a page, put it away and then read another feature on another day. So, in this way, inspiration came from the frustration of being surrounded by digital consumers in this turbulent media world. And with content consumption going in that direction, and the landscape moving so quickly, it wasn’t necessarily a question of ‘Where does print belong?’, but more a question of ‘Where does good content belong?’.”
Why did you choose to focus on mountain biking?
All different disciplines of cycling have parallels, but really, people are very focussed on their passions. A lot of the media around mountain biking at the moment is very catered towards new riders, but I’ve been mountain biking for 20 years now, and I felt that no one was making a magazine suited for me.
This magazine is about picking your battles and trying to win them: by that, I mean aligning the content to a specific demographic within an already-niche area, and appeasing the audience with the content that they want. So, the content for this magazine is very focussed. That’s what people want now, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
The kind of feedback I’m getting is, ‘This is the first magazine I’ve read cover to cover in ten years’ – and that’s because I made it specially for them.
What types of articles does the magazine feature?
At the moment there’s a huge push in the bike magazine industry to just talk about tech, because the sport is very tech based, but I think that can also be overwhelming. It’s almost as if the audience are dropping off and losing interest, because it’s just constant tech. And what about the people and the places that make the sport so exciting? That’s the main thing for me, really – to tell these stories and be creative with it.
So is it important for you to focus on the people themselves?
Absolutely. From my travels over the years as a journalist, we would go somewhere to write about some new bike, but then spend two or three days talking to athletes and people from the bike industry. You’d hear all these interesting stories. I would be there to write about a new bike, but I could see another story being told. That’s what I’m trying to do with this magazine – to explore those untold stories.
Why did you choose Bristol to set up this magazine?
We were here already, and we had the option to move but we decided to stay because Bristol is a creative hub. You’ve got this network of people that live here – whether it’s in social media, fashion or vlogging: there’s a very good, creative mood here. So, as we expand the title, we’ve already got this hub around us that we can work with and rely on. You really need those connections and that network around you.
At the same time, Bristol has got trails here in Leigh Woods and Ashley Court, and there’s also South Wales, which is loaded with trails. Then you’ve got a biking industry as well – we’ve got two large distributors here, Paligap and Saddleback, and they distribute some of the largest brands in the world from Bristol. So Bristol is teeming with mountain bikers.
I think that, combined with the location and the creative vibe of the city, which is inspiring to be in, works really well with mountain biking. It is quite a rebellious, creative sport. Bristol is probably the best home for this magazine.