Behind the scenes: Dumbo Feather
Longevity in independent magazines is rare. Even when a publisher manages to pull off the trick of turning a magazine into a sustainable business, there are other challenges. Founders fall out, creative directors get bored, and new opportunities come along.
So I’m particularly interested in the story of Dumbo Feather, the Australian magazine that celebrates its 10th anniversary with the 40th issue, out now. Publisher and editor Berry Liberman took the magazine over with her husband four years ago (it had previously been run by founder Kate Bezar) and their passion has helped it to keep on growing and reaching new readers.
But how did they do that? Having battled against the extraordinary odds of Skyping between London and Melbourne, Berry and I turned to email as the next best way for me to put my questions to her.
Dumbo Feather recently celebrated its 10th birthday and has become a byword for better, more mindful living. How have you achieved that success?
We are a pretty passionate crew. Everything we do, from the paper stock we use, the printers, the ink, the content – everything goes through a rigorous filter. Is it good for the environment? Is it good for people? How are we contributing meaningfully to the global conversation? Are we having real conversations with people who inspire us?
It’s a pretty intimate and thorough process for every issue of Dumbo Feather. We want it to be a gift to those who receive it. There is enough fear-mongering and destructive media out there. Dumbo Feather is supposed to function as a space of storytelling and community where we ask some big questions, like who are we? How are our choices and actions affecting our world? What is the world we want to live in? These are the drivers for us.
As I understand it you took over Dumbo Feather in 2010 – had you been involved in the magazine before then?
I hadn’t. Kate Bezar, the founder, interviewed my husband Danny Almagor, who was founder of Engineers Without Borders Australia, for issue nine. We became fast friends and I just really admired her journey. She’s a gutsy, creative and visionary woman. As fate would have it, she handed the reigns to Danny and I in 2010 and we feel very honoured.
How have you seen the magazine change since then?
It’s changed quite radically in terms of the content, the interviews, the visual style and the reach, however the spirit is still the same. It’s about passion and purpose and a community of like-minded folk who want to connect with inspiring ideas and people around the world. People who are making a difference in their field or their neighbourhood!
How many people work for Dumbo Feather these days?
About eight, not including interns – we have the most incredible interns!
Do you mind my asking how many copies you print?
We print 10,000.
You feature world-famous thought-leaders alongside little-known innovators doing things their own way. How do you know when somebody is Dumbo Feather material?
I get asked this question all the time. Truth is, it’s a very organic process. It’s a feeling. I know that’s vague! They have to be someone who can tell their story well, someone who is living with passion and purpose, and generally we go with someone who moves us. If what they say sheds some light on our common humanity.
Dumbo Feather is involved in lots of real world events these days, which seems a natural extension of the magazine’s aim to “pass it on”. Are events a growing area for the magazine?
Absolutely. Dumbo Feather is more than a magazine. It’s a community. We love being in the room with great people doing wonderful things. The magazine is the connection at the heart of a movement to find more meaning in our lives.
And finally, what’s coming up for the next 10 years of Dumbo Feather?
The next 10 years? It’s going to be exciting. More of the magazine, hopefully global Dumbo Feathers being made in different parts of the world, telling their stories. Events, partnerships and a digital presence that has meaning – that’s a real challenge isn’t it? How do we engage with the internet in a meaningful way? Anyway, I’ll keep you posted – thoughts on that welcome 🙂
Watch out for Dumbo Feather joining the Stack ranks soon, and in the meantime, take a look at our other excellent magazines