RRM: So what’s the story of Clamor? How did this begin and did it involve inkjet frustrations, take-out, and perhaps…staplers?
Jen: Actually, there wasn’t much stapling involved. Clamor has been produced as a regular magazine since it’s inception in 2000. That means we’ve always sent to the magazine to a printer to be produced, instead of photocopying and collating it ourselves. At 68 full pages, that would be quite a task!
Jason and I decided to work together in 1999 for a couple of reasons. Primarily, we had each been involved in independent publishing for at least ten years, and felt that there were so many great voices in the independent press that weren’t getting heard by a mainstream audience. We wanted to make those voices accessible to a wider audience by putting those authors and artists in a format that mainstream readers recognize, and by putting those authors and artists in more outlets, from independent bookstores to big chains like Borders.
RRM: Have the actual printing methods changed through the years as your distribution has increased? The current material quality of the magazine is outstanding- what’s involved in the process of producing a full glossy mag?
Jen: Clamor started from the beginning in the magazine format, and we’ve made minor changes over the years. Some of this has been dictated by going to different printers who can better meet our needs, but some of it has just been an increase in quality, like adding color to the cover. The inside of Clamor is actually printed on uncoated paper. We used to print the inside on glossy, but really like the current look.
Jason: One of the major changes that you can see from comparing issue one and issue twenty-eight is the quality of design. We used to both design different sections and then put it all together and send to the printer. Now, I design the magazine from cover to cover, and I’ve learned a LOT about what works and what doesn’t work as far as magazine design/production is concerned. I’m a self-taught designer. Sometimes that is painfully obvious, but I hope those moments are fewer and further between these days.
RRM: What kind of demographic or social stereotypes would you peg on your subscriber base? As America becomes increasingly politically polarized- what can the progressive or “liberal” media do to avoid preaching strictly to the choir?
Jen: Our readers are primarily politically active and socially conscious individuals aged 18 to 35 – though we do have many readers who fall outside of that range. Progressive media is essential to building and maintaining movements, community, and political discourse. We can avoid preaching to the choir by staying on top of the issue that are important to our readers and by not printing the same stuff that’s in other magazines. It’s important to Clamor to print the voices of normal, every day individuals – and that means we don’t often print the writing of celebrities or “experts.” Even though we love Barbara Ehrenreich and Howard Zinn, you can read their writing in Z Magazine or the Nation – we don’t need to print them in Clamor.
The diversity of our readership makes for a marketing nightmare most of the time. One of my other jobs at Clamor is to try to convey to independent businesses why it is crucial for them to be reaching out to our readers and advertising in the magazine. Time after time I find myself having a conversation about who our readers are, and it’s frustrating to not be able to say something like, “our readers are primarily 18 lesbians who are into punk rock.” You know? Our readership defies that sort of niche marketing, and I love (mostly) and hate (sometimes) Clamor for that.
RRM: What kind and intensity of stress is associated with helming a magazine that has grown so much in such little time? What kind of hours are inherent with this variety of work? At this point, do you still have day-jobs?
Jen: Well, we feel that Clamor has evolved organically, and though we’re happy with the progress so far, we know we have a long way to go. There’s a lot of stress involved, and I’m honestly amazed that Jason hasn’t burnt out in the last 5 years. He seriously works on the magazine 18 hours a day, and the rest of the time he spends eating and sleeping. There’s definitely stress when the magazine isn’t paying anyone except the writers and artists – all the editors, proofreaders, and reviewers are unpaid at this point. I work a full time job at Planned Parenthood during the day, and I wish I had more time to work on the magazine, but someone’s gotta pay the bills!
Jason: Yeah, I’m amazed that burn-out hasn’t settled in yet, but seriously, everyday I’m thankful that we’ve got a situation set up where I’m able to work (albeit for free) on Clamor and keep the day-to-day business in order. I’m very fortunate, and you’d be hard-pressed to hear me complaining about the long hours I keep. One thing that keeps me going is the idea that we really are about to turn the sustainability corner sometime in the near future. I think Clamor is much further along than some of our peer magazines (Punk Planet, Bitch, etc..) were at this five-year mark.
RRM: What are the advantages of your physical location in the Midwest? Jason, in your bio on ClamorMagazine.org you mention that you are “secretly very happy the rest of the country hasn’t figured out how great the Midwest is” –can you expand on this statement?
Jen: I’m sure Jason has a lot to say about this, but the Midwest is cheap to live in, the cities are close together, and the people are great. Do you think we could live in NY, have as much space as we do in the house we share with roommates and the magazine, and afford to feed ourselves on one salary? Unlikely.
Jason: It’s true. The Midwest is the country’s greatest secret, and I’m not anxious to let the word leak out just yet. I mean, the cost of living is absurdly cheap. We pay about $700 a month on a mortgage, yes mortgage, for a 2,000 square foot home here in Toledo, Ohio. And I think the people in the Midwest are resilient, energetic, and optimistic. We’re pretty resourceful folks, in that we have to make do with a lot less than folks who live on the coasts or in other major metropolitan areas.
RRM: Can you describe the turnout and atmosphere at the various Clamor festivals you’ve held over the last few years? Have they been an effective means of communicating the purpose of your magazine?
Jason: We just decided that we’re going to go forward with the second-annual Clamor Music Festival. It was basically a one-night celebration of the magazine’s four-year anniversary, and we had over 30 shows happen on the same night across the country. It turned out to be a pretty eclectic night of music across the country, with thousands of people checking out hardcore, hip hop, rock, dance, and folk music across the country. It was also a fantastic way for us to introduce the magazine to a LOT of new readers, and for a magazine that doesn’t have a huge marketing budget, we really rely on these sorts of events to encourage the word-of-mouth buzz about Clamor.
RRM: Google.com, arguably the gold-standard of internet search engines, lists your website as the first and second listing for the word “Clamor”. Do you feel your web presence has dramatically increased the scope and range of readers you’ve attracted?
Jason: I wish I knew more about how to manipulate the web and make it work for us. Truth is, I don’t really know much about it, and our high visibility on the web is due mostly to the fact that we’ve been around for five years and maintained a solid, consistent presence on the web. The site itself serves as a portal for a number of Clamor features, including our online distribution called the “infoSHOP” and archived features from each issue. We also added some dynamism to the site by launching a Clamor “Revolution of Everyday Life” blog – where all of our section editors are posting new pieces daily. It’s a lot of fun!
RRM: How’d you get associated with Michael Moore for the upcoming Toledo appearance? Have you had much opportunity to directly communicate with Mr. Moore?
Jason: Moore’s agent actually contacted us when they were looking to do something in Ohio. I think that our role as independent media makers in Toledo and hosts of the annual Allied Media Conference put us on Moore’s radar and we were invited to see if we could put something together for a visit. We haven’t had a chance to talk to Moore yet, but I’m looking forward to meeting him.
RRM: If offered an editorial position at say, a magazine like Adbusters, would you take it if it meant sacrificing your post at Clamor?
Jen: Jason and I are both really committed to Clamor. I don’t feel any other magazine is printing the same voices as we are or reaching the same audience – we’re definitely filling a need, and that would be hard to give up. It’s difficult to take over someone else’s project – and if you look at other progressive magazines like Bitch or Z or Punk Planet, they’ve really been the vision of a small group of people. It’s hard to step into that realm.
Jason: It’s funny because I don’t really feel like I do anything except answer email all day, so why would some other magazine want me to work for/with them? I mean, I obviously know that I have some experience publishing and have a lot to offer, but it’s hard to step back and see that sometimes. But yeah, as Jen said, I’m not really interested in working for someone else at this point. I’d rather keep working on Clamor to make it better and more sustainable.
RRM: What does Clamor uniquely offers amongst magazines with a socio-political focus? Do you foresee increasing or decreasing your general cultural content in THE FUTURE?
Jason: Clamor is unique in that we’re not a one-issue/one-focus magazine. Clamor isn’t a hip hop magazine, or a punk magazine, or an environmental magazine, or a feminist magazine – it’s all those things and more. We’ve basically created a lifestyle magazine for politically and culturally conscious and active individuals, and I think that’s one of the reasons Clamor has grown so much in the past couple years. We’re filling a void in the progressive magazine field that has been left by other progressive magazines that fail to address that a) people are more than the sum of the issues they’re interested in and b) politically conscious folks are interested in creating and supporting cultural projects and vice versa.
RRM: Does it disturb you that magazines such as the “Seventeen for grown-up Men” Maxim quite possibly have a larger subscription base than Clamor? Does this make your readers an American minority?
Jen: There’s no “quite possibly” about it – most magazines you see on the newsstand have a circulation larger than Clamor’s. Partially we’ve wanted to grow the magazine organically, so we’re OK that we’re not that big. But, we definitely need to be larger to have a more sustainable future, so it is frustrating at times.
Jason: Yeah, and we’re not really going after the same “lowest common denominator” audience that the likes of Maxim are appealing to.
RRM: Do either of you have any guilty pleasures like watching The Simple Life or eating at Chipotle?
Jen: I think at Clamor HQ our favorites are The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and talk radio. Plus, I’ve seen a couple of stories claiming that Toledo, OH has the most restaurants per capita – so we definitely don’t have to resort to Chipotle (though I’m not sure we even have one of those), though we love locally owned businesses!
Jason: My guilty pleasure is watching football and baseball on television. I spend a lot of hours working on Clamor with Sportscenter on in the background.
RRM: What’s your best Bush joke?
Jason: The year is 2005. An old man walks up to the White House and asks the guard if he can come in and see President Bush. The soldier says, “I’m sorry sir, but Mr. Bush isn’t president anymore.” The old man turns around and walks away. The next day, the old man comes back and asks to see President Bush again. Again, the soldier tells him that Mr. Bush isn’t president and the old man walks away. This goes on everyday for a week until the soldier finally says, “Sir, you’ve been coming here everyday and asking to see President Bush, and everyday I tell you that Mr. Bush isn’t president anymore. Is there something wrong here?” The old man replies, “No, I know he’s not president, I just like coming by and hearing that everyday.”
Thanks for the opportunity to chat, Ryan!
Visit Clamor on-line at ClamorMagazine.com.
About the author:
Ryan Robert Mullen is the author of Naughty, Sweet Boy (Word Riot Press) and a columnist at Get Underground. He maintains a website at ryanrobertmullen.net. His previous interview subjects include Steve Almond, Neal Pollack and Zoe Trope.