Addressing the creative industries’ biggest issue

  • Alec Dudson

Intern is a bi-annual independent print publication concerned with creative careers.

After doing a couple of internships with magazines, two things became really apparent to me. Firstly, there were a lot more people working in these positions than I could ever have imagined. Secondly, despite the problematic nature of many of the ‘arrangements’, there wasn’t an accessible forum for people to discuss them. I was looking to start my own career in independent publishing and as no-one would pay me, I wanted to create something that could exist for and by this underclass of workers. Something that would pay them all for their contributions. If you pay people in the publishing world, despite being a small-fry, you can challenge the standpoint of those who say they can’t pay and who offer the fraudulent alternative of ‘exposure’ instead.

Intern is based on the belief that young people are the future. We empower them, invest in them and trust their innovative nature. That process culminates in publishing a variety of content for and by the creative youth.

Intern exists to prove that these young people’s work has value. If we only operated digitally, that sentiment is a little empty as there are plenty of means of self-publishing online already. By committing their work to print, it affirms our beliefs. Print publishing is final, you can’t go back and edit, you have to bring your A-game. Our contributors respond to that situation and I’m at my proudest when they produce something that they feel is up there with the best work they’ve made to date.
Print isn’t dead, it’s just being used by a different generation, for whom it plays a slightly different role in everyday life. We consume our news online, whereas print has become less disposable. In the case of independent magazines and coffee table books, print is now something we buy as a means of articulating our interests and identities.
When we gear up to producing an issue of the magazine, we commission around forty new young creatives in order to ensure that each issue delivers a totally new set of stories and perspectives. Day-to-day, I’m the only full time person at the moment, however I’m most regularly assisted by our Features Editor Andy and Photo Editor Hollie.
In terms of visuals, I’d been working alongside Chris Vickers and Craig Scott during my second internship, which was with Boat Magazine. As I set out to start Intern, they were establishing their design studio, She Was Only. Chris was amongst the first people I pitched the idea to and once he confirmed that they were open to working on the project, I knew I had to get things up and running. They have been, and remain, a huge part of the operation.
The Business Model
To raise initial capital we ran a successful Kickstarter campaign. While that’s become tremendously cliche now, particularly with independent magazines, back in May 2013, it was a lot less common and that definitely worked to our advantage. The magazine’s business model is advertising, although we use the term ‘sponsorship’ due to the way we design the placements in the mag and the tone we present them with.
Our partners are the ones who are making an investment in young creative people and our readers appreciate that. We effectively create a conversation between the two parties, rather than traditional print advertising, where all too often the brand dishes out a monologue.
We’re applying that same approach to new online content very soon and have plans for a podcast series in the new year. As we diversify, we plan to continue facilitating that discussion between our partners and audience, by making thought provoking, empowering and diverse things together. At the same time, we’re investing in collaborative product lines with our favourite emerging creatives, ensuring that we’re eyes on beautiful physical manifestations of their work.
The Editorial Process
We usually have a few ideas for features that emerge outside of the submission window, but after that, we try to draw as much as we can from our community as they are the biggest authority on the issues at hand. I see tremendous value in our ability to have that relationship with our readers; we’re here to empower them and to facilitate the narrative. Our job then is to make sure that there’s good variety and balance to each issue. One of the big risks for a small editorial team is that your final product can be quite repetitive. We guard against that by employing a democratic process when choosing contributors and stories. Once that’s settled, we focus our efforts on bringing out the very best in everyone involved.
Industry Attitudes
Whilst internships play an important role in people’s careers and companies’ recruitment strategies, in my personal opinion, they’re mis-sold for the most part. Unpaid internships have become and remain widespread due to the phenomenal speed with which young people have accepted those terms of work. As long as there’s a queue of people prepared to work unpaid, some company somewhere will take advantage of that situation. We need more companies and industries to look past the short-termism of this approach and instead use internships as an opportunity to thoughfully recruit bright young people, who, if invested in, can become major assets in their own right. However, if people really want to see the end of unpaid internships, they have to be bold enough to stop agreeing to do them. We’re fighting against the tide to make students and graduates understand that their work always has value. While that’s an uphill task, it’s one we believe in and are committed to.
Issue Four
Our brand new fourth issue takes a closer look at the huge variety of career paths you can explore. We don’t want the choice to be daunting for our readers. Personally, that was my experience for years, I was continually putting off the decision because I saw it as a conclusive one. Many of the traditional work structures are being dismantled and resultantly freelance work is rising in popularity. That means that you’ve got to fight as hard as ever to win business, but it also means that you can switch roles and directions as you see fit. In Issue Four we explore a number of the ways that people are defining their own careers. Order your copy today and in doing so, help us to commission, collaborate with and support the next generation of creative talent.


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Intern is a project founded by Alec Dudson.
Design & Art Direction by She Was Only.