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October 5, 2018updated 30 Sep 2022 6:54am

Columnist Matthew d’Ancona says new magazine Drugstore Culture is ‘unapologetically ambitious’ as it juggles print and digital

By Dorothy Musariri

Guardian and Evening Standard columnist Matthew d’Ancona has said he is “unapologetically ambitious” about his new arts and culture magazine Drugstore Culture.

The former Spectator editor launched the magazine in March with entrepreneur Charles Finch. At the same time, he took up the role of editor-in-chief of Finch’s new company, Finch Publishing.

Explaining the rather unusual name, d’Ancona told Press Gazette: “The ‘drugstore’ element was inspired by the role that Schwab’s, the great pharmacy and diner on Sunset Boulevard played in Charles’s early Hollywood life.

“In its heyday, it was a hang-out, a diner, a place to read, to talk and – if you were an actor – to be discovered. We were drawn to the idea of a 21st century magazine that could be a space for democratic conversation, lively ideas, optimism and storytelling.”

He said the “culture” element of the title “reflects a belief that the world of 2018, including the political sphere, is now best understood through the prism of culture”.

“Look at the contemporary landscape: Donald Trump in the White House, the #MeToo movement (which is only just beginning), identity politics and ‘intersectionality’, the transgender revolution and all the questions it poses, the rise and rise of Black Lives Matter, the ugly surge in anti-Semitism on the left, the global successes of the nativist and populist right.

“All these and many other phenomena are hard to explain satisfactorily using the categories of 20th Century discourse – which was framed as a grand struggle between left and right, in which social structure, class and institutions were primarily shaped by economic forces.”

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D’Ancona said he and his team of journalists aimed “to create an editorial hub, digital-first but with print, event and e-commerce branches” and would “reserve as much of our spending as possible for journalistic content of the highest quality”.

Drugstore Culture publishes content online – everything from film and arts to politics and technology – with plans to print a magazine, which has so far been available sporadically, once every two months.

The website has already featured video interviews with the likes of actor Benicio de Toro, leader of the Scottish Conservative party Ruth Davidson, American director Paul Feig, and writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch.

D’Ancona emphasises that the content distinctively circulates around culture, politics and the arts, but goes beyond just poetry and gaming.

“Our scope will expand in the months to come, but, as you’d expect, we want to establish ourselves first before extending our reach,” he said. “Let’s just say that we have big ambitions.”

Drugstore Culture will feature regular contributors and columnists, including Elle’s Olive Pometsey, Pete Hoskin from The Spectator, Kim Moore of Poetry Review, and actress Tilly Standing.

There’s also a line-up of young writers, including Nichi Hodgson, Ryan Cahill, Jamie Susskind, Harriet Marsden and James Bloodworth.

D’Ancona told Press Gazette he doesn’t have a target audience for the magazine as he doesn’t want to “limit myself by singling out a particular group”.

He said he wants it to be a “globally-recognised” culture and arts magazine, adding: “I want it to open its doors to all who are intrigued by cinema, art, politics, tech, gaming, literature, theatre, television (in all its forms) and public debate. The only entry fee is enthusiasm.”

D’Ancona has not mentioned any competitors but cites the Rolling Stone magazine of the 70s as an inspiration. He also takes the success of titles such as Gal Dem and Azeema as proof of concept amid falling revenues in the UK media industry.

Drugstore Culture, which is funded by blue-chip investors, will make revenue through brand partnerships, advertising, events and subscriptions for  print versions, as well as e-commerce.

The print magazine has a cover price of £5.

“Its distinctive format, magazine-as-paperback-book has gone down especially well,” D’Ancona said. “The trick will be the split between digital and print.”

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