Creativity Corner Inspirational People

Libertine – For Interested Women

March 13, 2014

I have a confession to make! I’m nearly 50 and hardly ever read a woman’s magazine! Why is that I wonder? Oh, I know…there are barley any good and intelligent woman’s magazines out there. That is until I accidentally stumbled upon Libertine last Autumn. Ecstatic, fascinated and completely mesmerized I immediately wanted to know who is behind this great venture. I got in touch with Debbi Evans, editor and founder of Libertine and we decided to wait with this interview until the latest issue hit the shelves. I’m pleased we did as this issue celebrates Libertine’s 1st Birthday.

Libertine - Colourliving

Meet Debbi.

Libertine - Colourliving

Tell us a little about Debbi growing up and some early influences that formed you in adulthood I was a very sociable child and liked to be around adults, engaging in adult conversation, from an early age. I was always aware that helping and pleasing people was a good thing to do (although now, with my feminist hat on, am wondering what that says about the way we raise our daughters). I remember marching into a restaurant kitchen on holiday in France and offering to help wait tables! I couldn’t have been older than seven or eight. I lost all confidence aged 17 or 18 after a bad drugs experience turned into a several-hour-long panic attack, followed by persistent anxiety which lasted almost ten years. I’m over the worst of it now and can appreciate the positive aspects of being constantly self-aware and analytical, as well as the resilience it has taught me – but at the time it was bloody awful. I didn’t feel I could talk to anyone about it, I was so ashamed. I also had a great role model in my mother, who went through a divorce and the death of two immediate family members in the space of two years, and raised both my sister and I pretty much single-handedly – including during our monstrous teenage years, which she really didn’t deserve. She was – and still is – so determined and energetic, always pushing for us to get the best out of ourselves. In spite of her capabilities, I’ve also seen her struggle with hugely negative self image – something which plagues many women and which I resolved to challenge if I possibly could.

Many people struggle with knowing what they want to be (do). You seem resolute. Any tips and tricks?
Hmmm, not sure. Read a lot – it was the glamour of journalism, conveyed in a trashy chick lit novel when I was 11, that made me decide I wanted a media empire! Clearly, I’m a long way off. But i’ve always wanted to write.

Libertine - Colourliving
The Comedy Issue (4) Jessica Hynes – Cover Girl and feature

Libertine - Colourliving
The Comedy Issue (4) Eight page Food and Drink shoot

Libertine - Colourliving
The Comedy Issue (4) Scared of public speaking? Throw yourself in at the funny end

You started Libertine exactly one year ago. What trigger made you decide to take the plunge and step into the media arena where most women’s magazines are “synonymous with vacuous celebrity and mindless consumption”? Sheer bloody-mindedness. The more people tell me something won’t work the more I want to prove them wrong! I had the idea for almost a decade – i’d always wanted to be a journo but when it came to doing work experience there just wasn’t a magazine out there that I really cared about or identified with, and that feeling of alienation only got more pronounced as the years progressed. I also spent a few years in trend research, keeping a close eye on which business models weren’t working and which were, particularly in digital media and publishing. With the help of Kate Mew, my friend and former colleague who’s just joined the project, we devised a plan for something that was much bigger than a magazine and would incorporate lots of different revenue streams, from retail to events. What we’re trying to do is build a global lifestyle brand and network for thinking women. On a shoestring. Should be easy! (I am kidding. It will definitely not be easy. But it’s definitely worth a try.)

Is Libertine seen as a niche magazine? I suppose it is at the moment, from the perspective that we only print 1,500 copies of each issue and have not yet properly launched our digital presence. But everyone I’ve spoken to recognises how huge the market is, both in the UK and abroad.

What can one expect from an issue of Libertine? We try to strike a balance between premium lifestyle content and intellectual (but crucially, accessible – I can’t stand jargon!) content – particularly tech, science, business and any other ‘serious’ subjects that are traditionally mostly marketed to a male audience. Our anniversary issue was Comedy-themed and had an eight page food and drink shoot alongside a think piece on the power of parody and an essay on the social media superstars of Vine (a network which allows you to share 6-second video clips with followers). The previous issue was Cities and Power-themed, and had a few analytical pieces around smart cities, invisible networks of power and living architecture, as well as a ‘Power dressing’ shoot starring the fabulous Caryn Franklin.

Libertine - Colourliving
The Cities & Power Issue (3) Power dressing shoot starring the fabulous Caryn Franklin

Libertine - Colourliving
The Cities & Power Issue (3) The Power on the Brain – Professor Ian Robertson on the psychology of winning in male and female brains

What’s the average age of your readership? What’s the feedback been so far? We target women over 35 – and particularly women in their 40s and 50s – and they are doubly marginalised in the media. The most fun, interesting and inspiring women I know are in their 40s and 50s – they’re reinventing themselves constantly and don’t care what anyone thinks, but this is certainly not how they’re portrayed in the media. We also have a lot of younger readers (mid-20s and up) who share a lot of their values – ambitious, curious – who are more active on Twitter and have bought into the community that way. We’ve just completed our first reader survey and feedback has been wonderful – so many echoes of “Thank god someone has finally done this!”. We’re releasing the results in our newsletter this weekend, in case anyone is interested! You can sign up on our homepage.

Congratulations on your latest issue that just hit the shelves. You’ve changed the goalpost and are now offering a tiered membership scheme. Can you expand? As you’ve pointed out, Libertine is breaching unknown territory – we’ve always been adamant that our advertising would reflect our values (and the values of our audience) and so we need to be constantly innovating around the business model; we need to be able to say no to ads that promote negative gender stereotypes. Early feedback has been that readers want more digital content, and more from the network and community, particularly around events. So we’ve introduced a tiered scheme which will still allow people to have access to print and digital content, with a slightly higher tier to incorporate events access. We’ll also incorporate a digital only tier for overseas subscribers when the new site launches – we’ve had a lot of interest from the US.

Libertine - Colourliving

Libertine - Colourliving
The History Issue (2) Renaissance Redux – an interview with artist Christian Tagliavini, who interprets history in a surprising way

It would be inspiring to meet fellow Libertine readers. Will we be able to do so at your forthcoming events? Definitely! The last event we had, for the Cities & Power issue, was very successful but the one piece of feedback was that people would have liked to socialise with each other rather than just listening to speakers. We’ll be doing more of these this year – watch this space!

You are a young and very inspiring entrepreneur. What would you say are the most important elements for female entrepreneurship? That’s very kind. I’ll only consider myself an entrepreneur when we’ve existed successfully! I don’t see female entrepreneurship being different to male entrepreneurship; perhaps women doubt themselves more but I think this caution is a good thing in the long run. Having said that, the team would probably say i’m quite impulsive – I like to get things done quickly and don’t think there’s time for being too meticulous about planning on a start-up. As long as you’re transparent about the fact you’re a work in progress, people are incredibly supportive – particularly when there’s a social mission underlying what you do (ours is to change the way women are represented in the media).

Libertine - Colourliving
Issue (1) Quel Spectacle! Luxury specs guide

Libertine - Colourliving
Issue (1) Chic Lit! Wearing Trousers!? In the 1920’s that said a lot about a woman

I can’t wait to see how Libertine progresses, goes from strength to strength and makes a real dent in mainstream media for the intelligent and interested woman. Any final thoughts? The only thing I would ask is that people support our forthcoming crowdfunding campaign to help us make that dent a bit more noticeable – if you sign up to the newsletter I’ll let you know as soon as it launches. Thanks so much.

Thank you Debbi for your time and your wise words! I love your ‘can-do’ attitude and have no doubt that you’ll succeed in every way! I certainly will support you in any way I can and hope that any ‘interested’ women out there will do so too.

I hope you all feel as inspired as I do. I’m fortunate to own all 4 issues.. you won’t be able to find the first 3 issues on Libertine’s website any longer as they’ve all sold out. Maybe try some of their stockists for issue 3.

Libertine - Colourliving

I’m very excited about the new development of tiered membership. I think it’s a fabulous idea. I’m particularly looking forward to the Libertine’s events and can’t wait to meet more like-minded women.

This post will stay live until Thursday 20th March. Have a good week!

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  • Reply Shona March 13, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for telling me about this new magazine for women. I will definitely subscribe. Can’t wait to read it.

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

      Shone, I think… or maybe I know… you will love it. Also be great to see you at their forthcoming events x

  • Reply magCulture – we love magazines March 14, 2014 at 9:49 am

    […] Interview with Libertine editor Debbie Evans as issue four lands, ‘Early feedback has been that readers want more digital content, and more from the network and com… […]

  • Reply Louise - 30s Magazine March 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Sounds interesting. Would love to get my hands on one to read and browse some more.

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Hope you can find a copy in Holland. At least maybe subscribe to their newsletter for now… Thanks Louise!

  • Reply Alexandra March 14, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    I always loved womens’ magazines, ever since I was a teenager. I spent so much money on them, but I managed to cut down on that, not least thanks to the internet that gives me access to better content. Or

    Now the same magazines I used to love so much bore and/or annoy me. Just a few weeks ago I was reminded of a very ambitious magazine here in Germany. It had great optical appeal, interesting articles, and every issue had an insert with a huge art poster by an artist featured in the issue. Sometimes there were even instructions on what you could do with it – I remember one time you were encouraged to fold it into a fashionable hat 🙂
    I was given a subscription to this magazine (I wish I could remember the name!) by my brother’s girlfriend, securing a place in my heart.

    I feel Libertine is something similarily exciting and smart, and I hope I can manage to find a copy of it. I’ll put it on my shopping list for when I visit my friend in England!

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:12 am

      hahahaha, that’s probably called ‘growing up’ and finding different interests and values.

      Oh, I ish you would remember the name of the magazine in Germany… sounds interesting. Going to Berlin in a couple of days so will visit:
      Do you read me?! for new ‘fodder’

      If you subscribe to their newsletter you’ll get to find out what they’re up to….
      Thanks Alexandra, hope you’re well.

  • Reply Anya Jensen March 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I used to read lots of womens’ mags (you know me Tina) but for many years I have only been reading interiors magazines and photography ones. This one looks awesome – and Debbi sounds so fab. A thinking gals mag perhaps – I will be sure to look for it here. Thanks for a great interview Tina – and happy weekend everyone Axx

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Haha, I do know you and can just imagine:-))

      Yes, when our interests change we tend to navigate towards magazines that support those. Interiors and Photography are great but sometimes I just want a damn good read, and a woman’s magazine for the intelligent and interested woman is really what’s needed.

      Thanks Anya, hope the new job is going well xx

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey March 16, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I haven’t heard of Libertine but then guess I’m not the target audience 😉
    It’s a fantastic venture and great to see an intelligent periodical like this on the market.

    It’s interesting to me that in terms of female entrepreneurship Debbi feels “perhaps women doubt themselves more…” This hasn’t been my experience of women, particularly when I lived in London (but that’s another story entirely). I believe anyone can be entrepreneurial, but for me they need to maintain a personality and sense of empathy in whatever they do. It seems that Debbi & Libertine are doing just this very thing. I wish the publication all the best of luck as it develops and grows.

    And Debbi, try to get yourself on Monocle 24’s show “The Stack” with Tyler Brûlé. Would be great publicity.

    Thanks Tina for a cool interview xx

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:21 am

      Ha. Guess you’re not the target audience. However, as a writer I expect you to look ‘sideways’ and know what’s going on in the media scene (only kidding).

      Well, I wonder whether you’ve had the unfortunate experience of only encountering bossy and power mad women… most women I know do doubt themselves..

      I wholeheartedly agree, to be a good leader or entrepreneur requires a lot of soft skills and here’s where women score, especially women like Debbi (IMHO.
      It’s about teamwork, about having listening skills and about knowing what your audience wants.

      A few days ago, Debbi issued a newsletter revealing the results of their 1st year publication survey. It was honest, communicative and throughout she mentioned they would look to increase/decrease what people wanted while still maintaining their original vision.

      Good point Gerard. I love listening to Stack and am not sure Debbi has been on it.

      Pleasure love xx

  • Reply Holly March 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Changing the way women are perceived in the media … errr YES PLEASE! and Thank you Debbi! And thank you Tina, so glad to find out about Libertine here!

    I recently watched a Ted Talk by Tracey Spicer about how much time we (women) could gain if we spent less time excessively grooming. Ha! It was funny, ja, but struck such a chord with me about the kinds of things we blindly accept doing just because it’s expected. It’s enraging actually. One must challenge. And it seems Libertine is going to do that. I wish it all the best and am going to sign up for newsletter now 🙂

    Also, the sneak peeks Tina’s provided are visually a real splendid treat! Always a bonus 😉


    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:24 am

      I’ll be intrigued to see if :’Do you read me’ carries Libertine… let’s go and find out.. can’t wait to see you in a couple of days xx

      Oh, thanks for the TT suggestion. Will go and listen.
      I know, that grooming malarky is a bitch! I tend to do the minimum I can get away with sometimes as there are so many more exciting things to do but
      sometimes I like it and see that as a treat…

      Love it that you’re on board here.
      The Comedy Issue is visually stunning!!!
      Thanks H xx

  • Reply Giova Brusa March 17, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Sounds like an amazing magazine.
    Can’t wait to find it and go through it.
    I really hope they succeed, especially the part where “advertisement will reflect their values.” In my opinion this is where most magazines go in the wrong direction.
    Hope to hear more from them, signing up for the newsletter 🙂

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Hi Giova,

      I’m not sure what kind of women’s magazines you guys have in Holland.
      This is really a good one. You’re right, keeping to ones mission and value system is so important. With magazines I think they
      are trying to survive in this cut throat market and keeping one’s integrity is sometimes hard.

      That’s why I love that Debbi and team have decided to change the model and make it a membership only venture. Like that you have more control.
      I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading their newsletter.

      Remind me to bring a copy of the magazine to show you when we meet up in London.

  • Reply Mel March 18, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Brava! Really we need more woman like you Debbi so thank you for making a difference and giving us a choice! My question was going to be, “when are you going digital or sending O/S” but you answered it for me and I’ve now signed up for newsletters and look forward to your new site. Sorry to hear of your experience when you were in your teens but so true that it’s these moments that truly make a person. Great interview questions Tina and thanks for the introduction. Mel xx

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Hi Mel,

      So what women’s magazines do you guys have in New Zealand?
      Glad you signed up to the newsletter and will stay in touch to see what’s next…

      Yes, those moments do form us and I believe that people going through hardship get a sense of survival instinct and depth in life that is often not achieved by the ones who don’t. There’s no good or bad, right or wrong.. it just is and that’s fine! Thanks Mel x

  • Reply Doris March 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you for introducing me to Libertine Magazine Tina. I will check it out. Great interview and I really appreciated the way the questions were answered so openly regarding her traumatic teens. Debbi seems to be an inspiring and determined women and I’m sure that the magazine will be a success. xD

    • Reply tina March 19, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      Pleasure Doris.

      Yes, loved that Debbi was open, vulnerable and so honest. Best way really and everyone can learn from that!.
      Hope you enjoy the magazine! x

  • Reply alisonsye March 20, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    I don’t really read ‘women’s’ magazines, but this looks great – thanks Tina

    • Reply tina March 28, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Yes, imagine you don’t.. but this is worth it, trust me:-) x

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