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Gorkana meets...ShortList's 400th edition

26 November 2015

ShortList publishes its 400th issue this morning, with a cover featuring Michael Caine, Martin Scorsese, Ray Winstone and John Hurt among other greats. Gorkana catches up with editor Martin Robinson to find out why it's been dubbed the free men's magazine's "Greatest Issue", how the tastes of ShortList's 25 to 40-year-old target readers have evolved since its launch and what has been his top feature in the title so far.

Gorkana meets...ShortList's 400th edition

You’ve published the 400th issue of ShortList today, which you've dubbed your 'Greatest Issue'. What makes it stand out from the rest?

It’s thematic rather than descriptive. It’s called ‘The Greatest Issue’ because we’ve photographed and interviewed 15 male icons to find out how they achieved greatness. Although it works the other way too, as I don’t think we’ve ever done a better issue. It’s been a mammoth undertaking.

You put Johnny Depp on the cover of the 200th issue. Who’s made it onto the 400th issue, and why?

We wanted the greatest, the men who made it to the top and stayed there. Our cover features Sir Michael Caine, Sir Steve Redgrave, AP McCoy, John Lydon, Ray Winstone, John Cooper Clarke, Thierry Henry, Sir Paul Smith, John Cleese, Sir John Hurt, Jonathan Ross, Kazuo Ishiguro, Mario Testino, Joe Calzaghe and Martin Scorsese.

Not a bad line-up, is it? I still don’t understand how we pulled it off. All I know is I had to sacrifice a lot of goats.

Talk us though some of the other highlights in today’s issue of ShortList.

Other than the inspirational interviews with our cover stars, we have Frank Skinner, Kevin Bridges and Romesh Ranganathan debating the greatest stand-up comedian; authors Howard Jacobson, Adam Foulds and Stephen Kelman argue over the greatest British novel of the past 100 years; top chefs including Gordon Ramsay and Michel Roux Jr on the greatest British dishes; Pelé talks about the greatest football team, Ben ‘The Stig’ Collins on the greatest supercars… I mean, I could go on, but it’s nearly nap time.

ShortList first launched as a men’s title in September 2007. What do you think have been the biggest changes in the magazine since then?

ShortList was created as an intelligent, witty and stylish read, the magazine ‘for men with more than one thing on their mind’, and that’s a formula that’s remained consistent. I suppose the main changes have been how much our audience has grown – 500,000 copies a week, now hitting 1.8 million uniques a month – and how much authority we have established as a market leader.

As with the rest of the industry we are expanding into video and events. Tonight we have our final gig in our 48 Hours To… series in association with Lynx. Craig David is playing for us. He’s back in a big way, honestly.

How about the magazine's audience? Is it still targeting the same type of man?

Yes, we’re still aimed at your young urban man, 25 to 40, though of course we have adapted to the evolving tastes of that age group, and we now guide them through beards, burgers, craft beer, Netflix, superheroes, Tinder, hacking and the top knot.

You joined ShortList in 2011. What’s been your favourite feature since taking the reins?

We ran an ‘Ages of Man’ story a couple of years ago where we interviewed 30 real men from different generations – ages four to 105 – for their thoughts on masculinity. It was funny, smart, inspirational and quite beautiful. We like to show the best of men at ShortList, and this story really delivered on that.

Since the magazine first launched, there’s been a plethora of titles taking on the free model. Why has the free model worked so well for ShortList?

Well, straight off the bat, it’s because we were the first. The ones who took the chance, built an audience and proved it could work. But what made it a success was that ShortList is a quality product, with great journalism, high-end design and a brilliant tone. Innovative models only get you so far – fundamentally, you need a quality publication at the heart of it.

However, if you can make a magazine that people love and whose model enables it to reach a huge audience, then you then have something pretty powerful.

400 issues means a LOT of emails from PRs. Describe your relationship with the PR community.

Good, I think we’re very approachable and available at ShortList, we have an ethic about being responsive. But yes, maybe give the emails a break and try smoke signals for something new.

How best can they help with content?

Let us know why their thing is important to modern men. You have to attune to the magazine.

What’s the best way for them to stand out when pitching?

As above. Show you know ShortList and have thought about how your product works for us. A phone call works wonders, too. Whisky and chips, even better.

Finally, what do you think the magazine will look like when you hit 600 issues?

It will take the form of a gas, which you inhale to read.