RCL Exclusive

The 18 Best Indie Magazines That Prove Print Isn’t Dead

They’re packed with eye candy and pages you’ll actually read cover-to-cover.

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Print, they say, is dead.

Which is true — for the monthly glossies and newsprinted dailies that once dominated checkout lines and city-corner kiosks. Their relevance, page counts and editorial staffs are dwindling with a quickness, advertisers shunning them in favor of the (largely unfounded) promises of the all-consuming and data-driven world of digital.

But in their place, a new form of print journalism has risen, and even thrived. We’re talking about the world of independent magazines, the unlikely hero of the 24-hour news cycle. According to The Financial Times, alt-mag distribution service Stack reported a 32% growth in subscribers in 2017, with The Guardian having cited 76% growth for the same service back in 2014 (it launched in 2008).

So what are they doing differently? Why are the monoliths of media being put to pasture while frisky young upstarts continue to find purchase? The answer is simple, if a bit hard to define: quality.

An independent magazine, as far we can tell, no longer refers to a staple-bound packet passed around in rock ‘n’ roll venues or high-school hallways, but rather any work of “slow journalism,” which can be thought of as the spiritual antithesis of clickbait.

Where clickbait is hastily assigned and edited, often riddled with factual errors and intended to leave the popular consciousness almost as quickly as it enters it, slow journalism is built for a long and healthy shelf life. It is typically printed on cardstock, distributed quarterly or bimonthly, and filled with rigorously edited longform stories and original photography, illustrations and graphics. Slow journalism is not something to be tossed in the waste bin after a quick skim; it is meant to be displayed, ogled and admired.

Independent magazines also — vitally — tend not to depend on ad dollars for their sustenance. Most come with a bit of sticker shock, which their readers see as a fair tradeoff for quality. Still others (like the Facebook-backed GROW or Away luggage’s Here), may be viewed as marketing vehicles for the tech companies that operate them.

The only remaining question, then, is where to begin your own journey into the world of slow journalism. Luckily, the kaleidoscope of titles covers just about any subject or interest one can think of, 100 of which we’ve compiled and categorized below for your dutiful perusal.

We at RCL slimmed the pickings down to highlight the best magazine of each category, giving you the definitive answer on which to read. Should you want more options, head over to InsideHook’s original article

Sports

magazines
Best of the best? Victory Journal covers it all.

Victory Journal
Biannual
Think of the “journal of sport and culture” as the New Yorker meets Sports Illustrated, in newspaper form. They also have a nascent video division.

Sneak peek: Why “America’s first extreme sport” is reaching new audiences / Video: The perfect game of putt-putt

Travel

magazines
Learn so much about a single Italian town you’ll seem like a local.

Flaneur
Biannual
A magazine in which each issue focuses entirely on a single street? That’s right.

Sneak Peek: Notes From a Mobile Phone Diary

Erotica

magazines
Launching Emily Ratajkowski’s career, TREATS! is of course a favorite at RCL.

Normal
Quarterly
Artistic nudes, sure, but this French journal is just as much about fashion, cinema and contemporary photography … with the occasional erotic David Lynch photo essay.

Sneak Peek: Women seen by women / The B&W photography of Szymon Brodziak

Literature

magazines
Subscribe here to discover authors before they publish their first New York Times best seller.

Tin House
Quarterly
Supplements original fiction and poetry with literary criticism, author interviews and food writing. Especially notable for its “New Voices” section, which highlights previously unpublished authors.

Sneak Peek: The Non-Writer’s Guide to Easy Cocktail Party Conversation

Fashion

magazines
Keep your ahead above season-long trends with fashion mags that don’t even publish every season.

Men in This Town
Biannual
Based on the popular Australian street style blog, MITT focuses on “capturing men with a distinct look in their natural habitat” — in other words, finding regular dudes with dope style on the street all over the world and then interviewing them to get a peek into the rest of their lives.

Sneak peek: Stylish fellas like this one / and this one / and this one

Art

magazines
A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Aesthetica
Quarterly
A sumptuous exploration of contemporary photography and visual art to feast your eyes upon.

Sneak Peek: Surreal TopographiesAtmospheric Intent

Technology

magazines
Tech may have print in a death grip, but these publishers aren’t holding any grudges.

Offscreen
Triannual
As its name states, this mag is meant to provide a moment away from the screen for people who are consumed by them. It explores this world through interviews with the people moving the industry; think pieces and scoops on brand-new gadgets and technologies.

Sneak Peek: An Exist Strategy / The Disaster Factory

Vice

magazines
But this one away when your mother comes to visit.

TTTism
Annual
Tattoo culture, from its history and traditions through its modern-day practitioners, as told through profiles, essays and photography,

Sneak Peek: Palaung and Shan: The Black Warriors of Burma / Tattoo Profile: Hayden Gan De Mari

Vehicles

magazines
A book full of pages you’ll want to tear out and tack onto your garage walls.

Lollipop
Intermittent
At the crossroads of conceptual photography and Formula One comes a magazine you’ll want to dismember and tack onto your garage walls.

Sneak peek: This photographer shoots 230 MPH Formula One cars on a camera from 1913 / The greatest Formula 1 magazine you’ve never heard of

Music

magazines
These options have the earnest passion a number of other music sites have lost.

Wax Poetics
Quarterly
It’s wax as in vinyl, and inside you’ll find coverage of hip-hop, jazz, reggae, blues and more, interspersed with history lessons and takeaways about important books and films.

Sneak Peek: A Mac Miller Interview from the archives

Action Sports

magazines
Fanatical coverage from wave crests to mountain caps.

Huck
Bimonthly
Dedicated to exploring “the many facets of radical culture,” Huck not only provides a healthy dose of skate, surf and snow, but also music, art, pop culture and activism — all shot with a gritty, realist eye.

Sneak Peek: The Skateboarders Fighting for a Better Future / The Post-Apocalpytic Impact of Late Capitalism

Science and Nature

magazines
Nat Geo was your father’s nature plug, these are yours.

Beside
Biannual
Instead of man versus wild, Beside breaks down our relationship with nature (from migration to fly fishing), advocating for symbiosis.

Sneak Peek: We ate the bluefin tuna nearly to extinction. We can stop now. / Bernie Krause on preserving the voices of the wilderness before they disappear forever

Food and Drink

maagzines
The subscription for any true Epicurean.

Noble Rot
Quarterly
A cheeky, graphic-tastic food-and-wine mag meant to blur the lines between gastronomy and the creative arts.

Sneak Peek: Unhyped: Celebrating Off-Radar, Old-School and Classic Restaurants

Film

magazines
Your Oscars prep.

Little White Lies
Five issues/year
Film subjects high (Agnes Varda’s Faces Places) and low (Dwayne Johnson’s Skyscraper) are reviewed with equal fervor in this poppy film journal.

Sneak peek: In praise of Dazed and Confused at 25 / A review of First Reformed

Design

We all know one insufferable architect in our lives.

Apartamento
Biannual
See how the other half lives in this digestible, expertly curated look inside the homes and minds of international creatives, intellectuals and people of good taste.

Sneak Peek: Interview with Dominique NabokovTrix and Robert Haussman

Current Affairs

magazines
Sometimes your morning news hour just doesn’t cover it.

Good Trouble
Intermittent
Old-school journalism in format (broadsheet newspaper), new-school protest in content (cataloging resistance movements around the world).

Sneak peek: The only lifeboat in Japan / The art of Diamond Stingily

LGBT

magazines
Queer and minority art has always flourished through independent publishing.

Gertrude
Biannual
At 20 years, the literary-based Gertrude is the longest consecutively published queer journal — although, sadly, they recently moved the “journal” part online. However, they now publish (in print) fiction and non-fiction themed “chapbooks” and have their own quarterly, subscription-based book club.

Sneak Peek: Girlhood, a brief history of everyday violence / Fade Into You: An excerpt from Nikki Darling

Photography

magazines
These magazines prove there’s more to it than “point and shoot.”

Noice
Intermittent
Doesn’t take itself too seriously but still has a discerning eye for all things photographic, plus a very open policy on calling for submissions from readers, often showcasing upcoming artists.

Sneak Peek: Issue 002 – The Red Issue / Issue 004 – Nice Dude

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