21 October 2014, 12:06
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The Story of a Magazine With An 'Accent'

ImYerevan revisits an important interview with our founder, Gor Nakhapetyan, recalling the history of Armenia's first high quality entertainment and lifestyle magazine: Yerevan Magazine. How has this project been an important part of re-imagining Armenia in the twentieth century? And is it fair to say that it's more than a magazine?

For many outside of Armenia, Yerevan Magazine was the only way of familiarizing themselves with Armenia’s history and culture without having to travel to the region. Would you begin the interview by telling us a little bit about how Yerevan magazine started?

Initially, we developed the "Armenia 2020" initiative to try and foresee Armenia’s future and imagine its possible development options. This initiative arose repeatedly during meetings and conferences and it was established that there was a need for a media outlet. At that point, social networks had not yet developed. The Internet was not available to everyone, everywhere. There was simply a lack of information in the Armenian community and the diaspora, all over the globe, did not really know the situation. There were few publications to inform them, yet at the same time, they are teaching Armenian language and culture in schools. They ask children, “So, who are your heroes?” And the answer is that they have none. There are no concrete examples, no pictures to show them. One of the reasons for this is because there’s just no one broadcasting about modern Armenian heroes. Armenia is a modern society, and modern people deserve information broadcasted about them.

The “Armenia 2020" project came out of this need. We discussed various other issues, such as certain brands, symbols of Armenia, and the steps we needed to take to help global audiences get acquainted with its culture. We published books, organized exhibitions and concerts, and of all this was based on the idea of unity. It caused us to wonder the idea of a media resource and it was Ruben Jaghinyan, who proposed to create a new, modern Armenian magazine. Proactive in working as a group, we put together a team. We created a business plan and decided to make investments. We worked with the company, Mediacrat, and in May of 2005, finally released the first issue of Yerevan Magazine, the goal of which was a outlet for broadcasting contemporary figures, history, culture and travels. Our motto became the “magazine with an accent” because Yerevan Magazine was the first publication in Russia to cater directly to the two million Armenians living in the country. We hoped to establish an Armenian community that was more active culturally and informed of its historical context to foster a better connection between them.

 

When the first issue was published, there was a unanimous claim that one or two months after the publication, you would exhaust all of your content.

Yes, there were such concerns. But one of our creators, Marina Levashovayi, was adamant about rejecting those fears, and said, "We should be open to including everything because after writing, something else always happens."

And really, we were surprised to see crowds of materials generated during the creation of the magazine. We learned of new people, new developments in the world, new stories. We started doing doing investigative journalism and made sensational discoveries. Oftentimes, people came to us with useful information.

What problems did you face initially?

Some time later, we realized that we had made some mistakes in certain areas of our business model. We decided that the journal should have high quality on all fronts – good printing and tasteful content – so that it could be disseminated widely. We thought, “We've got all this great investment, it’s only natural that we have some source of income for the project.” We wanted to print within the media advertising market, but major companies, as you might notice, have a strict rule: no commercial, national, or religious journals.

But we fought for our idea and one of our biggest successes is the fact that we were able to overcome this rule. We created a national press magazine. Our magazine took on new projects. I tried to create a large-scale business through media entertainment. We opened a satellite office in the United States (L.A.) with printing and web design studios and launched the English version of the magazine. After that, Armenian in Armenia.

But after a while, it became clear that the costs of maintaining this model was extremely high. Many of our partners were not prepared to continually fund the project. So, in the end, I bought their share. Then, I realized that I was the only leader in developing and disseminating the publication. All of a sudden, I saw it was no longer a business, but a charity project.

When did they realize that the project and was successful?

There were indirect signs. For example, if your friend from Brazil or Japan put out magazine pictures saying, “Go to Boston Airport,” that means that it is everywhere. It’s not a joke! So, signs were there indirectly or directly. Anyway, it was a fact that the magazine was distributed in 50 countries. The second signal that it was successful was by the immense reactions we received and gratitude from our audience, following the stories published in the journal.

That’s when we realized that Yerevan Magazine was an important means of communication. For example, a landscape architect with a business plan who was looking for contacts, through the broad audience of our magazine, came into contact with many young painters, sculptors, musicians and designers. The key to success statistics was also demonstrated by means of imitation.

Another sign that we were headed in the right direction was that after Yerevan Magazine had become famous in Moscow, a magazine from Baku appeared shortly thereafter. But there was one more sign. Many people who previously did not want to communicate with the press turned to Yerevan magazine, wanting to be associated with its name and reputation.

With time, we were able to start collaborating with many well-known journalists and photographers. And it was finally apparent that we had made it when somebody coined the expression, “There are two good things in Armenia: konyak and Yerevan magazine.”

 

Would you say that Yerevan became one of Armenia’s brands?

Yes, I think I would. It helped form opinions about Armenia and Armenians, certainly contributing to the image of Armenia: "Armenia 2020" has had a very important focus; to make Armenia a competitive, to make Armenians desire to do business there, and to demonstrate that its varying situations has not changed its name. So Armenians could be proud of their origins. Yes, the magazine was working for the country and the idea of a national brand might seem strange. But we encountered some difficulties in the media market. When one looks at Yerevan magazine, you think of its good design and its success as a business. But then, the industry began to develop. Financial issues began to present themselves. 

You mentioned the ARGA Fund. It is known that Yerevan magazine, in addition its role as media publication, assists in the implementation of a number of charitable and culturally stimulating projects?

In the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis, my support alone was not enough this time. So I asked my colleagues, and Ruben Vardanyan and A. Arzumanyan, and together we created an ARGA fund. They contributed to the project and we continued as equal partners in the project. We invested 15 million dollars and we wanted to publish it in other languages, like French and Spanish. It was a highly known magazine at its peak, but then the media revolution took place.

The market is now quickly and constantly changing. Print media is losing its effectiveness and becoming increasingly competitive. It funded, for eample, a whole series of books written by foreign authors about the Ottoman times and the Armenian Genocide. The Foundation also sponsored Ruben Tarumyan Arian AMU, a family of fonts in which Armenian can be written. They can be written in all European languages, Cyrillic alphabet, Latin, Greek, Georgian and Hebrew letters. Funding young people get education in performance was also another important point, to help talented students studying abroad. Education has always been the most important “strategic partner” for us. Its importance has increased doubly since we started Yerevan.

Returning to Yerevan magazine. What have you learned from the project?

I did not realize the scope and scale of the Armenian world. I knew that we had a rich history, but I did not realize how attractive it was and how full of interesting contemporary event. As a native of Moscow, I admit to having neglected Russia's outlying regions, for example, Lake Baikal. I realized that I did not know about my country, so to travel to and outside of Armenia reveals a great deal to me each time. It’s funny, but it’s true. 

Yerevan has, in Russia as well as the United States, been the sponsor for many significant cultural events. Were there other ways in the magazine was effective?

I would like to single out tourism, which has the economy declared was a priority. The creation of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia (NCFA) was an excellent example of efforts to stimulate tourism through partnerships with state and private investors. It began to implement various projects, which were initiated and NCFA-'s largest contributor, Ruben Vardanyan. One of its largest successes has been the restoration of the medieval monastery of Tatev and the unique cable car project developed with it.

This huge work was a strong impetus for the development of tourism. So, at the same, we released a special edition issue in Yerevan devoted entirely to the Tatev southern tourist path then emerged "in" other applications in tourism and winter tourism Artsakh about the municipality in conjunction with established in original and striking guidelines: it was no accident that "Armenia" in the motto, "Armenian magazine, not just for Armenians." We understand that the magazine can and should contribute to the growth of tourism in terms of reputation, as it is read not only by Armenians. It also invites many of our colleagues to Armenia and Artsakh and organizes  interesting programs and rediscoveries. It creates a new bridge between Armenia and the outside world. Moreover, we actively participate in and continue to participate in the development of tourism infrastructure.

This magazine is a summary of the last 8 years. What can you conclude?

In 8 years, we have released 88 high quality and popular magazine issues. But for us, they were also 8 years of study to attempt to understand an entire audience of interesting people. We realized, through them, that we have been able to create a competitive product and we are so proud of it. However, methods of information dissemination have fundamentally changed from print media to the Internet.

This trend has drastically affected the Yerevan magazine. And so, we also entered the Internet, keeping a database for our resources like photos and copyrighted materials. From this, we have made an enormous archive of the magazine's existence. All this content from the last 8 years was placed in a free library, presented on imyerevan.com, which is our new website.

But we have not neglected our printing! We continue to take good care of the Yerevan magazine and make sure it is published in Armenian language. It has a unique format -- a focus exclusively on urban issues. It is distributed in cafés and restaurants, free of charge. We want to improve Yerevan, because eventually (and locals will see this, too) we hope that no matter where our audience lives, we can continue to be united by Yerevan, both the city and the magazine. 

Fans of the magazine are wondering, what does the future hold?

We have to create new goals. Our main mission is the same: unity in the Armenian community. We have much to do, but little is talked about it. We are primarily guided by the old saying, “Do good, and throw it in the water.” This, by the way, is a continuation of, “It does not disappear, good comes back around.” In Yerevan, there were many new and interesting monuments, music festivals, and, for example, the initiative magazine decorating Yerevan arches lives to this day - the mayor's office is actively pursuing this project, and all the guests of the city can themselves see the results.

 

Yerevan Magazine, “2005-2013: The Best Of” Special Issue

Հոդվածի ամբողջական հայերեն տարբերակը` այստեղ:

 

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