An interview with Cereal editor Rosa Park

 

Darling of the indie publishing world (and instagram), Cereal magazine is famous for their striking design aesthetic, paired back photography and all round discerning taste in travel and style.

Their newest release Volume 12 features our very own Rajasthan (with a side of Agra) and to celebrate, Paper Planes - LOVER's dearest friends and exclusive distributors for Cereal in India - are hosting a launch event featuring photography from the issue as well as pieces from some of Rajasthan’s best contemporary design labels at Ministry of New this Thursday. 

We interviewed editor Rosalia Park to talk two of our favourite topics: independent publishing and travel, and get the dope on the newest issue of Cereal ahead of their India launch.

 

How would you describe Cereal to a new reader?

In very simple terms, I would say a magazine published in the UK about travel and style.

We release 2 issues a year so we’re biannual and it’s a very aesthetically oriented title as lot of emphasis to the visual side of things however the copy itself is also very considered which is why we released a literary supplement called Weekend which is just text only. By doing that we felt like we were giving it the right balance.


What does Cereal cover?

So obviously travel and style are pretty broad terms, quite all encompassing.

Within our travel section we will do your typical travel stories like covering certain sights and destinations and we’ll also interview locals to that area that we really admire, often times architects or designers. And within the style section we cover anything from fashion and interiors to art and design.

It’s quite a wide-ranging title in what we cover but I think it all comes together through the aesthetic sensibility that we always focus on.


Now nearing your fourth anniversary, since you launched what changes have you made to both Cereal itself and the way you do business? Were you always biannual?

We have shifted focus ever so slightly. I like to say that every issue of Cereal is an iteration of itself. We’re still true to the cereal brand but we keep making small tweaks trying to improve it, that’s always the goal.

Initially we were a food and travel title, 50% food and 50% travel. We changed to travel and lifestyle because we realised we could talk about food through the travel lens which is what we preferred anyway. The third iteration was travel and style, that was largely to do with the connotations that come with the word lifestyle in today’s dialogue, I think there is a lot of baggage tied to the word lifestyle these days. So we kind of wanted to break from that and have something much more neutral.

That’s why we went with travel and style. That’s probably where we’re gonna end up for while.


Were you always biannual?

We were quarterly and then we changed to biannual two years ago. We made that decision because we felt that the pace of a biannual title suited us better. Because then you have roughly six months to create each issue and for a small team you really do need that extra time when you’re trying to make the best product possible.

When you’re on a three month calendar, really you only have a month to create the actual content because you’re a month in production, a month in research, and that was way too rushed for us in the end.

That’s why we made that call. I have no doubts that it was the right decision because now we have bigger, better, longer issue of Cereal twice a year.


What about the business itself?

I think all the changes that have happened to the business in the last four years have been fairly organic kind of the growth pattern that most businesses would follow.

Obviously we steadily increased our circulation and reach in terms of how many countries we’re stocked in and how many stores. Then we diversified by offering printed city guide books which Is this book series that we now do. We have London, New York, Paris and Copenhagen with more cities to launch next year. Then we moved on to creating content in partnerships with brands. So there’s a whole other part of the business which is Cereal Partnerships.

We do operate as an unofficial agency. So we offer our creative services to specific brands when they come to us looking for a Cereal style in their product.

All these things happened over time very naturally out of interest from third parties.That’s kind of how we’ve evolved to where we are now, which I would say it’s pretty on point for most media companies.


Who would you say is the Cereal reader?

I always like to think that it’s our peers. Obviously when you create something you have audience in mind and for me it’s always myself and my friends.

Anywhere from 25 to 45 years old is our target age group, kind of very well travelled, design conscious, discerning, younger travellers like myself and Rich. That’s how I envision our readership.


What are your tips for staying in business as an independent publisher?

I don’t think there is a magic answer, you work hard and you hope that your product sells and that you’re bringing in enough money to keep going.

You can’t have creativity without money, and that’s the very honest truth. Because you can have really great ideas that will never see the light of day because you don’t have the money to bring it to life.

I’m sure that’s something lots of independent publishers struggle with. Even purely for content, you want to take the best photos in the best locations with the best stylists and photographers and it costs a fortune so it’s constantly creating a balance and compromise between creative urges and financial realities.

I don’t know what the right balance is, for every publisher it’s different but you just have to find what you’re comfortable with, and keep trying to push yourself so you are creating better content but you’re not irresponsibly spending budgets that you don’t have.


What do indie publishers have that mainstream publishers don't?

A lot of flexibility and agility because you’re independent so you don’t answer to anybody but yourself which not the reality for big publishing companies with boards and lots of investors so that is the number one benefit.


Can you tell us a little bit about the new volume that has just launched?

So we released our new issue at the end of September. I’m sure you know we obviously we have a very big opening section on Rajasthan which we worked on with Kamalan so that’s our big travel focus. We also did a very big section on Southern California which includes Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Ojai.

And we also did a section on the Faroe islands which is just an otherworldly landscape in a very different way from Rajasthan, very green and lush, and Rajasthan’s dry, arid heat. It was a nice mix of destinations actually, mostly non-urban which is a change of pace for us.

We also have what is probably the biggest style section in this title. We did interviews with artists like Lee Ufan. We interview brand founders of a brand that we love called Toast. We have an editorial on jewellery and lighting. So yeah, it’s a real varied issue and I am pleased with how it’s turned out.


I followed your trip here in India on Instagram and it felt quite design-centric with the hotels you chose. How did you decide where to stay?

We chose our hotels together with Kamalan. Working with Kamalan was fantastic because Dheeraj is the nicest guy and he really tries to understand what it is that you’re looking for. They have a set number of hotels that they work with, he gave us some suggestions and we chose what we felt was the most Cereal.

For example, I absolutely loved Raas in Jodhpur. I thought Mihir Garh just outside of Jodhpur was also equally lovely. The Imperial in New Delhi is a very classic property. We definitely stayed in properties that we felt were in line with our title. That’s something we always do, we also have to make hotel recommendations therefore the places that we stay have to reflect our brand most of the time.


What was the highlight of your trip to India?  

I just really remember the architecture actually. I was pretty blown away to see the intricacy of the buildings, and I was just saying to Rich the other day what I witnessed, which I understand is a very small percentage of what exists in Rajasthan, is that despite how intricate and ornate these palaces were, they didn’t feel garish. Everything just worked - the colour palate, the tile work.

I often find when I go to palaces in Europe It’s very grand but it’s a little bit OTT and it’s not to my taste. But it was the opposite in Rajasthan, these palaces were just incredible. I think the architectural scale is something I’ll always remember, and they’re always kind of overlooking the cities with these views and I will always have those images in my head I think.


What is a day like on the road like versus a day back at home?

When we’re travelling, it’s hard to say what our day looks like. It’s always different depending on why we’re there, what we’re doing. I suppose when we’re travelling it’s very early morning because our photographers like to wake up for sunrise and I don’t always wake up with them at five in the morning but I try to as much as I can.

We take a lot of meetings when we’re on the road because we’re meeting with various brands, and contacts for potential partnerships. On the road it’s literally that, we are out and about from very early in the morning to very late at night. It’s part of our job to understand the cities so we’re going to all the stores, all the museums and galleries and restaurants. It’s really full on, it’s exhausting so at the end of the trip we’re pretty wiped out but it’s worth it because that’s what we do. We have to understand the places that we cover so that we’re presenting the best information for our readers.

We live in Bath in the south west of England and work in Bristol. When we’re back at the office it’s a little bit more chilled out. We come into work, we catch up on emails, we spend time with our colleagues.

The dichotomy of being in the office and being on the road, it’s nice. It would be nice if we could be in the office more. That’s something for us to work towards next year.


What are your favourite places to recommend to people in Bath and Bristol?

My favourite bookstore is in Bath and it’s called Topping Booksellers, I love Topping because I think it kind of looks like a bookshop from the movies. So you walk in, and it’s just books everywhere, floor to ceiling, on the table, it smells like books, which I love.

They have tons of signed first editions, they have incredible author events, I actually just went to see Margaret Atwood this past Saturday through Topping so i think it’s such a blessing to have a bookshop like that in town. They’re open everyday 8am to 8pm. They serve you free tea and coffee while you browse so that’s definitely my spot.

I also really love getting breakfast or lunch at a small cafe called Sam’s Kitchen in Bath. I think the food they do is really lovely, very relaxed, really laid back vibe. That’s my go-to spot for food.

For coffee I love Colonna and Small’s, which is specialty coffee shop in Bath run by the former UK barista champion.

My favourite menswear store in Bristol is called Hoko. I think it’s actually my favourite menswear store in the UK. I just love their edit. I think that he carries the best brands, he carries Margaret Howell, Acne, Folk, Aesop. It’s really perfect, daily uniform kind of style.


Last question, what makes you most excited about your job?

I guess what’s most exciting is meeting people that I have admired for a really long time and thought I would never meet. But I get to meet them all the time to interview them for the magazine. I do get excited when those occasions arise.
 

 

Follow the event on facebook and RSVP to the launch of Cereal Volume 12 by emailing info@joinpaperplanes.com

Image: Jantar Mantar courtesy Cereal magazine.