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03 . 10 . 18

Gossamer: Thinking outside the (hot) box

Words by: Print Power
Well, look what we just found: a magazine that hooks readers by immersing them in the stories around a thing – rather than the thing itself. It just so happens that thing is marijuana…
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“Weed itself is probably the least interesting thing about weed.”

It’s an odd comment coming from Verena von Pfetten, former digital editorial director at Lucky and co-founder of Gossamer – a cannabis-centric media company and print magazine that refuses to be boxed in by its central theme.

So, let’s park the bloodshot eyes, the munchies and Brad Pitt’s bravura stoner performance in True Romance for a second, okay, folks? This is a cannabis mag that goes beyond the blunt (pun intended) use of the product and speaks to the lifestyle around it.

“We wanted to push back against those stereotypes and talk to the community we’d met,” says David Weiner, co-founder of the magazine and former chief creative officer at news aggregator Digg. “These are open minded, non-judgemental, adventurous people. They’re interested in the world. They like to try new things. They pay attention to the story behind the stuff they buy.”

There are no druggy straplines or cannabis leaf paraphernalia in this publication. Hence the strapline: ‘A magazine for people who also smoke weed.’

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“Storytelling works best when you engage someone in the aspects of a thing, without hammering home the thing itself,” explains von Pfetten. “You know, how something makes you feel, how it relates to the rest of your life. And that’s true of any product.”

Which is why you’ll find interesting features that include an ode to William Zabka's turn as the bad guy in Karate Kid, a Q&A with photography duo Tiger Tiger (on such themes as William Blake and obscure ‘80s TV shows), and a love letter to Retry – a 16-bit defunct iPhone game from the creators of Angry Birds.

Von Pfetten likens it to surfing culture, for which you don’t necessarily need to surf to belong. “Maybe you like the ocean or smaller beach towns. Either way, a real community is many people.” They might surf (or smoke) twice a year – or every morning – but there’s that commonality in how they see the world.

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The Gossamer project began late in 2017, with a digital offering that treated readers to an online newsletter, featuring interviews, essays and recommendations, not to mention an event series. So, it’s significant that, at this crucial stage, the creative duo – who both happen to be digital veterans – have turned to print.

“We wanted to put out something that felt curated, of a certain quality, that we could stand behind,” says von Pfetten. “It wasn’t sustainable, or valuable, to publish 50 stories a day and hope maybe one, two or ten got a bit of traction,” she adds – especially for the kind of far-out, introspective content they wanted to create.

There’s also the fact (not lost on the pair) that the act of reading a magazine is a slow down-and-share experience – not dissimilar to toking on a bit o’ the old wacky baccy. In print, there aren’t 4,5,6 or more browser tabs competing for your attention, or pop-up windows to piss you off. In Weiner’s words, print is a very “deliberate” relationship.

“So much of the world right now is ephemeral. It passes you by in the blink of the eye… Even the things you love, you hardly think about within minutes of them leaving your screen. But when it comes to print, having that physical manifestation – not just of the brand, but of the ideas – helps to build the relationship with your audience.”

Smoke what they’re smoking: buy a copy of Gossamer here

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