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How To Run An Independent Football Magazine, With Nutmeg Magazine’s Ally Palmer

Founded in September 2016, Scotland’s Nutmeg has become one of the leading sports publications in the UK and has earned that success with a unique style of journalism.
Artwork by Archie Willis.

Archie Willis

Archie Willis is the founding editor of FUTBOLISTA Magazine, and has written several cover features for the magazine. He is currently studying a BA Honours degree in Journalism, Media & Communication and Spanish at the University of Strathclyde. Archie has also written for The Herald and FTBL Cult. @_archiewillis

In Scotland, the newspaper industry is seen by many to be largely bereft of quality. Much time, attention and money is directed towards football (well, two clubs in particular), while sufficient political and cultural coverage of a potentially soon-to-be independent country is lacking. Scottish newspapers do exist – from the Glasgow Times to The Press and Journal in Aberdeen – but mostly fail to inspire or innovate.

Budgets have been cut and jobs lost as Scotland’s newspapers continue stumbling into the digital age of the 21st century. At a recent university lecture on the media, my lecturer was quick to bemoan the dreariness of journalism at The Herald in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s The Scotsman – arguably Scotland’s two biggest titles. Whether read by academics, students or the general public, Scottish newspapers are perceived to have failed to take part in the creativity and dynamism of online journalism, as well as remaining prominent in print.

Today, much of the value in news consumption lies in the experience. The New York Times is critically acclaimed for its visual storytelling online, Spain’s El Diario (which exists solely as a website) has become the country’s most trusted source for informative reporting while The Guardian’s creative Weekly magazine celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019 and counts readers across the globe.

It is proof that a touch of creativity in communicating the news, both online and in print, can go a long way in securing the future of journalism. While Scotland’s oldest newspapers largely remain the country’s most trusted titles in news media, many journalists and creatives – dissatisfied with the rules and restrictions of Scotland’s status quo journalism – have established a growing wave of media outlets doing journalism a little differently.

It is within this creative boom where Scotland’s best journalism can be found. It may not be daily or even weekly news, but it is best placed to efficiently inform and inspire readers.

Ally Palmer is the publisher and designer of Nutmeg Magazine – a 196-page Scottish football publication, with new issues every three months. After finishing work on a remarkable twenty-seventh edition of Nutmeg, he answered my questions on the magazine and the state of the media in Scotland.

What was your inspiration for starting Nutmeg?

I’d been considering something like Nutmeg for some time after coming across a small format Swedish magazine called Offside (which still exists). But then The Blizzard was launched in 2011 which made me put the idea on the back burner. I subscribed to The Blizzard and quickly realised that the format – text-driven, long-form was something that could work for the Scottish market. I spoke to editor Jonathan Wilson and the team at The Blizzard and they were really helpful and open about their experience. This gave me the confidence to launch Nutmeg though I had no idea if it would get past issue one.

What do you think independent magazines/journalism can offer to the media industry in Scotland?

The indie magazine scene is a healthy one and in a strange way reminds me of the early days of punk, when fanzines like Sniffin’ Glue and independent record labels sprung up all over the UK (I was in a post-punk band and we had our own record label). And then the rise of football fanzines in the early 1980s. It was a time when people realised they didn’t have to rely on the mainstream media (and record industry) and do things themselves.

And now social media has helped with the growth of independent magazines as you don’t need to rely on traditional distribution and shops to get your ideas in front of people.

And magazines like Nutmeg can give a platform to young or inexperienced writers at time when budgets at newspapers are being slashed and jobs lost.

What is the value of providing a unique angle on Scottish football, which is covered extensively by newspapers?

With Nutmeg we are always looking for stories that the mainstream media have tended to overlook in the past and not concentrating on our bigger clubs. We understand why other media outlets do this, particularly with their online editions, as they are looking for traffic rather than covering what’s editorially more interesting.

So hopefully publications like ours and programmes like A View From The Terrace show that there is a lot more to Scottish football than Celtic and Rangers.

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