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For director of The Ascender Johnston Ayala, the idea of creating a digital magazine about the future presented a great opportunity to marry together subject matter and medium.

Not only would he be producing a new digital title using the latest technologies and offering interactivity, but the magazine itself will feature stories around the theme of the future. As described on Kickstarter, the content will cover "futuristic thought and innovation across cultural genre".

Earlier this month Ayala launched The Ascender's Kickstarter page, where he is trying to crowdfund $16,000 by 28 June. At the time of writing more than $5,000 has been pledged, with two backers each donating $1,000 or more to the project.

How the idea came about

Back in 2008, in the course of "trying to figure out where journalism was going and how I wanted to apply that to my own life", Ayala came up with the idea of creating a magazine "about the future".

"I can't really say I'm a futurist but I'm very interested in pushing forward journalism, the future of books, the future of magazines," he said, "so I was like 'why don't I make that the concept of the magazine itself?'.

He added: "I wanted to do something important. I want to do something that matters to people and has the ability to change some things and I think that ultimately, by looking at these stories in the future, that we can create a better future."

The Ascender will be published once every two weeks, with the hope that the funding – if met – will carry it through at least the first two months of operation. It will contain feature-style pieces of around 1,800 to 2,500 words in length.

The Ascender
The Ascender, image by imagea.org

Asked about the length of articles he said he wanted features to be long enough to be "very investigative" but not to make readers feel that it "is going to take five days to read this story".

"I want there to be a happy medium there between having it be long-enough where we can do an in-depth investigative piece, but not be overwhelming."

He added that he wants to "invest in quite a few new ways to tell these stories", in ways which will offer readers an interactive and multimedia experience.

"I think that this subject-matter is really perfect for it," he said.

The project is still in the early stages, but Ayala said he is "starting to put together the first couple of issues" and organising "the editorial calendar".

Much of the focus recently has also been about getting the Kickstarter campaign launched, with the idea this will not only help source funds and reach new readers, but also draw in others who might be interested in working on content for the magazine.

"I was a little hesitant at first," he said, "just for the reasons you're nervous about Kickstarter: you have to really put yourself out there, you have to be willing to fail, and I guess it's only natural to feel a little bit nervous about that.

"But ultimately I was like, 'I believe in what I'm doing and that's the most important thing'."

He added that in time the plan is to build a "modern, digital publishing company", with The Ascender to be one of a number of titles within its portfolio of products and tools.

Ensuring flexibility with HTML5


The Ascender will be "HTML5-based", Ayala explained. Not only will this help to support his ambitions in terms of how the content is presented, as mentioned earlier, but also supports his strategy to avoid being "locked into one platform".

"That's going to be a very important part of how we move forward," he said. "I believe that's what's going to make us successful. Investing in that and having it be able to get across platforms is going to be such a huge part of our ultimate success so I'm very big on doing the due diligence."

The magazine will first be launched as a web app, with an iOS app to follow. "From there we can start worrying about expanding on Android and then to Kindle and getting across more platforms", Ayala added.

As well as subscriptions for the magazine editions, there are also plans to build an engaged community online "where the readers can interact with other readers, can get behind the scenes footage of editorial outtakes".

"I want to have a very two-way conversation with our readers," he said, "so they can talk to the editorial staff, they can get lots of different types of feedback, in very engaging, interactive way."

The idea will then be to introduce "one-at-a-time, brand sponsorships" around that community.

"It's not going to be this overwhelming, tons of ads on the side, but I'm thinking just a one-at-a-time, maybe two-week buys or month-buys, that brands can have on the community and on the website too."

In addition, Ayala also plans to offer futurism merchandise as a third potential revenue stream.

Currently the aim is to launch the first edition of The Ascender by the beginning of September.

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