15 March 2019 Courier Weekly

Instagram’s gift from God: millennial bibles

PLUS: Meditation spaces – Slack communities – Freelancing – Brand building

The good book – upgraded

Do religious texts need to be chic? Alabaster, a Los Angeles-based publishing startup, reckons there’s a market for it.

It’s hoping to have sold £680,000 worth of its bibles by the end of this year, which have been designed to appeal to modern consumers, applying an independent magazine aesthetic.

The books are indeed beautiful – and wouldn’t look out of place in a millennial Instagram feed. (Perhaps laid out on the tabletops of San Francisco restaurant, The Riddler?)

It remains to be seen whether a brand engineered for social shares can stand the test of time – but for now, it’s certainly a canny marketing strategy.

Meditation vs. the UK planning system

When Re:Mind Studio tried to open a meditation studio in London, it ran into an unexpected problem.

Its founder, Yulia Kovaleva, wanted to provide a similar experience to the meditation studios she had visited in LA and New York, which have been growing in popularity for a while now.

But landlords weren’t so keen, Kovaleva discovered. In the UK, meditation is an activity that isn’t specifically covered by the country’s building regulations framework. ‘So many landlords declined us right away,’ Kovaleva says. Those that were happy to let their D2-licensed spaces (the type that yoga studios and gyms use) were offering basement or other similarly dingy units – not suitable for cultivating zen. ‘Finally, we started looking for A1 [retail] spaces, and I developed the idea for a shop [as a workaround],’ she says.

In total it took Re:Mind nine months to find a suitable site. Its Belgravia studio not only offers classes, but also features a shop stocked with brands curated by Kovaleva, such as The Nue Co supplements and Hackney Herbal teas. ‘Pretty much everything you see in the studio you can buy as well,’ she says. While retail wasn’t part of the initial plan, incorporating this extra element has paid off: the shop now accounts for roughly 50% of Re:Mind’s revenues.

Modern message boards

Last week, women-in-tech newsletter Femstreet launched its own Slack channel. Founder Sarah Noeckel, who is also an investor at the UK VC firm Dawn Capital, says over 400 Femstreet readers contacted her to join the channel within 24 hours of the launch announcement.

Not just anyone can join, though: applicants need to have subscribed to the Femstreet newsletter for one month and have a 60% open rate. LeanLuxe, a newsletter focusing on modern luxury, has the same eligibility requirements for its Slack channel.

There are also lots of Slack communities with less strict membership policies providing spaces for coders, marketers, founders and more to chat with each other.

Slack itself is relatively new, but internet chat rooms are obviously not. And while commentators may have lamented the death of the internet forum, we would argue that the concept has simply been modernised.

More proof of the enduring appeal of the message board: in February, Reddit – a community of internet forums – raised £226m.

Earning money as an illustrator

On Wednesday Ben the Illustrator launched the second edition of his global survey of illustrators. Some interesting findings:

  • 52% of illustrators say their workload has increased since last year.
  • 73% don’t earn enough to live sustainably off their trade – also up from last year.
  • 57% aren’t confident that they’re charging the right fees.

It’s not a great picture, and it illustrates how our societal reluctance to discuss money can damage individuals. Talking about money – and understanding how much people earn for their work – puts freelancers in a much better position to negotiate their rates. Author Alex Holder’s new book – Open up: the power of talking about money – tackles this subject.

Building resilient brands

Two interesting stories have come out this week showcasing brands which have managed to do something every company dreams of: create an identity that genuinely resonates with customers.

35-year-old Uniqlo, particularly, has done something other brands its age have struggled to do: appeal to new generations of young consumers. Why? This piece in The Atlantic argues that it’s actually very simple: Uniqlo is cheap and doesn’t bother with trends.

Direct-to-consumer athleisure brand Outdoor Voices, meanwhile, has created an aesthetic that’s suitable for pretty much every activity in life. This New Yorker piece looks at how the brand built a movement around its #doingthings mantra.

Ten things on our radar

  1. Why bankruptcy doesn’t always mean goodbye
  2. How to run an effective networking dinner.
  3. The economics of music videos.
  4. Why are voice assistants always female? Meanwhile, meet the world’s ‘first genderless voice’.
  5. Is it still possible to be a ‘mega influencer’?
  6. Bye-bye avocado toast, banana smoothies and fresh Parmesan. In a no-deal Brexit UK, we’ll all be eating lamb, bread and peas.
  7. DTC shoe brand Allbirds launches a radio showand Intern mag launches a podcast.
  8. Can a multinational giant make ‘craft’ beer? A debate.
  9. Why Stanford is so successful at producing unicorn founders.
  10. Behold: the world’s last Blockbuster branch.