Excerpts from an interview with Antara Dev Sen, one of the founding editors of The Little Magazine
25 November 2006
Arunima: We do have some sense of the kind of vision that TLM began with. But did you feel that there was a certain void in the kind of sort of publications or magazines which were available earlier and did you choose to address that or did you feel that you would create a market which did not exist before?
Antara: It was a bit of both frankly Arunima. Prateek, my partner and I, had been in mainstream media for a very long time. I was senior editor with Hindustan Times, Pratik was Chief Operating Officer of Indian Express Online Group. We realised that we were unable to talk to of a lot of things that we wanted to talk about when we first joined Indian media as journalists since commercial publications would have their own interests. So we decided that we wanted a publication, which would talk about social concerns and about the huge span of literature and culture that we have not just in India but in South Asia as well. We wanted to have long essays which brought various arguments into focus. We wanted the picture behind the news, which then becomes more of a cultural thing. Then you look at the lives of people, at the values, at the kind of atmosphere that they have been nurtured in and all of that brings you to the literature of the country. So literature, the way we looked at it, as journalists, was not removed from everyday news, it was related as the backdrop of what is happening and unless you knew that, you wouldn’t be able to get the full picture.
Shvetal: What was the target audience you had in mind when you started TLM?
Antara: I have also worked for a short while in advertising but I realised that these concepts of a target audience or a target reader are all bunkum, because it largely exists in your own mind. It might work for certain things but it does not work for the media because it depends on whoever picks it up, it depends on what he or she is interested in. You cannot just say that “this is a 14 to 24 year old group in urban India that reads our magazine” It depends on who has access to it. One needed to stop taking data seriously at one point and go with one’s basic common sense and intuition, which told me that there are people like me, people who are interested in issues.
Arunima: So how successful do you see yourself as having been till now?
Antara: I think quite successful, at least, not unsuccessful. But it could be better certainly, if we sold more copies. Our success lies in the reach that we have although we’re very small as magazines go. Of course, if you look at it as a book, then selling approximately 5000 copies for each issue is a very good rate but if you’re looking at it as a magazine then its nothing. But our advertisers are still advertising enthusiastically, not only to reach the readership but also because they want to be part of this in certain ways.