Surface magazine is again headed for some substantive changes.
The design-centric magazine, which publishes a print issue six times a year, down from 10 last year, recently closed its first serious round of funding with Magna Entertainment, a New York-based fund focused on entertainment that’s expanded into media properties. With a valuation of $22 million, Magna is putting up to $2 million into Surface in a seed round, and chief executive officer Marc Lotenberg is planning some changes and content additions.
The List, a new element on the Surface web site currently in beta that serves as a guide to various consumer brands and designers, complete with links to their web sites, is intended to be the tentpole of the outlet going forward.
“We want to continue with the rigor [in editorial] we’ve been doing, but apply it to original content and more multimedia and more content creation and experiment with different properties,” Lotenberg said. “We’ve launched The List and that’s the foundation we’re building new marketing and content around.”
Surface will likely go for a Series A funding round next year and Lotenberg noted a desire for the company to delve deeper into physical experiences beyond a print magazine, like it’s The Diner exhibit with David Rockwell at this year’s Ventura Centrale in Milan, which won an award for best engagement.
As part of its digital push, Surface is parting ways with its editor in chief Spencer Bailey, who’s been in the role for five years.
Lotenberg joined the company around the same time and promoted Bailey, who was working as articles editor, because he “had a point of view.” They led a major overhaul of Surface, giving it more of a web presence and broadening the scope of its insider-driven content to focus on people in all areas of the design world, from Kanye West to architect Jeanne Gang, while also looking at culture through a lens of design.
“The company has grown and evolved a ton and so have I,” Bailey said of his departure. “We’re in a far different place than we were five years ago.”
Bailey’s last day is May 18, but he said he’s been working with Lotenberg for several months to ensure a smooth transition and that he has “nothing but the utmost respect for the company.” He intends to stay in the New York media world, but wouldn’t detail any upcoming work or projects beyond noting that some will be independent and at least one will be with another entity.
“I will say that I’m interested in media that encourages a culture of mindfulness and also this idea of being more present,” Bailey added.
Lotenberg stressed that there is no bad blood surrounding Bailey’s departure, but it seems pretty clear the planned push into digital and more multimedia content had something to do with it.
“He’s an exceptional print journalist,” Lotenberg said of Bailey.
There is no one waiting in the editorial wings to succeed Bailey as editor in chief. For now, Surface is doing away with the role entirely and is instead assembling a creative board of directors who will oversee the magazine and its projects and offer “insight” into trends and coverage areas.
“The prior model of a singular editor in chief, in the current media dynamic and where the industry is going, that’s not the way to create content,” Lotenberg said.
He added that there will be more people added to the content team, but there are no plans to move forward in the “old guard” style of having an editor in chief running the magazine.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Lotenberg said. “Now we have to execute.”