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Michael Bercasio and Greg Washington: Inquiringmind the Revival
In the always expanding landscape of media, a trait that always seems to set the real from the fake is the ability to consistently stay ahead of the curve. A task that is all but easy thanks in part to social media, mobile apps and consumers need for a constant stream of information, many independent publications and online editorials fall by the wayside unable to create a niche product. Having began in 2005 with the need to bring invigorating stories to aspiring creatives, internet magazine Inquiringmind went on a brief hiatus during 2010, with its founders undecided on the future of the brand. As the all too common black hole that is change began creeping up on the Canadian publication, its founders rediscovered their love for the platform and decided to rebuild. With a reputation for one of the more aesthetically pleasing sites with entertaining flash creations, Inquiringmind has transition to a more blog-driven platform with constant updates, but that’s only the beginning. In our latest interview, we sat down with the two gents behind the forging magazine, Michael Bercasio and Greg Washington, to discuss their recent reemergence, changes in the media landscape, and the future of Inquiringmind.
Can you introduce yourselves and what you do?
Michael: I started Inquiringmind more than seven years ago, but never did it full-time until this year. I have a multipurpose role within the magazine. The core of what I do is manage the editorial direction, ranging from the ideation of content streams to the selection of individuals we interview. It’s a strong collaborative process between Greg and I, in all facets of the business.
Greg: I have eight years of digital experience as an Interactive Designer/Art Director working for various agencies in Canada. I currently work full-time with Inquiringmind, managing the complete creative direction of the business. As Michael mentioned earlier, my role is multifaceted, but I maintain a sharp focus on everything design-related, top to bottom.
What was the reason behind putting Inquiringmind on ice?
Michael: I wouldn’t say Inquiringmind went away 100%. Granted, in 2010 it wasn’t running on all cylinders, but it was still online being maintained by a solid team of dedicated individuals. To answer your question though, we simply couldn’t keep up with the speed at which we were growing. Opportunities were coming at us from all different angles and not knowing how to manage all of them caused a lot of problems. You hear stories of entrepreneurs losing their sense of direction, but it isn’t really true until you experience it firsthand, and we did. For us, the only way to fix it was to take a step back, to really figure things out.
Greg: Not to mention, during this time, I went completely broke and had no choice but to go looking for work.
What were you guys up to during the Inquiringmind hiatus?
Greg: I ended up moving out to Vancouver to pursue my “dream job” of working with one of my most idolized brands, Jordan.
Michael: Shortly after Greg moved to the West Coast, I was presented with a few opportunities by some really talented people whom I have a lot of respect for. But to dive into another venture so soon would not have been the best move for me. I was juggling quite a few options, toying with the idea of succumbing to the traditional world of a cookie-cutter nine-to-five. But thankfully, I let time run its own course and let it all play out.
Greg: After living out west for a year, I realized that my idea of a “dream job” was just an idea. I realized that, as a whole–even though there were some interesting aspects of the industry–I didn’t want to make a living off marketing/advertising.
Michael: It was then that we both rediscovered what we truly wanted. During multiple conversations throughout 2011, the topic of what we wanted to do was a constant question. And the answer always led back to Inquiringmind. Being away from Inquiringmind for so long made us realize that it’s what we really want to do. As cliché as that sounds, it’s the truth. So in the summer of 2011, we officially shut it down and decided to work as hard as ever to get it the point that it is at right now.
Greg: Which is close, but far from finished. What you see is just a glimpse.
How do you think the media landscape has progressed since the foundation of Inquiringmind and during your layoff?
Michael: There is a lot more attention towards online media, that’s for sure. I still vividly remember the number of websites that came onto the scene in 2005, including HYPEBEAST, Slam, Highsnobiety, (as well as ourselves) and to see these select few become credible sources and viable businesses is a clear indication that there is a need for these sites to be around. In the past four years, however, the platform has changed tremendously. Information is being circulated online at an alarming rate, and it’s become a bit of a rat race to get relevant information out first. It’s a gift and a curse, trying to produce quality high-quality content at the speed the internet moves.
Greg: Social media didn’t really exist in 2005. When things started to slow down for us around 2009, social media really started to gain ground with the masses. Today, there has been some very interesting things happening. The most relevant being how brands are trying to venture out to create their own editorial content. To me, it’s an indication that people and companies alike have re-realized the impact storytelling can have on any given audience.
Michael: It was inevitable. Commerce and editorial were going to find their pairing online. It was just a matter of time. But at the end of the day, creative and unique content is still trying to find its value amongst a sea of noise. Although it may seem like the digital space has been around for a long time, the truth is that it’s still in its infancy. It will be quite interesting to see how this medium will evolve within the next five to 10 years.
You were arguably one of the most aesthetically pleasing and technical sites of its kind for this culture. Will we see more comprehensive features down the line that revisit this direction?
Michael: It’s the core of what Inquiringmind is known for, and coincidentally, what we enjoy the most. So to answer your question, absolutely it will happen. We just have to do it in a way that is sustainable. If you look at any of the features on our old site, you can see the production quality. But ultimately, everything from top to bottom comes at a cost. So for us, creating unique experiences is just a case of finding the balance between creativity and practicality. And although that may sound like a limitation, we’re constantly looking for opportunities to be as forward-thinking as possible.
Greg: We’ve got a lot planned. It’s gonna get really serious, really quickly.
On the topic of aesthetics and design, we’re subjected to countless amounts of information and platforms these days. What is your philosophy towards processing all of this both personally and through design?
Greg: My personal philosophy towards processing the vast amounts of information is, firstly, to realize that most of it is just noise, and secondly, to realize you can easily turn it off. You don’t have to listen to it all. If you’re selective, in the people you keep and the people you follow, you’ll only have to process a fraction of it. Even less when you know what you’re listening for and why.
Michael: There is a ton of information out there, and just like Greg said, we have the luxury of making a choice. More power to the internet for giving us that freedom. But at the end of it all, like any race, the ones who worked and trained the hardest will ultimately round out the top ranks of those deserving of the recognition. Ask Kevin, Adam or David of HYPEBEAST, SLAMXHYPE and Highsnobiety respectively, when our genre of online media came about, there was maybe 15 websites that popped up in the first six months of 2005 alone. Today, new digital magazines–both corporate and self-funded–are growing in even greater numbers.
Greg: And what was true in 2005 is true today. There are many players but not many of them will survive the long haul.
How would you describe the new editorial direction of Inquiringmind? It seems more blog driven with daily updates.
Michael: You’re right, at first glance it looks that way. Our current platform doesn’t have the same shock and awe that it had in 2007. But we built this new platform to be just as flexible and robust as our last site. But we even took it a step further and we plan on maximizing it to the fullest.
Greg: The site as it stands is just the first part of a multiphase roll-out. Over the course of this year, the site and its content is definitely going to raise a few eyebrows.
With the time off, what have you guys been able to discover or learn about both the media landscape and yourselves?
Michael: There still is room for a voice, as long as it offers a unique perspective with some real value. But what I learned the most could be summed up best with what Steve Jobs once said, “The journey is the reward.” The highs and lows of being a creative entrepreneur is the most defeating and accomplishing feeling one can ever experience. Every piece of the puzzle, no matter how it looks, is part of the bigger picture.
Greg: I’ve learned that today more than ever people are looking for quality content. I’ve also learned that not all opportunities come only once.
What do you anticipate will happen with media, both digital and print in the coming years?
Michael: I can’t forecast what may occur for both mediums, but I only hope that the creators fueling both sides of the fence treat the art of editorial with the respect it deserves, opposed to looking at it as another opportunity. It’s a detailed craft that requires the utmost attention. If you’re going to be the next in this industry of content creation, give people something that is well thought-out and has its own distinctive value. Make it matter.
Greg: Both print and digital publishing industries will experience what almost every facet of the entertainment industry is experiencing, be it music, books, news, etc. More people producing more bullshit. At the same time, I also believe that we’re going to see the emergence of some of the most talented people the world has ever seen, and they’ll go on to redefine the industries they represent.
Any last words?
Michael: My pops recently told me, “The first step is the most important.” I’d like to think that we’re a few steps ahead on that path.
Greg: Failure is as much a part of success as everything else. We can’t wait to show you what our failures have taught us.