Ian Burrell: The multi-tasking Jefferson Hack reveals how he keeps ‘Dazed & Confused’ relevant in a fast-moving sector


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The Independent Online

Jefferson Hack is not your average media owner. Instead of sitting down to talk, he announces “I want to show you this space”, before conducting a guided tour that incorporates an east London housing estate, a chichi coffee bar and the former glue factory which houses the Dazed & Confused media operation.

There’s little sign these days that Dazed – the most visually-compelling of Britain’s culture magazines – started out as a humble black-and-white fanzine. It’s a multi-platform product, meaning that Hack is facing the same conundrum as every other publisher – how to make the print and digital products work symbiotically?

He thinks he has some answers – and we should listen, because Hack has been something of a media visionary since he (with photographer and business partner Rankin) launched Dazed at the age of 19 as a student at the London College of Printing.

The fact that, 22 years later, this style magazine is launching a video production arm, Dazed Vision, to make editorial and branded films for its website Dazed Digital, is testimony to the abilities of Hack and Rankin to employ the right staff to keep the brand relevant in a fickle sector.

“Me and Rankin let go of the magazine a long time ago, I stopped editing it around 1999,” Hack says. “My view as editor became irrelevant at about that time.” By taking his hands off, he has been able to look at bigger opportunities for the Dazed Group, which also publishes the bi-annual fashion magazines AnOther and AnOther Man.

A key part of the company’s business model is the Dazed White Label commercial arm, which makes creative content for brands who want for their own media the confident design and imagery they see in the pages of Dazed & Confused. The youth brand Vice operates a similar sideline called Virtue to convey young cool on brands, while Monocle magazine has Winkreative.

After leaving the coffee bar we move to another building where a young team is working on the Nowness website, which Dazed White Label helped to create for the luxury retail group LVMH. The concept is to post a single high quality video-based story per day, each exclusively commissioned by Nowness, to keep users returning to the site.

The most successful videos have been LED Surfer, a hypnotic short film by Jacob Sutton of snowboarder William Hughes descending a French mountainside in the dark. The site had a viral hit with film-makers Lernert & Sander’s Natural Beauty – showing 365 layers of make-up being applied to one woman’s face on one day.

Quality over volume is key, says Hack, 42. “It’s the antithesis to a lot of what’s going on elsewhere on the web.”

A similar philosophy will be pursued by Dazed Vision, which is being run by Ravi Amaratunga, who Dazed Group recruited from Channel 4 earlier this year after partnering with the broadcaster on its Random Acts short films strand.

Dazed’s move into video is being led by actor and director James Franco, who is the first of 52 individuals contributing content to the Visionaries project on the Dazed Digital site. One of his videos is of naked humans in an art gallery covered in paint and pretending to be animals. By the end of the scheme – which is also anticipating the input of Björk and Jake and Dinos Chapman – Hack hopes to have some answers about the future use of short video.

Franco is also the cover star of December’s magazine – the hope being that readers will be driven to Dazed Digital to contribute to the debate about his films. Print remains integral to the group’s strategy.  “It’s the clearest and most authentic distillation of the true voice and attitude of the brand.” If the entire Dazed experience was a stage show, he suggests, then the video might be the live performance – but the magazine would be like the souvenir programme, to be retained, referenced and treasured.

Dazed’s success has been linked to the global influence of young London. But, in turn, the brand has contributed greatly to that influence. “When we started in the early Nineties everyone was talking about New York and Seattle, not London,” Hack recalls. The editorial “mantra” is to try to bring about “positive social change” by publishing stories which embody “optimism” and send a wider ripple of confidence across the creative communities. 

Dazed is under pressure from rivals such as Vice, which has had a cash injection from Rupert Murdoch’s empire and recently re-launched the British style brand i-D.

But another Dazed motto – “Declare Independence”, published on the magazine cover – reflects its ethos and the fact that Hack and Rankin have rejected investors to go it alone. “We can work with commercial partners but we are not owned by them,” says Hack. “And that’s a big difference.”

Newsround’s ‘Nel’ is on the fast-track to role-model status

The career path of the BBC’s Kabul-born presenter Nelufar “Nel” Hedayat continues to follow a near-vertical trajectory.

I first heard about Hedayat, who arrived in Britain as a six-year-old refugee, when BBC3 made a 2010 documentary called Women, Weddings, War and Me in which she reported on life in her homeland. The programme won a Broadcast award. She explored the current topic of raunchy music videos in Music, Money and Hip Hop Honeys before being taken on by the BBC full time as a presenter for children’s news programme Newsround.

Last year she visited North Africa and the Middle East for more BBC3 documentaries on the Arab Spring. She appeared on Celebrity Mastermind, with Harry Potter as her specialist subject. Presenting The Hardest Choice a recent documentary for Radio 1, she argued it was possible to balance a busy career with being a young British Muslim.

Her recent interview for Newsround of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, was one of the highlights of Hedayat’s career. Now the journalist hopes to inspire more young British Asians to consider careers in the media and entertainment worlds. “I want to inspire them to do what they want and not what they think their parents want,” she says. “If you are into dance or music or journalism these are also careers and there are not enough of us out there working in them.”

Last week Hedayat, 25, was on stage with Cherie Blair and others at a conference titled “Harnessing the leadership potential of women in business”. On a panel with leaders from the worlds of banking and media, she stressed the importance of good role models. She’s not a bad one herself.

Twitter: @iburrell