Looking at the glossy cover and eccentric content of Think Magazine, a Prague-based, nationally distributed, modern youth magazine, you might expect to find it's staff working in a fancy Hradcanska office building, a place where offices empty into an art deco waiting room, the views looking out onto the cityscape.
Nothing could be further from reality.
(NOTE: This profile was written in the year 2000 for Access Magazine).There's no waiting room with plush velvet couches, or pretentious receptionist offering latte. The magazine is tucked away in the basement of a schoolbuilding in Holesovice.
The writers aren't corporate suits with framed degrees on their walls either. In fact, many of Think's writers and artists never went to college or had any formal training.
But that hasn't stopped them from putting out a magazine that began in late 1996 with hopes and dreams, but hardly any money, and now, according to executives, has a circulation of 15,000 and growing, a weekly TV show, monthly parties and a long-distance calling-card service.
With its high-tech graphics and emphasis on the unusual, the friendly - and the young, "We've been able to put everything together - music, style, art, computer technology, culture - and make it user-friendly," says co-publisher Jeffree Benet.
The self-defined sub-culture magazine came out with its first issue in August 1996. The magazine was launched by Benet and Keith Kirchner from their Zizkov apartment, with a borrowed computer, and for no other reason than to give Prague a free monthly culture magazine to read.
From that 25 page, two-color first edition, they now produce an 72 page, full-color, free, English/Czech Prague staple publication.
Benet, whose background is in advertising and design, said they started with "...exactly zero money," and raised the cost of their first issue exclusively though ad sales.
Although Benet and Kirchner went into the project with the hopes of it going international, they never dreamed it would be so successful, attracting advertisers such as Marlboro, Nescafe, Heineken, CAT boots, BMG music, Airwalk, Ballantine's, Sprite, Sony, and multiple ads for movies, music and local shops.
With a small staff and a bright future, the young crew could pack up their computers and take off to London or New York. But they say they wouldn't Think of it.
"We wouldn't leave Prague," said Kirchner. "We don't like the big-city attitude, and we want to help Prague culturally to become its own. You don't need to go to a big city to do that."
From his office, filled with files, CDs and odd art finds, Kirchner tells of his ambition to make Think a magazine that would be different from the rest.
"When we started this, the whole magazine scene was just starting to kick in here," he said.
"With all these Czech versions and imitations of western magazines, we really wanted to showcase the elements of Prague culture with a magazine that is unique and not just a bland rehashing of something from across the sea. We offer a mix that is of interest and truly new, and that is what makes us different."
The witty writing style of the magazine's mostly 20ish writers is aimed at a young, individualistic audience.
Recent articles offered readers insights into the IMF/World Bank protests, how we are affected by globalism; UFO cover-ups and the Ultimate Bar Guide, a story by two enslaved Czechs in America, and an expose on the dealings of TV Nova.
Along with these "future-forward" pieces, Think offers celebrity interviews, artist profiles and keeps readers updated on the music world.
"I wanted to make sure we had a young staff, culturally in the now with a sense of style," Kirchner said. "I don't believe in faith or miracles, but some of these people (staff) were somehow drawn to us."
'A great job'
Hany was one of those miracles. She was discovered one all night beer-bender at Jama, a popular Prague bar, while Keith and Jeffree were planning their next issue. Now, at 22, Hany sells ads and keeps the company moving along.
"It's tough," says Hany. "I'm still bound by age, and there's a certain element you have to overcome. You play the role they expect of you," in being able to take on such responsibilities.
But despite the pressure of big business, Hany seems to handle her status with integrity.
"It's a great job," she said. "I've met many of my heroes through the magazine. And I'm competent in what I'm doing, and I know my work is respected."
Benet said that he doesn't care that Hany and others have no formal training,
because their skills are evident.
"I believe in myself, the staff, and this publication," he said. "I didn't finish college... I have no paper that says I should be doing this, but you don't need proof (like that) that you're good."
But they have it. Not only is it's success on the rise, but the magazine was selected as one of the best new magazines by Drak, a trade publication that reviews books, magazines and other publications.
Despite its success, Benet said the magazine has been accused of having no focus. To him, that's a compliment.
"Ours (magazine) isn't defined in a sentence," he said. "That's good. There's no quick gimmick. We're just trying to reflect what this generation is all about. I won't settle for second best. I don't care if we haven't been around as long. I want to conquer the magazine world and prove that the young adults in this country aren't just passive slackers. We will rise above the other magazines and we don't have to play by the rules.
"We want to draw in people who are bored with the formula layouts. In the Czech republic, everything's a copy; Tyden=Newsweek, Spy=Entertainment Weekly, and of course, Esquire, Cosmo, Harper's, Playboy, Elle, they all just repeat the same tired old line as before.
"We do what others don't have the guts to do. We show fashion that has more than the standard 'bored or blank' formula. We speak honestly about drug culture, politics and business as usual. And unlike Zivel (an art-house quarterly), we appeal to a wider audience than art students. We're doing it for the masses."
Although the artwork is a major focus of Think, the newest editor, Michael Kyselka said the strength of the magazine comes from it's writing.
"We're independent, so we have free reign to indulge our creative whims," Kyselka said. "That's what keeps it together. We cover some of the same material the other magazines do, but our mix of art and technology gives it a more eclectic approach. The difference is that we don't do it with an ivory tower attitude. We try to by accessible to the average person."
"Surprisingly, we have readers of all ages, and there are things that have gotten responses, both good and bad," Benet said. "We're not afraid to take chances, but we're not naive enough to get in over our heads. There's a fine line between staying true to what you want to do and staying alive in the market.
"Our goal is just to be able to keep doing what we're doing and get national acceptance on a larger scale without losing our creative integrity."