Josh Jackson is founder and editor-in-chief of Paste. Under his editorial leadership, Paste was named “Magazine of the Year” three consecutive years by the Plug Awards and two consecutive years by the GAMMA Awards. It was also nominated for the National Magazine Award for General Excellence three times and was twice listed among the 50 Best Magazines by The Chicago Tribune. Jackson has been named one of min magazine’s 21 Most Intriguing People in the Magazine Industry, one of Relevant magazine’s 12 Revolutionaries and one of The 40 Under 40 from both Georgia Trends and The University of Georgia, where he graduated from the Grady School of Journalism with a special focus on magazines and received the 2009 Henry W. Grady Award for mid-career achievement.
He’s served as a regular music, film and TV critic for CNN Headline News/HLN and two Atlanta radio stations and has written over 100 pieces for Paste, including more than a dozen cover stories. He’s served on boards for the Magazine Association of the Southeast; Meet Justice, a non-profit combating human trafficking and child sexual exploitation; the Independent Magazines advisory board for the Magazine Publishers Association; and UGA’s Grady Alumni Board.
Prior to launching Paste, Jackson served as communications director for the Luke Society and freelance writer and photographer, covering assignments on six continents. He lives in Decatur, Ga., with his wife, Lori, and their three children.
How did you get into the Publishing industry?
I studied journalism in college and worked in communications afterward, but it really wasn't until we launched Paste Magazine that I got a quick education in the publishing industry. We kind of figured it out as we went, but there were advantages to not knowing what we didn't know. We came at it with a completely fresh perspective.
Tell us about Paste. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the magazine?
I wanted to create a magazine for people who loved all kinds of music. I was a fan of several genre-specific magazines, but the ones that covered everything—like Rolling Stone—were putting Brittany Spears on the cover instead of focusing on the music I wanted to read about. When we launched, we also decided we'd go crazy if we only were covering music, so we added movies and books coverage. Since moving online, we've broadened our scope to all kinds of entertainment and even lifestyle, because I'm as passionate about craft beer and travel as I am the next new band.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Paste's success?
We're now part of the Wolfgang's Vault and Daytrotter family of businesses that have helped us compile the largest curated collection of live music videos and audio tracks in the world. We just made all of that—including all of the Live at Paste sessions we've done over the last 10 years—free and available through the Paste Cloud. That's hundreds of thousands of audio and video tracks from performers like The Band, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Aretha Franklin and newer acts like The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, Courtney Barnett and Palehound.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
More and more people are accessing the web through mobile, so we've optimized the mobile viewing experience for both are articles and our video.
Stay hungry. Stay grateful.
Your greatest success as Founder of Paste? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
Being named Magazine of the Year from both the Plug Awards and the Gamma Awards, as well as getting nominated four times for the National Magazine Awards was certainly gratifying. But I'd say the biggest success is just having more than 5 million people visit our website every month.
The most difficult moment certainly came when we had to shut down our print magazine. But when we shifted our focus solely to the internet, we were able to grow it five-fold in five years. I learned that you have to adapt quickly in the business and that you need to stay ahead of big changes in your industry.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Sometimes you just have to take the leap. We quit our jobs and had no income for three months while we got Paste off the ground. We had no way to know whether this idea would work. But we wanted it badly enough to make it real. We put our heads down and focused on making something great, rather than trying to guess what anyone else wanted. If you're excited about your product, chances are others will be too.
Describe the ideal experience reading Paste.
I'd love for people to start with our monthly digital magazine. Paste Monthly is completely free and each month tackles a different topic. December was The Failure Issue and January will focus on The Best of What's Next. You can just scroll through the articles in each issue with very little advertising and know the writing will be great.
How do you motivate your employees?
Fortunately I've hired a bunch of people who already loved what Paste was doing, so they're pretty self-motivated. We all just want to make something special.
What's next for Paste?
Right now we're focused on getting artists to use the Paste Cloud platform for all their video and audio. We have hundreds of thousands of audio tracks and videos, but we'd like that to double with content from our contributors next year. We want our readers to be able to go to pastemagazine.com/cloud and find any video from their favorite bands.