The island of Bali is at risk of sinking into the Indian Ocean under the weight of all of its magazines. I put the latest issues of Bali’s mags on the bathroom scale, and it tipped almost ten kilos. How can an island so small generate so many magazines? And will there be any trees left in Kalimantan if this continues?
From broadsheet freebies to global glossies, there are more magazines on this island than its advertisers can possibly support. We wonder which ones will fold, and which will flourish?
Read on, to get the Sleeping Tiger’s take on just 26 of Bali’s bajillions of magazines. (Note: the magazine titles are links to their sites.)
The following mags certainly have enough merit to make it, and here’s why:
Because it’s still the island’s pre-eminent lifestyle magazine, with increasingly inspired photography, design and content.
Because it’s a spinoff from The Yak that’s packed with up-to-date info on our beloved bohemian town, Ubud. It’s an idiosyncratic mag for an idiosyncratic market. Quality information, images, writing and advertisers.
Itty bitty nightlife bible for Bali. This is The Word when it comes to mass-market eating, dancing, drinking and youth culture. Big audience, strong advertiser support, doesn’t matter how it’s designed or how well it’s written, it works and will inevitably continue to do so.
Dark horse, new on the course, bringing real content to the mag bag of Bali. Nice to find a rag that isn’t densely padded with media release mash ups. Real writing, by real writers, built on original ideas and real research. What a relief. It’s also the new home of the column-formerly-known-as Stranger in Paradise, which is mondo-maven Made Wijaya’s long-lived soap box, demolition derby, and society gossip platform (with platform heels on).
The Stranger has lived at so many addresses over the years, it’s categorically nomadic. Former homes include The Bali Post, The Bali Echo (deceased), and Hello Bali (in ICU). The Stranger’s “vacation homes” over the years have included The Jakarta Post (from which the Stranger was evicted unceremoniously for allegedly peeing on the carpet), and the magical, mystical Poleng magazine (deceased, but so Hindu it’s destined to reincarnate).
Now! Bali is clearly a magazine with self-confidence. It staunchly refuses to take any advertising from property developers, too. That’s ballsy. If only Now! Bali could get a designer, photo editor and printer that do justice to its content, it might give all the other rags a run for their money.
Plus one noteworthy newcomer:
It’s cool. It’s crazy. It’s got cool advertisers, but probably not enough of them (yet). Clever content, edgy spreads, intriguing images and ideas, but still inconsistent in terms of look, layout, direction and design standards.
But what a cool stable of advertisers! With so much cool behind it, we predict a winner if it survives the winter. Seems to have the staunch support of Oberoi street, at least. If Bali Insight keeps its pants on and doesn’t get in bed with deadbeat, design-impoverished advertisers, it’s definitely going places. The Yak’s ad salesmen must hate this magazine. It’s got: Deefusion; Chandi (great great ad in this ish, see it); KuDeTa Boutique; Sentosa; Religion; Innuendo; Panonpoe; By The Sea; Lily Jean; K&I; Bali Catering Company; Gourmet Cafe; Biku; Sourcing Bali; Bali Experience. Reads like a directory for the Seminyak Chapter of the Chamber of Chic Commerce.
Then there are these Bali magazines which have niche markets and “special patronage” to keep them afloat, without which they might flounder:
An Italian language mag that is glossy and thin on the surface, (like many of its readers), but looks deeper than you might expect into the culture of the island, (like many of its readers). Honorary Italian consul in Bali, Pino Confessa puts a strong spark of life into this mag.
La Gazette de Bali
The tabloid of the French community. Since the French in Bali are a cohesive group, a cultish clique, even, and remain staunchly French no matter how long they’ve been here, they do need their own paper.
Basically a more multilingual version of the Gazette, like a small Euro smorgasbord. More like a picnic actually, than a smorgasbord.
Marvelous mouthpiece of the Bali surf community. If surfers get behind something, it goes. Doesn’t matter if anyone is watching or not. Great rag, even for non-surfers. I rely religiously on their tide tables.
Plus, we have a plethora of property-driven magazines that run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous (sometimes from one page to the next). As long as Bali’s property market continues to rush headlong toward socio-economic-environmental armageddon, these magazines will burden the racks of bookshops, bars and bathrooms across the region and beyond:
Asia Pacific Tropical Homes
This one seems defunct, but I don’t want to publish an obit prematurely. Is (or was) not primarily about Bali, but spread its content equally over Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere. Wins “Worst Typography” award.
Who ever imagined that humour, property development and a quirky conscience could all go together in one magazine? This is the self-published glossy by Tropical Homes (developer/agent), whose founder Nils Wetterlind is a real wild card. He actually writes editorials that run counter to the interests of property development. And gets away with it! We never ever miss Tropical Living’s oddball column “written” by Nils’ two dogs, Basil and Minnie. It’s an advice column with bite! Grrr. We love it to shreds.
For starters, the page size is nice. It will fit in your glove box while trawling around the island shopping for luxury villas. Best nutshell guide to Bali property. Developers list. Agents list. Rental update. Legal and practical info. Interior design stuff. All in a small spiffy package. And easy on the eye.
Villa & Yacht
Russian model in boots and swimsuit, sprawled on a yacht, on the cover. Superjets. Bikinis on jet-black girls. Bikinis on blindingly-white girls. Bikinis on yachts. Bikinis on jets. Get it? Great glimpses into adventures beyond Bali on land and sea, too. Sexy shoes. Glam fashion. And plenty more bikinis.
Simply enormous. Acres and acres of property listings with colour photos, and a smattering of editorial. From the region’s pre-eminent property people, Exotiq. Villas. Land. Lombok, too. See the state of the market in one fell swoop. Or rather one fell swoon. I’m swooning, anyhow. And not with bliss. With bewilderment. Encyclopaedic.
But of course, we’ve got plenty of random topical tropical travel rags here, including:
Long-livied (geriatric?) tourism-dependent, tall, skinny magazine that’s lost its way after at least two wrong turns. Just made another one. Page size is smaller, but it still won’t fit in the hotel desk drawer. Chronically suffers from obsessive use of the words “indulge,” “exclusive,” “pamper,” “ultimate,” “whilst,” and “paradise.”
Stands for “Fine Restaurants and Villas.” Southeast Asian luxury lifestyle with a distinctively native accent. Executive-industrial-slick, with matte varnish. Means serious business. It all kind of looks good, but we don’t know exactly why it needs to exist. Probably because the property-hospitality-restaurant industry wants it to. Nice, but not a lot of sizzle under the surface, despite all the macro shots of sizzling steaks au jus with cranberry-truffle relish on a bed of seared sesame seaweed.
Travel mag endorsed by the Bali Government Tourism Department. Send them all your mediocre media releases and soft opening announcements. Will happily print happy-snaps from the opening of an envelope. Banking on the evolution of tourism beyond Bali to other islands, which may or may not be a Good Thing. Still, has some interesting content that you would never see elsewhere. If you find one in the seat pocket of your tour bus, open it. Excellent diversion while waiting in the endless traffic jam coming back from Tanah Lot after the daily sunset sheep migration.
Is (or was) a tourism promotion department notion. Title stems from a stupid slogan invented by government employees to promote Bali. Bali is my life. What? Credit for that slogan goes to the guys who brought you, “Visit Indonesia Year 2008: Celebrating 100 Years of Nation’s Awakening.” I think they also write for Sacha Baron Cohen.
Bali Travel News
Think “travel industry” and “industrial travel”. Possibly defunct, but it’s hard to tell for sure. It’s also hard to tell if it is (or was) for travel industry players or for travelers. Whatever.
Plus some oddballs that don’t fit the other categories:
Bizarre vehicle for Bali’s indigenous cartoon cult. The humour is so weird, you wonder what they put in the holy water. Will give you an idea of how Balinese people see Bali. And us white folks.
Baru di Bali
Baru means “new” in Indonesian. Seems to be about shopping and products, and was born with an acute identity crisis. Is it a magazine? A directory? What?
Call it a “magazine” in quotation marks. Lists restaurants that will deliver. We’ve never tried this, as we prefer actual interaction with actual humans in an actual restaurant.
Wants to be Bali’s interior décor magazine. If wishing could only make it so. Premised on something that’s not impossible, but if they can’t design a magazine, how can we be convinced they will enlighten us on interior design? Nice enough people, though.
Mark Ulyseas rises again. Voices Today bites off more than it can chew. Environment Food India Poetry NGOs Business Flora Fauna Science Art Music. Admirable for its aspirations, but will it find its feet? And its Voices? Are all the radios tuned to the same frequency?
No, it’s not a “soft” martial arts mag. It’s a slapdash Russian semi-gloss in Cyrillic. That’s a niche market I know nothing about, so I won’t venture to comment. The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!
Last but not least, there’s this bona fide Bali insitution:
Utterly unpretentious middle-market tabloid freebie that has grown from 4 to 84 pages since we moved to Bali. Loaded with more info than you could ever want, or need. Massage boys. Lonely hearts. Lost dogs. “Leaving Bali” sales of everything from socks to saxophones to sex toys. Employment ads. Lists the local Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Has a relationships advice column that’s patently weird.
We read the free ads for entertainment. And the editorial content for the same reason.
Still, we do keep a copy on our desks at all times. It’s more useful than the Yellow Pages, thanks to thousands of display ads for every business in Bali that’s essential for expats and businesspersons. Think plumbers, upholsterers, botoxers, yoga teachers, and immigration fixers. The Bali Advertiser will never fold. But I kind of wish it would shrink. 84 pages is beyond my browsing capabilities.