Home Articles Anthill is turning 5!

    Anthill is turning 5!

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    It’s been five years of hard work, humour and ah-hah moments, peppered with the occasional embarrassing hiccup. So brush the cake crumbs off your chin and pull up a pew as we bring you some of the not-so-public moments that helped create and shape Australia’s fastest growing magazine for fast growth companies (also known as Anthill).

    Any other business magazine would use a milestone like this to crow about its achievements. While we’re happy to share some of our proudest moments over the next few pages, we also realise that it’s the dramas, the hiccups and the near-death experiences that truly shape a company.

    Anthill has always been about educating, as well as inspiring our readers. So, that’s why we’re ‘lifting the lid’ and unearthing some of the more humorous, unexpected and just plain terrifying moments that have taken place at the ’hill over the last five years.

    The beginning…
    Every business must have a beginning. Anthill’s was a humble one, to say the least. If you haven’t already heard the story (or seen it on the Anthill website, as re-created by ABC TV’s Inside Business), it goes something like this: Disaffected law student turned PR professional, James Tuckerman decided that Australia needed a more dynamic business magazine “that would reflect the ‘real’ interests of business owners”. After quitting his day job, moving home with mum and dad and liberating $26,000 in savings from various managed funds, the then 26-year-old set about creating what he described as Australia’s first “Venture Capital Magazine”. This niche genre had the unplanned effect of attracting business owners and other entrepreneurial readers interested in this ‘holy grail’ of growth finance. Hence, Anthill Magazine evolved to become a “Fast Growth Business and Venture Capital Magazine” and, later, “Australia’s first magazine dedicated to Venture Capital, Private Equity and the Commercialisation of Australian Innovation.” It has since settled on the far more simple and memorable description (and its present calling), “The Australian Magazine for Fast Growth Companies.”
    The leader with no spine…
    Anthill #1 (Sep/Oct 2003)
    By James Tuckerman

    Launching any business is scary. For the first six months, I was making advertising sales calls by day, trying to manage retail distribution and other logistics by night. On the weekend I would write articles. I couldn’t afford employees or contributors, so I would play all the different roles on my own, doing the entrepreneurial thing, pretending that the company was much larger and better funded than the reality.
    The most memorable moment came close to launch when I’d arranged to piggy-back Anthill’s big debut on an innovation event called the Black Box Awards, to be held in Melbourne’s Federation Square (their event would be my launch).
    Unfortunately, the super-cheap printer I had engaged, based in Sydney, had other ideas. After postponing delivery of Anthill’s first edition on two consecutive occasions, I began to suspect that something fishy was afoot. With 24 hours to launch, I had not seen a proof, let alone any product, so I threatened to travel interstate and collect the magazines in person the following day. The errant printer, perhaps suspecting my strained financial position, called my bluff and, on the morning of my Melbourne launch, I found myself in Sydney trying to get my first magazine (and my life-savings) ‘off-the-press’.
    Ultimately, the printer rushed the job through and gave me a boxful for the launch that night. My 5:30pm flight delivered me and the magazines to Federation Square by 7:30pm for my 8pm launch. The balance of the magazines was delivered to me within the week… with only one problem. In his haste, the printer had neglected to print the artwork for the ‘spine’. Instead, he stretched the cover artwork around the binding to compensate. In short, printing the first edition of Anthill represented the most daring business decision of my life and, ironically, I was rewarded with a ‘spineless’ magazine.
    (Ba-Boom-Chah!)

    Reuse, rewind, be kind…
    Anthill #1 (Sep/Oct 2003)
    By James Tuckerman

    The ant-carrying-coin image set the tone of Anthill’s irreverent personality as the cover of its launch edition. Never ones to waste a good idea, the image was dusted off for Anthill’s mock Bulletin cover in April 2008. After the closure of The Bulletin by ACP in February 2008 (we’re still waiting for its new owners to re-launch), Anthill staged a PR stunt, offering to buy the publishing icon for one dollar. Nevertheless, our offer was dismissed and the rear cover of Anthill’s April/May 2008 edition (AA27) was published as The Bullantin, ‘Australia’s leading source of ant-related news’, with gripping headlines including ‘How to find happiness underneath the magnifying glass’ and ‘How to carry 10 times your weight’. It also proved the little known fact that ants are also great at recycling.
    Making an ‘arse’ of ourselves…
    Anthill #3 (Mar/Apr 2004)
    By James Tuckerman

    Anthill mascot, Antony Ant
    The third edition of Anthill gave me my first opportunity to ‘test the boundaries’ of business journalism and begin to define the ‘rebellious’ character that I had always envisaged for Anthill. After interviewing Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Robin Batterham, on the various federal government initiatives designed to support R&D, I was stuck for a catchy headline and memorable design motif. One usually follows the other. (A story on Nudie Fruit, for example, begs the title ‘Naked Ambition’ and an equally controversial design layout.) Here I was, caught with a head-shot of an average looking scientist (even if Batterham’s credentials are far from average) and a relatively academic Q&A on government policy (snore!).
    Fortunately, Batterham’s hair-cut was, at the time, almost equally proportionate to the size of his brain capacity (read: very big) and very Einstein-esque. Recreating Warhol’s iconic Pop-Art portraits of the famed scientist, the design dilemma was quickly solved (in a way that I assumed would be flattering to the subject). The headline came shortly afterwards when attempting to explain the subject to Anthill’s then Creative Director, Eddie Zammit (co-founder of Anthill’s first design agency, Grin Creative). In design-talk (closely akin to skater-speak), I kindly explained, “He’s trying to help Australians create kick-arse ideas.” Zammit came back with his trademark gale of laughter, before delivering the quip, “Batterham than me!”
    Together we had created a headline that not only boosted retail sales by over 20 percent, it helped define Anthill’s personality. Four years on, the headline barely seems risqué, let alone risky (Our Chief-Scientist and his Quest for Kick-Arse R&D: Batterham than me!). Yet, a large advertiser from the banking sector dropped its campaign (Apparently, we were “Too hip-hop” for the well-known banker) and the next time I saw Dr Batterham, on a busy city street, he seemed to avoid my gaze and ignore my friendly greeting. Perhaps the sun was in his eyes? Since then, we have adopted a style that proves, once again, that Australian business owners are young at heart and that our readers… to be frank… kick-arse!
    A spoon full of sugar…
    Anthill #3 (Feb-Apr 2004)

    Aside from our gratuitous use of the ‘A’ word (no, not ‘Anthill’), the cover of our third edition featured our first secret message, written as the fine print on the pill bottle. If you squint, you can just make out, “Anthill is a fast-growth enhancing tonic…,” along with a prescription on the health benefits your business will find in each edition. Since then, many editions of Anthill have featured secret messages, from anti-copyright restrictions to mock software with mock features.
    The naivety of youth…
    When James Tuckerman founded Anthill Magazine, the 26 year-old had several ‘courageous’ goals for his new venture. Bless the naivety of youth.
    Anthill will change the culture of business in Australia
    Anthill will demonstrate that ‘entrepreneur’ is not a dirty word
    Anthill will highlight the commercial importance of innovation
    Anthill will assist Australian companies turn ideas into reality
    Since then, the culture has changed. The ‘e’ word is lauded and innovation has become de rigueur in business and in government. Anthill naturally can’t take the credit, but we hope that we have done our bit to keep the cart moving forward.
    Words to live by…

    Some other observations from Tuckerman’s 2003 business plan.
    “True entrepreneurs are driven by the process of creation, not merely wealth creation.”
    “Business can and should be fun! Otherwise, get another job.”
    “If Australian business magazines continue to write for dead people (generations passed), they’ll soon follow the fate of their readership.”
    The off-colour cover…
    Anthill #5 (Jul/Aug 2004)
    By Paul Ryan

    Wired Magazine might profit from its fantastically fluorescent covers, but the only thing helpful about Anthill #5’s bright yellow front is that it offers an apt description of the sickly hue our faces turned when we saw the retail figures for this ‘newsagency nightmare.’
    This was the first Anthill issue I worked on, and despite being a retail sales disappointment at the time (can’t help but blame that ‘puke’ cover), it has become our most heavily requested back issue. I’d like to think this has much to do with the subject matter of my first cover story, “The Entrepreneur versus Venture Capitalist”. It certainly struck a chord with our readers, one of whom (who shall remain nameless – you know who you are, and so do we!), perhaps believing that he was Anthill’s only reader, plagiarised the feature’s main points and even much of the language to use in a PowerPoint presentation at a capital raising forum.
    You bet his face also turned the hue of this cover when he was introduced to Anthill founder James Tuckerman straight after giving his presentation.
    Cutting edge cover
    Anthill #20 (Feb/Mar 2007)
    By Paul Ryan

    Anthill issue 20 (Feb/Mar ’07) – featuring a gaping ‘key-hole’ that revealed headlines on the first inside page – is one of our all-time most popular covers. Cutting a hole in the cover was one of those late-night ideas that often arrive through the white noise of deadline.
    It was a crafty solution to give impact to a mediocre cover concept (headlines in the shape of a keyhole) promoting the cover story, “How to spy on your competition without getting caught”. Not accustomed to wasting a thing, the cardboard cover cut-outs were used as subscription flyers placed inside retail copies.
    Seeing red
    Anthill #25 (Dec 2007/Jan 2008)
    By Paul Ryan

    We’ve committed our fair share of howlers over the past five years. We’ve misplaced ads, misspelt names, even unwittingly quoted a dead person (don’t ask). But, as we were putting to bed our issue 25 cover, which carried the headline “SHIfT HAPPENS”, we were pretty sure we’d struck a suitable balance between good taste and irreverent Anthillian whimsy.
    So we were slightly bemused when, a week or two after issue 25 hit the shelves, a few readers conveyed their sudden disapproval of Anthill – via the occasional email, some terse unsubscriptions from our free email newsletter and one newsagent who even sent his retail allocation of issue 25 straight back to the distributor because, well, he “hated” us.
    We were ready to chalk it down as one for the ages. Until I breezed past this “Shift Happens” cover a few weeks later and it hit me: red on brown. Colour-blind people often can’t see red! It looks like brown.
    Are you colour-blind? Can you see the number “42” in this page?
    According to the Victorian Government’s Better Health website, colour blindness occurs in approximately eight percent of Australian males and only about 0.4 percent of Australian females. Which means there is an excellent chance that hundreds of readers did not see the little red cursive “f” in SHIfT.
    We’re horrified to think that many of you may still believe we sent out an issue screaming “SHIT HAPPENS” on the cover – nothing to do with profanity (the Anthill office often sounds like the deck of a convict ship), but because it would have represented a decidedly un-Anthillian lack of imagination and wit.
    So to any colour-blind readers, please forgive us. We’ll never use red on brown again, which demonstrates that shift definitely does happen.
    Anthill and the internet
    By James Tuckerman and Paul Ryan

    When Tuckerman launched Anthill in 2003, the internet was not part of his plans. (“Business owners are too busy to be surfing the internet. They need information on the go.”) While this may have been true early in the decade, things had changed dramatically by 2005. The World Wide Web had indeed fulfilled its promise of the late 90s and made publishing and accessing information incredibly easy for anyone with broadband. While great for consumers, the development has been not so great for publishers, the incumbent owners of information dissemination.
    The traditional model of business media is to report news (eg. Information). But that’s of little use today without opinion (eg. Knowledge) and the opportunity to follow-up (eg. Action). Imagine if you could learn some information, have its meaning interpreted and then be given the opportunity to act on it! Of course, that is what the modern internet has made possible. And that was the rationale for launching Anthill Online. The following line of thought now guides Anthill’s editorial decisions, in print and online: “When I sit on the couch, I lean back. When I sit at the computer, I lean forward.” A print magazine should inspire readers. An online magazine should inform quickly and provide the reader with avenues for expression and action.
    A progressive and focused community has coalesced around the Anthill brand over the last five years. We’ve seen some fascinating conversations play out at AnthillOnline.com and we plan to keep feeding it and channelling that diverse wisdom back into the print magazine. Contrary to industry speculation, the internet isn’t going to kill print; it’s going to improve it. We now have a cyclical flow of information, both between us and our readers and between print and digital mediums. Print magazines can no longer just duplicate their content online and call that an effective digital presence. The internet has created all sorts of opportunities for readers to help shape the Anthill product. We’re keen to explore how far we can push that.
    One thing is certain… When we get things wrong, you now have the tools to let us know and remedy our follies. After all, what’s a website (or a business) if it’s not forever a work in progress?
    The changing face of business in Australia…

    In December 2007, as part of our ‘Shift Happens’ cover story, Anthill made the following observations about the changing face of business in Australia.
    “According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the age with the most number of people in Australia is currently 34 years. This corresponds to children born during the baby-boom ‘echo’ in the early 1970s and represents the peak of Generation X. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a shock that a similarly popular age is 58 (the parents of X). What generally does come as a surprise is the stampede of 22 year-olds, who are about to give this hour-glass population breakdown a good shake-up, concluding with a very heavy bottom end. Yes, within ten years the structure of the working population could look, simply, pear-shaped, with Generation Y representing close to half the workforce. The peak age groups will be 32, 44 and 68, in that order.”
    So how is the face of business changing? It’s getting younger!
    The changing readership of Anthill…

    In the first three years of existence, Anthill’s readership mix changed from approximately 60 percent private equity professionals, 30 percent service providers and 10 percent business owners to approximately 60 percent business owners, 30 percent private equity professionals and 10 percent service providers before settling on its current mix: 60 percent business owners, 30 percent service providers and 10 percent private equity investors. What happened? Anthill became the magazine for entrepreneurial business owners by entrepreneurial business owners, targeting the three groups vital to business development… ideas, skills and money.

    Ice-cool companies
    Anthill #17 (Aug/Sep 2006)

    Among the entries of Anthill’s inaugural Cool Company Awards in April 2006 was an application embedded in a block of ice! A dissertation on the reasons why applicant company Laybuy is ‘cool’ spent two days in the office sink defrosting before we could get to it. Now, that’s not just cool. It’s ice-cold!
    Other gaffs, groaners and head-slappers…
    The posthumous quote

    The most regrettable mistakes, those that cause the deepest embarrassment, are the ones that compromise our editorial integrity. Unlike a blog post, print journalism can’t be edited and easily corrected post-publication. Print journalism requires a level of diligence that professional journalists take deep pride in. The Anthill crew is no different. That’s why it still causes us to turn red, three years on, when we recall the story of the ‘posthumous quote’.
    In early 2005, an amateur freelance journalist (the only sort we could afford at the time), in a rush to meet a deadline, turned to an aging, publicly available media release, published on the internet, for several key facts. Within the media release were several quotes, from a respected industry leader, apparently too helpful to resist. Of course, haste makes waste or, in this case, shame. The journalist did not check the date of the media release or ask the spokesperson quoted to confirm the statements. On publication, we received the first of many emails and phone calls that would reach our office over the following six months from readers wishing to communicate their distress. Apparently, the spokesperson had passed away a matter of two years prior to the offending article! The incident forced us to lift our game and, over time, build a better magazine.
    Early days, from the bowels of Global Ballooning
    The subscription drive from hell
    From the sub-leased back room of hot air balloon business Global Ballooning, Anthill embarked on its second year in business. Year two also heralded the magazine’s first subscription renewal drive. Using sophisticated software technologies, such as Microsoft Excel and Word, a letter was crafted, a list was exported and a mail-merge completed. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, our creative right-brained team became confused and every subscriber (new and old) received our thoughtfully prepared letter, informing the recipient that his or her subscription had expired. The complaints came thick and fast, but so did a surprisingly high number of accidental, early renewals (some very early). Naturally, we issued an apology (aptly titled, “We stuffed up”), an explanatory letter and offer to refund. Yet, the mistake resulted in a better, more transparent relationship with our readers and a brief financial windfall. The lesson: Never underestimate the power of honesty!
    Ever-expanding stoopidity
    In Anthill’s 2007 Dumb Report, Channel Nine was featured as an organisation that had cut costs largely at the expense of the station’s creativity. The dramatic fall in ratings that soon followed spoke volumes about the intelligence of the decision (or lack thereof) and prompted us to reward the station with one of our annual ‘Dumb Report’ gongs. Of course, Hubris is a fickle God. Within the piece, we referred to the “ever-expanding responsibilities of Eddie Maguire.” Unfortunately, during the design phase of production, the two words “responsibilities of” somehow slipped away from the intended copy. The proofers saw nothing grammatically incorrect with the offending sentence (or should we say ‘offensive’), which appeared in the final printed edition. Oops! Sorry Eddie. For the record, the only thing expanding now is our ongoing embarrassment.
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