Our Publisher Looks Back at Fifteen Years of NOW! Bali

Our Publisher Looks Back at Fifteen Years of NOW! Bali
Alistair Speirs, Founder of NOW! Magazines

I perhaps should not tell you this, but I didn’t really want to start NOW! Bali.

I was perfectly happy publishing two marvellous magazines called Jakarta Java Kini (JJK) and Hello Bali, but my partner at the time had other ideas and took over the company, leaving me with a bit of a dilemma since I had really enjoyed the whole interaction with the travel and hotel industries that were our principal supporters, as well as the schools and apartments and restaurants.

“Oh well,” I thought. “Maybe if I work quite swiftly and efficiently, I can start something like that again and go into direct competition with my old mags!”  A bit risky perhaps, but what else was I going to do. I didn’t have a raft of start-up ideas ready to launch! 

And so, with the brave support of my wife and partner, Barbara, Phoenix Communications “rose from the ashes” (yes, this was the inspiration for the company’s name). This was less than two months after being made, essentially, redundant. 

I looked for a name for the new magazines. The answer came in a flash: “NOW!” since that was the name I had started with 15 years before: Jakarta Now and Bali Now were the first tabloids that I founded many years ago, the first iterations of JJK and Hello Bali, later changed because the government at the time only allowed Indonesian brand names, hence the use of ‘kini’ meaning ‘now’. Let’s bring them back, I thought, and thus the NOW! brand was revived.

Within a month we had a 440sqm office on 3 floors in Jakarta with only one person on each floor! And managed to get the first issues of NOW! Jakarta and NOW! Bali out by the 1st of January 2009. I have no idea how! Maybe it was luck, maybe hard work, maybe good relationships, maybe great people who came to work with us, but against all odds we took off and kept publishing from then until now — world crises, political change, and covid notwithstanding! 

3 Eras of NOW! Bali: January 2009 (Left), January 2023 (Centre), January 2013 (Right)

We got back quickly to doing the events we loved doing: the ‘Jakarta and Bali Best Restaurant and Café Awards’, our ‘School Competitions’ and the extraordinary ‘Jakarta Highland Gathering’, which brought over 7000 people to the event in 2014! We enhanced our online presence as everybody forecasted the death of print magazines, we added an e-news service every week, we started the social media platform that everyone said was the future, and held our breath every month to see if our last days were indeed coming. But they didn’t, and haven’t. 

The greatest challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic of course, which not only drove away all the visitors to Bali, but closed down restaurants and emptied hotels, airlines and schools for months on end in Jakarta. We were decimated, but masked and vaccinated, we zoomed from home, created new e-mags and e-news dedicated to being locked up away from people! We created catalogues and did anything to keep ourselves sane and still going. And it worked, we made it through, battered and bruised but alive — though only returning as bi-monthly prints. Not complaining!

As we ended 2023, we had our most successful months in maybe 4 years and thought, well perhaps there is still life in the glossy pages of NOW! We have stuck to our principles, we are dedicated to community, culture, nature, art, heritage and real people. We rarely celebrate absolute commercialism or ‘lifestyle’, preferring the philosophical, the traditional and the meaningful. And it seems some of you, enough I would say, agree.

I have passed the burden of the publishing business to my second son Edward, whose vision and dedication to excellence are far beyond mine, and he is setting new standards and new ideas for our dedicated and loyal team to follow. And in that team, there are some, many actually, who have been with Barbara and myself since the beginning. It is, in more ways than one, a family company. I thank them all and all those who have read us and supported us in so many ways. 

Now I am into sustainability, and judging by the fact that NOW! has sustained for 15 years, maybe I’m quite good at it! My thanks and best wishes to you all and especially to my wife Barbara who has been the rock and foundation which we have all stood for all this time.

Download our 15th Anniversary Edition for Free: Read Now

Alistair G. Speirs

Alistair G. Speirs

Alistair G Speirs, OBE, is the Publisher of NOW! Magazines. He has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for the last 25 years. He started both NOW! Bali and NOW! Jakarta as each region’s preferred community magazine.

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