Goodbye Imperica

Paul Squires
4 min readJan 4, 2021

I have always had a fascination with the intersection of creativity and technology. Where that stems from is probably long gone, but I am aware of two moments which helped. The first is my dad buying a ZX81 from his mate in Poplar for 25 quid, and arriving home one Friday for us to have fun with it. The second is my already-well-documented obsession with cars, and my absolute euphoria at the launch of the Ford Sierra and its advertising slogan Man and machine in perfect harmony. My cousin had one of the first Sierras, a white 1.6L, and drove me around Oxford in it. I could not have been happier. Both of these incidents were in 1982. I wonder if that’s an important year for anyone else.

Fast-forward a few years and I drew a logo for a fictitious company in 1995, called Imperica. A couple of years later, goes live as a hotchpotch of post-degree stuff which I’m into — art, technology, digital creativity, contemporary culture, some history, and fragments of other shit.

The idea of developing as a venture burned inside of my head and heart for many years. It bubbled up in 2010 as I was leaving my job at an agency.

I wrote the plan for Imperica in one go. It took 4 hours, start to finish, in a cafe, having purchased too many coffees. The thinking was that Imperica would provide visibility and provide commercial opportunities which I would then serve under a separate brand.

This went fairly well for a few years and certainly by 2012, the engine was humming. From then on, I moved from a dumpy office in Oxford to a beautiful one in the city centre. I had some brilliant people in Helena, Andrew and the team finding new clients and building some awesome products. Imperica was gaining contributors, visibility, and it was driving commercial opportunities — with commercial opportunities conversely offering visibility in an arts and technology with a growing readership.

We had cracking events. The 20th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum with Leila will stick in my (48k) memory for a long time.

However, building a publication which needed a global stage was hard, in a medium-sized city. Would moving to London have made it easier? Perhaps. But geography was irrelevant when trying to compete with comparatively well-funded publications from the US, who had the backing to invest in readers, journalists, and sales.

But, none of this is anyone else’s fault, or problem. What I really wanted Imperica to be, was to be the spiritual successor to the print and digital publications that I had read and admired over the years. Sky Magazine. The amazing Sleaze Nation. In Matt’s Web Curios, we had the spiritual successor to NTK. In launching a monthly magazine in 2020, I gave it one final shot… for Imperica Magazine to be as enjoyed as the magazines which I had also once enjoyed. Perhaps it would have, over time, the same readership figures.

It didn’t. We ran up a sizeable loss every issue and had to, rather embarrassingly, haggle rates with every contributor. That could only work for so long, and, one day before Imperica’s 10th birthday, it was time to close the site and magazine for good.

The death of long-gestation personal projects is always somewhat tragic, but at the same time, I wonder as to whether people have moved on from mine. There are plenty of other, much more important, issues now demanding people’s attention — and rightly so.

Would I create another magazine, or indeed another publishing business? Not in the same way. I love working with other people, so would need a co-founder, and investment before anything formally starts. I would definitely run it as a non-profit if the opportunity arose. If someone has some money to invest (or donate), then I would consider re-opening Imperica as-is, but that is unlikely to happen now.

In a way, I am proud that I started something from scratch with no funding but at the same time frustrated because it could and should have punched above its weight. However, many publications — and businesses have become very successful by such bootstrapped means, so I don’t want to appear frustrated. I’m just sad, really.

Anyway, goodbye Imperica. Thanks for all of the opportunities which you gave to me, and the people that you allowed me to meet and work with. I shouldn’t be upset about how hard it was to build and the failure that it became — although I am upset. I will, in time, think fondly of the 10 years of fun that I had in building, producing, writing, publishing, and making it.

Photo: “Mirror Mirror”, an event by the New Scientist and Imperica. BFI London, 2013



Paul Squires

Founder @imperica @pereramedia / Strategist @ibminteractive / Chair @furtherfield. Digital, media, art, politics, environment, culture, ephemera.