By the time Pop-Up Magazine brought their live-performance “literary magazine” to NYC in collaboration with ESPN, they were already four “issues” into a cultural phenomenon anchored in the Bay Area. An issue of Pop-Up happens to be a night of art, film and storytelling on stage, occurring three or four times a year. Not only was each issue sold out, but also highly sought-after—as the contributors ranged from Beck to Susan Orleans. This weekend, Pop-Up Magazine is adding an additional tangible element to their overall experience, with The California Sunday Magazine.
This new venture is more akin to a traditional magazine, but maintains the ingenuity that put the brand on the map. Original, thoughtful content (stories, photography and illustrations) will be shared by way of a subscription-based mobile app and website, as well as a monthly printed edition packaged for free with the Sunday issues of the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee (delivering an immediate 400,000-person circulation). This is a publication made with Californians in mind, and meant to rival the literary magazine hub of New York City.
Douglas McGray, Editor of The California Sunday Magazine and Pop-Up Magazine—as well as the CEO of their publisher, California Sunday, began his career as a features writer. His own work has graced the pages of The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Wired, as well as radio stories for This American Life. Pop-Up magazine began as a hobby for McGray, a means of storytelling experimentation, until its rapid success changed everything. McGray had more on his mind. He shares with CH, “Given all the cultural, economic and political influence of California and the West, and all the people who live here, and all the stories all around us, it’s strange we aren’t home to a smart, big audience, general-interest magazine. Especially when we’re home to so much writing talent.” With that, The California Sunday Magazine was born.
As for why he stepped into the world of print, rather than just launching online and with the app, McGray continues that it pertains to consumption and audience. “It was always really important to me that Pop-Up happened at night. We scanned so much media at our desk and we only have so much attention. We began looking at other periods of leisure and that led us to the weekends. I started thinking about what it would mean to have a media company for nights and weekends and that it would be great to make a great reported weekend magazine over on the West Coast, only, we’d have the advantage of 2014.”
He continues, “We do not think of it as a print launch. We sketched out the kind of stories and presentations that work well across all platforms: phone, tablet, magazine. We designed a print magazine based on those rules and created a multi-platform magazine that reflects how people read now. The print piece is really practical. There are a lot of people who love print.”
By inserting it in existing publications, McGray has guaranteed circulation for the publication, but he believes readers will come from multiple channels like social media and word of mouth. But with their print edition, he observes, “We will find people who have chosen to get a Sunday paper. The people who are choosing to get a Sunday paper delivered really like the experience of reading a paper. It’s part of their Sunday. If they find a beautiful high-quality magazine that shows up in something they already love, they’ll be delighted.” And with the top quality content at dedicated readers’ fingertips, he’s right. Plus, there’s the bonus of the publication being local. California, McGray says, is “a market that, frankly, is underserved for ambitious national magazine features that are made here and reflect the culture and the aesthetics. You can tell when something is made close to home. And California has always been a great place to start things.”
Readers can get unlimited access to the California Sunday online (web, iOS, Android and Kindle) for a subscription of $40 annually, while a $100 subscription also gets you the print edition. Complimentary monthly print editions are being offered to librarians in the Bay Area.
Images courtesy of The California Sunday Magazine