Do you ever come across content so good that you’re jealous? You wish you were on the team that came up with that campaign, or you wish you’d been the one to write that headline or article.
The content that catches my eye these days often comes in the form of branded digital magazines. More companies are rethinking the way they package content, and choosing a format that puts the ideas, not the corporate brand or lead-gen forms, front and center. I’ve written before about some of my favorite examples, like All Hands from Managed by Q, First Round Review and WP Engine’s Velocitize.
What digital magazines do you have an eye on? If you’re looking for inspiration, check out these publications from Big Cartel, Adobe and WeTransfer.
Workshop by Big Cartel
Big Cartel is the go-to platform for artists who want to sell their products online. From clothing designers and jewelry makers to photographers and filmmakers, almost a million independent artists and makers use Big Cartel as their ecommerce site. Big Cartel’s blog, Workshop, reflects that same level of cutting-edge independence.
Andy Newman is Workshop’s editor. “We keep our goal as a company simple: to support artists and make it easy for them to sell their work,” Newman says. “Everything we do at Big Cartel and with Workshop is in service of that goal, so consistency happens naturally.” It helps that the team includes a variety of artists, makers and DIYers. When planning content, Newman says the goal is to share the kind of fun and informative projects that matter to them as independent artists.
“It's important to understand what a goal means when it comes to measuring success,” he says. “We realize we can't always quantify that goal with clicks or shares, so we don't dwell on metrics that are reset on a rolling 30-day schedule.” Instead, they have a long-term strategy, and measure such metrics as a happy community that is growing and thriving to gauge whether they’re on the right track.
“We've always felt that if we do right by the people in our community and never sacrifice the quality of work, everything else will follow,” Newman says.
His advice for other managing editors? Ask yourself if you're creating work that will make a difference in your readers' lives. “Publishing work that makes readers laugh, sparks a new idea, or gives them an excuse to take a break is just as important” as the more serious content, Newman says. “Making something meaningful is what cuts through the noise and has a lasting impact.”
Adobe may be best known for Photoshop and PDFs, but the company provides a variety of creative and design solutions ranging from video editing software to stock photos and videos. 99U continues the theme of providing solutions through its digital publication for creative professionals. Along with inspiring stories from successful designers, pieces on creative trends and articles to help generate new creative ideas, readers can also find practical career advice like how to get hired, and (equally important) how to get paid as a creative.
Adobe bought Behance in 2012, and 99U became a part of the Abode family. “We've had to reposition ourselves in the last few years from a publication focused on productivity to one that covers the design community,” says Matt McCue, editor in chief at 99U. “That is a huge change, but we've keep the strong roots of 99U — making ideas happen — and now look at that motivation through the lens of how designers are building their careers, mastering their crafts, and shaping the industry.”
And McCue says this new approach has actually made the process more seamless. “Our company makes great products for designers and we tell the stories of designers.”
He offers a few words of wisdom to other managing editors who might be limiting their skills to traditional publications. “Corporate and start-up brands right now are in need of expert content marketing directors, and for the entrepreneurial editor, these are good opportunities to apply your storytelling ability to build a community around brands.”
WePresent by WeTransfer
WeTransfer is hugely popular among creatives, who use the platform to transfer large files, anytime, anywhere. The company’s slogan is that it helps transfer big ideas from one creative mind to another — or many. WePresent also transfers stories from creative professionals to many creative readers.
What stands out about WeTransfer is that the site’s content (even its internal ads) looks like art. The blog focuses on art, music, graphic design,street design and photography, and also features projects — collectively titled WeMadeThat — that it commissions (works by various musical artists, visual artists, et cetera), setting aside 30 percent of its space to showcase these artist-driven projects.
“We are lucky that the company gives us the trust and freedom to walk back from what the company does and focus on what the company is about,” says Rob Alderson, editor-in-chief/VP Content at We Present. “So, we don’t write about file transfers; rather, because 75% of our users are creatives, we write about creative minds and creative ideas.”
Alderson admits that there are KPIs and targets that are set by the CEO, but says it’s understood that since content is a longer-term venture, it will take time to assess the return on investment.
Alderson advises managing editors to always keep the reader in mind. “It’s easy when creating content for a brand to make stuff that pleases everyone internally, and does absolutely nothing for anyone else,” he says. “Tell stories that mean something. Respect people’s time and attention.”
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