Pop-Up Magazine Comes to LA

Ace Hotel Marquee
(Photo credit: Leo Jung.)

Earlier this month (Thursday 11/13/14), Pop-Up Magazine (the live-events arm of California Sunday) returned to San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall for the first time since Song Reader, the music-themed special issue created in collaboration with Beck in May 2013. From the LA Times:

The scene was a beautiful, chaotic mess, a mashup of live music, animation and rollicking storytelling for about 2,600 people filling Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. So ravenous was the crowd for Pop-Up Magazine’s particular brand of storytelling — original magazine-style nonfiction, told aloud and through still photography, recorded interviews and short films, with many pieces accompanied by live “soundtracks” — that the Nov. 13 event had sold out online in about 15 minutes.

Pop-Up Magazine after-party

Afterward, the crowd streamed into the lobby rotunda for what some described as a deafening party that went on for hours. The bars were packed with gregarious guests savoring and retelling the stories they had heard….

At a 2009 show, shortly before he died, photographer Larry Sultan narrated images from a photo album he’d found 30 years earlier at a flea market, retelling the life story of a young man who shipped off to war. At another show, “Toy Story 3″ director Lee Unkrich used film clips to give a behind-the-scenes look at how he sound-edited a single line of dialogue in the movie. Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Sam Green has shown a narrative short about fog in San Francisco, accompanied by live music. Author Michael Pollan and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker have read nonfiction stories. Pop-Up has even had “special issues,” like an all-music show in 2013, a collaboration with Beck and novelist Dave Eggers’ publishing company, McSweeney’s, that featured live music and stories about music.

Last week (Wednesday 11/19/14) Pop-Up Magazine performed its first live “issue” for Los Angeles fans, at the United Artists Theatre at the Ace Hotel. Table of Contents here. The stories themselves aren’t recorded or republished online, but writer Jessica Langlois retells a few of her favorite shorts and features from the LA show here.

Pop-Up Magazine Table of Contents

Sponsors included MailChimp, Google Play, Nest, and Converse.

Nest Gallery at Pop-Up Magazine
A Nest-sponsored gallery installation at the after-party features art pieces commissioned by Nest for “story ads” in The California Sunday Magazine.


The after-party featured a soundtrack curated by Google Play, with songs prompted by the most recent film in the “California Inspires Me” series, a collaboration between Google Play and the California Sunday story ad studio.

The California Sunday Magazine Launches This Weekend

California Sunday October 2014 Print Cover

We’ve been working on The California Sunday Magazine for more than a year, and this weekend we publish the debut issue (digital yesterday, print tomorrow). Stories by Carina Chocano, Daniel Alarcon, Carolina Miranda, Roland Kelts, Nicole Allan, Lauren Smiley, Heather Hansman, Mark Arax, and Pendarvis Harshaw; photographs by Will Adler, Holly Andres, Omar Lucas, Daniel Shea, Gui Martinez, Dru Donovan, and Ian Allen; illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton, Tucker Nichols, and Christopher David Ryan; a conversation between Gia Coppola and Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy; an animated film by Brian Rea and Pablo Declan, narrated by filmmaker Mike Mills; some wonderful ads (some produced in partnership with our “story ads” team) from Lexus, Google Play, Nest, MailChimp, the University of California, Ace Hotel, the California Endowment, and Chronicle Books; and nice editor’s letter from my partner in crime, Doug McGray.

Some of the coverage:

“Will This New Magazine Be California’s Answer to the ‘New Yorker’?”
Mother Jones

“The organizers of Pop-Up Magazine have turned their franchise into something even more old-fashioned: a media company with a print edition. Starting on Oct. 2, their company, California Sunday, will publish original articles by (and largely for) Californians on a mobile app and website as well as in a glossy, monthly print edition packaged with Sunday issues of the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and Sacramento Bee.”
Bloomberg Businessweek

“Part of Pop-Up’s success…is that it capitalizes on a desire for a lean-back media experience — it’s held at night and the audience often gathers at a bar after the event. ‘We spend so much time scanning media at our desks, it’s hard to pay attention,’ McGray says. ‘We’re distracted.’ He predicted that a digital and print product that arrived only on the weekend would also fit this leisure-time niche. Based on initial reactions to the magazine, he seems to be on to something.”
NiemanLab

“We’re launching a magazine that has a print title…. People read so many different ways. There are people who only read on their phones, there are people who really like tablets, and there are people who hate tablets and really love their laptops, and there are people who love nothing more than print. We like the idea of being wherever it is that people read.”
–Editor Doug McGray on KPCC Public Radio

“For everyone out there who’s a fan of Pop-Up Magazine’s superb live storytelling, but wishes the team behind it would give you something to read at your leisure, check this out.”
The Bold Italic

“That means California Sunday Magazine will debut on the Web, across a range of devices (Apple iPhone, Google Android, Amazon Kindle), as well as a print insert to 400,000 selected readers of the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee.”
Re/Code

“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.”
Cool Hunting

“We’re a magazine of stories, mostly about people. We’re interested in the lives lived all around us. We like vivid characters and surprising plots. And we’re curious about everything: culture, politics, science, business, food, entertainment, social issues, technology, art, and more.”
–Editor Doug McGray in Los Angeles Magazine

“The first issue has advertising from eight companies, including Nest, Lexus, Google…. Some of the spots are ‘story advertisements,’ such as a Lexus ad structured as a travel piece on Napa and Sonoma wine country. That ad follows the magazine’s ethos: It’s a storytelling publication, meant to be read at a leisurely, weekend pace…. Not for nothing is it being discussed as ‘California’s answer to The New Yorker.’”
Columbia Journalism Review

“The magazine is made in California. So when it comes to photography, whenever possible we use artists who have a deep, authentic connection to this place, creatively and personally. And that authenticity can be seen in their photographs. We always want to surprise readers. California Sunday imagery will feel cinematic, thought-provoking, not overly stylized or retouched. A sense of place is really important to the magazine, so there won’t be a lot of studio photography.”
–Photo director Jackie Bates in aPhotoEditor

“Filled with stories and photography focused on California culture from all its myriad micro-universes.”
Boing Boing

“What makes the print magazine scalable from the start is a deal that the company has struck with the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Sacramento Bee…. [The] new company will continue to produce [Pop-Up Magazine shows] as well as what it considers weekend reading: meaty narrative storytelling.”
Fast Company

“[The] California Sunday Magazine has a diabolically clever distribution strategy: It will appear in the Sunday editions of several major California newspapers.”
Bernalwood

“A new weekly magazine called California Sunday was announced this morning, and reaction was immediate and joyous. The very creative business idea is to put the print mag inside the state’s biggest Sunday papers, while having all the websites and apps that are exciting to new-media people but can’t charge Sunday paper ad rates.”
Gawker (from earlier in the year)

“The print title forms the core of a new media company born of a partnership of new and old media professionals: former Digg.com and Federated Media exec Chas Edwards and Douglas McGray, a magazine writer for titles like Wired and the New Yorker and impresario of a live series of Bay Area events, Pop Up Magazine.”
International Business Times

“The monthly, print-side [of California Sunday's] business model is most intriguing. Not only does it give them instant traction at both the advertiser and circulation-base ends. But if successful, it could prove to be a model of revenue for other grouped regional newspapers.”
Mediabistro

“That’s not the only asset the team is bringing to bear. California Sunday also has a successful event strategy — it’s folding McGray’s popular Pop-Up Magazine series into the company as well. And it has built a studio to help brands execute content marketing inside the magazine’s pages. Oh, and it has some of the best talent in the state, from Michael Pollan to Farhad Manjoo, as contributors.”
John Battelle’s Searchblog

“McGray and Edwards’ impressive editorial team includes: creative director Leo Jung, formerly the design director at Wired and deputy art director at the New York Times Magazine, and photography director Jacqueline Bates, previously the senior photo editor of W magazine. She also worked in the photo departments of ELLE, Interview, and Wired.”
Society of Publication Designers

“The California Sunday Magazine, a new general-interest monthly that’s launching in print, online and on phones and tablets in early October, is taking content marketing to a new place: the stage.”
Digiday

“Helmed by S.F.’s Douglas McGray (editor and co-creator of Pop-Up Magazine and contributor to This American Life and The New Yorker), California Sunday is about gorgeous photography and evocative longform reporting on the stories that make our fair state the beautiful beast she is. And they’ve got the chops to pull it off, with behind-the-scenes talent from Wired, the New York Times, W Magazine and Digg alongside Cali’s deep bench of proven storytellers and visual artists.”
Inside Hook

Pop-Up Magazine: Dinner 9/24/14

Last week my colleagues put together Dinner, a special food edition of Pop-Up Magazine: Sixteen food-themed stories served up alongside a meal created by chef and food writer Samin Nosrat. Some artifacts from the evening.

Pop-Up Magazine Dinner menu
A pop-up menu for Pop-Up Magazine.

Tucker Nichols napkin
Napkins by Tucker Nichols that suggest topics for conversation.

Wendy MacNaughton infographic water glass
Water glass infographic by Wendy MacNaughton to illustrate the California draught.

Memory cookies from Pop-Up Magazine
Sixteen small cookies, each built around an ingredient featured in one of the evening’s stories — from subtle (water) to unusual (charcoal and smoke) to daring (chicken fat).

Here Comes California Sunday

The California Sunday Magazine

Today we announced the launch of The California Sunday Magazine. We’ll debut on October 5 on the web, for iPhone and iPad, on Android and Kindle devices, and also in print — delivered with select Sunday copies of the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee. Each month we’ll publish thoughtful, reported features and beautiful photography and illustrations set in California, the West, Asia, and Latin America, for a national audience. You can sign up now for read-everywhere membership here.

The new title will publish alongside Pop-Up Magazine, the live magazine. With Pop-Up Magazine for nights and The California Sunday Magazine for weekends, we’re focused on making media for your leisure time.

Here are some initial reactions:

“For everyone out there who’s a fan of Pop-Up Magazine’s superb live storytelling, but wishes the team behind it would give you something to read at your leisure, check this out.”
The Bold Italic

“That means California Sunday Magazine will debut on the Web, across a range of devices (Apple iPhone, Google Android, Amazon Kindle), as well as a print insert to 400,000 selected readers of the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee.”
Re/Code

“Filled with stories and photography focused on California culture from all its myriad micro-universes.”
Boing Boing

“What makes the print magazine scalable from the start is a deal that the company has struck with the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Sacramento Bee…. [The] new company will continue to produce [Pop-Up Magazine shows] as well as what it considers weekend reading: meaty narrative storytelling.”
Fast Company

“A new weekly magazine called California Sunday was announced this morning, and reaction was immediate and joyous. The very creative business idea is to put the print mag inside the state’s biggest Sunday papers, while having all the websites and apps that are exciting to new-media people but can’t charge Sunday paper ad rates.”
Gawker (from earlier in the year)

“The print title forms the core of a new media company born of a partnership of new and old media professionals: former Digg.com and Federated Media exec Chas Edwards and Douglas McGray, a magazine writer for titles like Wired and the New Yorker and impresario of a live series of Bay Area events, Pop Up Magazine.”
International Business Times

“The monthly, print-side [of California Sunday's] business model is most intriguing. Not only does it give them instant traction at both the advertiser and circulation-base ends. But if successful, it could prove to be a model of revenue for other grouped regional newspapers.”
Mediabistro

“That’s not the only asset the team is bringing to bear. California Sunday also has a successful event strategy — it’s folding McGray’s popular Pop-Up Magazine series into the company as well. And it has built a studio to help brands execute content marketing inside the magazine’s pages. Oh, and it has some of the best talent in the state, from Michael Pollan to Farhad Manjoo, as contributors.”
John Battelle’s Searchblog

“McGray and Edwards’ impressive editorial team includes: creative director Leo Jung, formerly the design director at Wired and deputy art director at the New York Times Magazine, and photography director Jacqueline Bates, previously the senior photo editor of W magazine. She also worked in the photo departments of ELLE, Interview, and Wired.”
Society of Publication Designers

“The California Sunday Magazine, a new general-interest monthly that’s launching in print, online and on phones and tablets in early October, is taking content marketing to a new place: the stage.”
Digiday

“Helmed by S.F.’s Douglas McGray (editor and co-creator of Pop-Up Magazine and contributor to This American Life and The New Yorker), California Sunday is about gorgeous photography and evocative longform reporting on the stories that make our fair state the beautiful beast she is. And they’ve got the chops to pull it off, with behind-the-scenes talent from Wired, the New York Times, W Magazine and Digg alongside Cali’s deep bench of proven storytellers and visual artists.”
Inside Hook

It’s Hard Paying Attention to the Gadgets

Three stats I saw last week got me thinking about our rising inability to pay attention to anything.

Empty Conference Room
(Photo credit: Tom Quinn/Flickr Creative Commons.)

One, while on conference calls, 60% of us report to multitasking and generally not paying attention unless we’re the ones doing the talking. (Nobody is paying attention to your conference call.)

Two, there were those stats about the abysmally low engagement rates for brands in Facebook. (Why brands are un-friending Facebook.)

“Red Bull’s main Facebook page has 44m fans. Maybe a lot, but by generating just 330,000 interactions last month, the brand managed less than 1 monthly interaction for every 100 fans…. Meanwhile, Coca Cola’s main page has a whopping 84m fans globally, but scored an engagement per fan 20-times lower than Red Bull’s. MAC, one of the digitally most sophisticated brands in high-end beauty averaged just one monthly interaction for every 500 fans. Same story with a top digital performer in the beer category- Heineken, earning just 1 interaction for every 180 fans.”

If you look at just those two stats, side by side, you might conclude that corporations produce really boring content, and when we’re at work talking about our corporations, we’re boring too. But I also saw this third data point: People reading on Kindles are much less likely to remember the plot of a story than readers who read the story in a paperback book. Digital readers experience comparable levels of “empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence” that are similar to physical-book readers, but there’s something about “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle [that] does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”

I don’t exactly to know what to make of that. (To tell you the truth, I don’t even know what all those words mean.) But it does suggest that current digital reading experiences are less memorable, at least in some ways, because they ask less of some of our senses — the movement of eyes across the page, or the work the brain needs to do to place words in a specific place on a rectangle of white paper. When you consider the capabilities of digital reading devices such as phones, laptops, tablets and Kindles — which can integrate sound and motion and even limited touch interaction — it’s odd that paper still tantalizes certain parts of the brain better. I wonder if that edge will hold when we start reading stories inside a pair of VR goggles.

Driving in the Future with Navdy

I just like this commercial. I got to meet Doug, the guy who invented the Navdy product; I got to eavesdrop on a cute mother-son phone conversation; and discovered a cool new band called Sugarbeef.

Annie Leibovitz Goes Native for Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton Ad in August 2014 Vanity Fair

I love the new Series 1 campaign for Louis Vuitton, with photography by Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber and Juergen Teller.

At first, when I saw the print creative in the Sunday New York Times, I didn’t think much about it — a brand like Louis Vuitton enlisting a prominent photographer such as Leibovitz for advertising work isn’t unusual. She’s been collaborating with Louis Vuitton on commercial work for years. But when I saw the campaign in the pages of Vanity Fair, a magazine that lists her on the masthead as a contributing photographer, I liked it even more. It didn’t require copy saying “advertorial” or “sponsored” at the top: Louis Vuitton’s brand is prominently stamped in the lower right-hand corner and copy below the photos tells you where to buy the products, so it’s obviously not an editorial series. Yet there’s nothing more native to the pages of Vanity Fair than luscious photographs of beautiful, fashionable people directed by Annie Leibovitz. These are ad pages that augment the reading experience that brought me to Vanity Fair in the first place. How lovely.

Jarring Reminder from VW: Keep Your Eyes On the Road

Nice use of location-based text advertising and in-cinema video to create an experiential ad for Volkswagen.

Newcastle Imagines an America That Lost the Revolution

Celebrate July Third with this Newcastle spot from Droga5.

Alcohol Brands and Car Services Bid for Drunk Driver Story

I love programmatic banner buying as much as the next guy, but some days I can’t help worrying about the future of online advertising.

Of course there’s the viewability crisis, where 54% of banners are delivered outside the viewable area of a browser, and therefore can never be seen by human eyes. Among ads delivered by ad networks, it’s even worse: 69% of them aren’t viewable. Then there are all those ads served intentionally (and fraudulently) to software bots trying to act like web-surfing consumers. Even among what’s left — viewable ads served to human beings — I would argue that plenty of money is wasted on over-aggressive re-targeting.

And then I came across this.

Drunk Driving Headline

A friend submitted an anonymous tip to the ChasNote hot-line. It’s a link to this story at LA Times (headline above) introducing new allegations of drunk driving to the ongoing story of booze-fueled violence by a Los Angeles Dodgers fan against Bryan Snow, a fan of the rival San Francisco Giants. The submitter was pointing out an awkwardly placed ad for a brand of vodka, but he didn’t include a screenshot, only a link to the story.

Tanqueray Ad LA Times

By the time I followed the link to the LA Times, the vodka ad had been replaced by this one (above), for Tanqueray gin. It appears to the team here at ChasNote that some automated ad-targeting software — software developed by an ad-network that manages certain inventory for the LA Times — created a bidding war among alcoholic beverage brands for this drunk driver story. Oy vey. And, for extra credit, it placed an ad for Hertz Rental Car below the Tanqueray ad. Really unfortunate, eh?

But, wait, you say. It’s quite the opposite! It’s brilliant re-targeting!

I did, in fact, book a car with Hertz at its website the night before, so this is actually state-of-the-art targeting aimed at predisposed customers, right? It’s wasteful targeting, in my view. I literally bought the company’s services 12 hours prior, and if I book another Hertz car 12 hours later it’s because I had a good experience interacting with the product and personnel. An advertisement of any kind, at that point, would have nothing to do with it. Offering me a 30% discount when I’m likely (given my behavior in the most recent 12 hours) to pay at full retail is actually kind of stupid.

I’m also a fan of Tanqueray’s product, though I haven’t made that official in Facebook nor have I visited the brand’s site in the past year. Maybe someone’s been combing through my receipts from the grocery store?

Still. It’s awful, in the opinion of this longtime Hertz and Tanqueray customer, to see these brands running alongside a drunk-driving story. Not great to see them running alongside each other, either. I’ve got to believe we can do better.