PopTech Blog

Posts by Sarah Rich

How to Make a Magazine in 48 Hours

Editor’s note: Sarah Rich is a co-author of the book Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century and an advisory board member of PopTech Social Innovation Fellow Emily Pilloton’s organization, Project H Design. For more coverage of 48 Hour Magazine, see the team interview on Gizmodo and post on Big Think. The theme for the inaugural issue will be announced Friday, May 7th at 12p PST.

When the most common statement made about your industry is that it’s dead, there are two options: get out or make change. Of course many people in the magazine business choose a third option: stay in and complain about how bad things have gotten. It’s much easier to commiserate than to try to create something new; fortunately, sometimes one leads to the other.

48 Hr Mag

48 Hour Magazine was born out of a kvetching session a few months back among a small group of San Francisco writers. The three of us—Mat Honan, Alexis Madrigal and myself—all have one foot in the print world and the other on the Web, and we share a fervent interest in the future of media.

Our original idea was simple: Create a magazine from start to finish in two days. In the vein of rapidly produced and one-off publications, we were inspired by Strange Light, Pop Up Magazine, Ash Cloud Tales, and The Whole Earth Catalog. The implications are more complex. By its very nature, this is a project that would not have been possible even five years ago. While the final product—a printed magazine—is centuries-old, the process behind it uses none of the traditional tools of print. 48 Hour Magazine is a product of online tools, social networks, crowdsourcing, remote collaboration systems, and DIY creative services. We are operating with complete financial transparency and even physical transparency, by posting a live streaming video feed of our headquarters during the 48 hours of production.

So how does it actually work? On Friday, May 7, we will announce the magazine’s theme. Submissions will open and for 24 hours, anyone can submit writing, photos, illustrations or graphics through 48hrmag.com. At the end of 24 hours, on May 8, submissions close and our team of editors and designers will spend the next 24 hours selecting, designing and laying out the best content for publication in the magazine. At the end of the full 48, on Sunday, May 9, digital files get sent to MagCloud, where they become a print-on-demand magazine that travels to readers in the plain old mail.

It’s worth breaking down some of the key moving parts of the virtual machine that will crank out 48 Hour Magazine:

Website and Content Management System: We were lucky enough to get Dylan Fareed, a very talented web designer and developer, to build a custom CMS for this project. The robustness of his system will become clear as the project moves forward.

Twitter: Twitter was absolutely vital for getting the word out to our followers. It was the only publicity vehicle we used, to overwhelming effect. All six team members are pretty dedicated users and have strong networks.

Heroku: From what our web developer tells us, this hosting service allows us to keep our website humming with all the fancy submission bits without buying any servers or even a monthly account.

Magcloud: We’ll be using the print-on-demand service Magcloud. You upload a PDF and out pops a magazine on the other end. They handle printing, shipping, and sales.

Spot.us: Spot.us is a revolutionary new media project that began as a vehicle for crowdsourcing investigative journalism stories in the Bay Area. They have been expanding both geographically and functionally, and as a partner to 48 Hour Magazine they serve as a financial engine that allows us to take in all funds transparently and publicly.

UStream: To keep things lively, this online video service will stream all the action at the 48HR HQ, which will be housed at the offices of the stalwart magazine, Mother Jones.

Whether this collaboration will catalyze any kind of massive change remains to be seen, of course, but the concept has undoubtedly struck a chord. One week after publicly announcing the project, we have over 6,000 people signed up to be notified when submissions open. Our team—now totaling 6 members, with the addition of Heather Champ, Dylan Fareed and Derek Powazek—has our work cut out for us. We envisioned a manic production process, and that’s exactly what we will get.

We’d love to see some contributions from the PopTech community! You can add your name and email address to our list at 48hrmag.com to be notified when the theme is revealed and submissions open.