Every once in a while, you come across something that is so clever, so well done, and so inspiring that you immediately think “Why has that not been done sooner?” and follow that though quickly with, “How can I get involved with that?” For me, that something is Citygram Magazine, a new Austin-focused, iPad-based magazine that has stolen my heart.
I first heard of Citygram through one of my blogging inspirations, Tolly Moseley (if you haven’t checked out her blog, you should definitely do that), and have been hooked ever since. Tolly is one of the many talented contributors to Citygram, and when she first mentioned that she was working on the project, I knew that if her passion and skill for writing were any indication of the kind of quality to be expected in the magazine, then it would be great. And you know what? Great doesn’t even begin to describe it. Citygram is one of those publications that instantly draws you in and keeps you coming back for more. Not only is the content well-written and exactly the kind of stuff I want to read about Austin, but the digital aspect of the magazine is truly unique. Between you and me? This is the kind of magazine I would love to write for, and it’s become something of a personal mission to one day see my name amongst the rest of the fabulous Citygram talent (shhh – that’s our little secret, readers).
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Chris Perez, another inspiring Austinite (I’m forcing him to become my writing mentor) and the brilliant mind behind Citygram, to learn a little more about his inspiration for creating the magazine and what it’s all about:
For The Love Of [FTLO]: How did you come up with the idea to create Citygram?
Chris Perez [CP]: Before coming up with the idea that would eventually be Citygram, I was in a place where I was comparing the practicality of a full-time corporate job (electrical engineer at IBM) and the opportunity my creative outlets in photography / writing offered.
The Citygram idea is what eventually pulled me away from one and into the other. When you’re trying to make a career change I think it’s always valuable to think about all the skills you can layer to make yourself unique; so I was in the middle of thinking how I could monetize my photography and design experience, beyond just clients, while browsing through a magazine and that’s kind of when it all hit me.
I realized that I could probably not only make a magazine with the great people I already knew, but leveraging my background in technology I could make a magazine unlike anything currently out there.
FTLO: What separates it from other tablet mags?
CP: First and foremost is that Citygram is a digital-only publication – there is no print counterpart. Most tablet magazines are an afterthought to a print publication, they focus primarily on making a replica of the printed page. Most of the time this is done by simply converting physical page layouts into a series of PDF’s. Other than being digital and mobile, the PDF magazine apps offer no additional functionality or utility, and they are basically as static as a printed page.
With Citygram we’re really trying to push the envelope for what a digital magazine can be. Being unchained from print gives us a lot of flexibility to think of new concepts and editorials that simply could not be replicated in traditional media. We’re trying to improve the overall magazine experience by leveraging all the built-in functionality in your tablet or smartphone device with each and every article to connect you to a story, a place, or the author.
Which brings us into the other big difference with Citygram (not just with tablet magazines but with most magazines in general). Citygram is a very personality-focused magazine. We want you to get to know our authors and look forward to their exclusive stories and content. Our contributors are truly great, multi-talented and inspiring individuals that care about their craft. We want you to meet them, trust them, and let them guide you to the best in our city.
FTLO: Why the Austin focus?
CP: Austin is what we all know best, and its the thread that really connects us to one another. As contributors we all have a passion and enthusiasm for the city – its arts, its culture, its compassion. Our readers respond to that same emotion.
FTLO: Why did you pick each of the contributors? What makes them unique?
CP: There would be no Citygram if I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet nearly all of the contributors first. These really are the very people who inspired me to leave my full-time job and entertain the idea of turning my creative outlets into a career – which is precisely what each of them had done. I would meet them and they would introduce themselves as writers, artists, photographers, and that really resonated with me. Collectively, through their lifestyle, they helped me see there wasn’t as much value in money as there was in fulfilling that part of oneself that leads you to create something.
I could go through each and every one of them one-by-one. But for brevity, I’ll just say that each of them has a unique perspective, voice, and area of expertise. Joanna Wilkinson for fashion, Sarah Stacey for design, Tolly for arts & culture, etc. They all have great taste and a true talent for what they do, and that’s why I feel they are the perfect group of folks to build a magazine around. They continually inspire our city just as it inspires them.
FTLO: How do you decide what articles will be included in each issue?
CP: A few of us get together and come up with a theme for each issue. We wanted to stray from the standard ‘music’ or ‘fashion’ issues and try to do something a little more adaptable. So each issue we think of a one-word verb that aligns with that season or month. I’ll then assign some articles to writers, or accept some of their pitches based on what that word means to them, or how it applies to their field. “Compose” in the realm of design, means something different than “compose” in the realm of food, etc. It’s all very collaborative and I want each of them to tell the story they want to tell within our framework.
As editor I try to make sure each issue gives insight into all lifestyle sectors – food, culture, art, music, design, etc. – so that there is something for everyone.
FTLO: What are you hoping is the next step for Citygram?
CP: The plan is to really make Citygram be more than a magazine, and a part of your weekend routine. I want it to be your destination for what events are going on around town, and to be a place that connects you to what to see, eat, drink, or do each weekend. We’ve built a lot of that utility already in with our weekly Events spotlight and CityPics which are in the magazine now.
The next step is to do more of that…and then beyond that making Citygram something that is not just for the people of Austin but a part of other cities that we feel have a strong intersection with tech and arts & culture.