Welcome to the latest edition of Ad Age Publisher’s Brief, our roundup of news from the world of content producers across digital and print. Got a tip? Send it our way. Joining us late? Here’s the previous edition.
Today’s edition of Publisher’s Brief focuses on awesome content because, well, that’s ultimately the point, right?
First up, a report from the spring edition of Pop-Up Magazine, which I witnessed last night in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. Pop-Up entirely filled the historic, 2,109-seat theater in the wake of sold-out shows at similarly stately venues in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles over the past couple of weeks. (The last stop on the spring tour: Washington, D.C., this Friday night. If you’re in D.C., go! There are, as of this writing, still $29 and $39 tickets left.)
Pop-Up has been going strong since 2009, when it was founded in San Francisco by Douglas McGray, Lauren Smith, Derek Fagerstrom, Evan Ratliff and Maili Holiman. The company and its critically-acclaimed sibling publication, The California Sunday Magazine, were both acquired last year by the Emerson Collective, an advocacy/media company founded by Laurene Powell Jobs that became the majority investor in The Atlantic in 2017.
Pop-Up calls itself “a magazine performed live”—which, in practice, means that about eight or nine storytellers take the stage for roughly 10 or 15 minutes each (the line-up varies from city to city, although there is considerable overlap) to tell incredibly compelling personal narratives accompanied by audiovisuals (videos and/or quirky animations, presented on a giant screen) and original compositions (performed by a live band, the Magik*Magik Orchestra, during the current tour).
Google and Chanel were sponsors of last night’s show, and both presented brief interstitial live-plus-video “advertisements” (e.g., a researcher from a Google-funded lab was on hand to explain how they’re deploying Google Street View to help people with dementia reconnect with their lost memories) that were good enough to draw spirited applause.
Nothing gets filmed or posted online, which means each show in each city is made exclusively for the people there for the night to experience it live—and then it’s gone forever as a coherent piece of content (although the storytellers have been known to repurpose parts of their presentations in other contexts later on).
The thing about Pop-Up shows is that they’re just thrillingly good. Last night’s edition was the best I’ve been to yet. The highlights for me:
• Actor, comedian and “Late Night Whenever” podcaster Michelle Buteau’s riotously hilarious take on dating;
• Musician, composer and “Song Exploder” podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway’s rapturous explanation of what, exactly, goes into a ridiculously delicious mocha cookie (which everyone in the audience got to sample) from the Café at Line Hotel in Los Angeles;
• The Ringer writer Jason Concepcion’s unexpectedly deep (and also hilarious) story about being mistaken for a Yankees fan by a friend—and just rolling with it (for way too long);
• Comedian Mohanad Elshieky’s laugh-out-loud routine on the awkwardness of engaging in small talk with Uber drivers—and his riveting tale of the time he, as a driver, had to engage in small talk with a passenger (a guy with a knife who subjected him to a carjacking in his native Benghazi, Libya);
• and filmmaker Denise Zmekhol’s moving story of the fate of her late architect-father’s São Paulo masterpiece, a 25-story glass-skinned office tower that went on to become the city’s largest vertical slum (and the scene of tragedy).
If you’re at all involved in producing live events, or in sponsoring live events, a small suggestion: Get on the Pop-Up Magazine mailing list so you can find out about upcoming summer, fall and winter “issues.”
P.S. Pop-Up Magazine is expanding its team, spokeswoman Victoria Chow tells Ad Age, with Charley Locke (formerly of Texas Monthly and Wired) joining as a story producer, and Anna Martin (This American Life, Slate, The Moth) joining as an associate story producer.
Food for thought