Q&A with Erika Pitera and Lynne Webb of ZEST Magazine

Q-and-A-Series-header-ZESTBack in 2008, when mother-daughter duo Lynne Webb and Erika Pitera launched their recipe and food blog MyGourmetConnection.com, becoming magazine publishers was not on their radar.   The blog offered a wide variety of recipes with a particular focus on creating simple and delicious everyday meals – the kind you can easily make on a weeknight after coming home from work. As the website grew in size and popularity, and as the digital magazine trend gained momentum, they began looking for a way to highlight their special holiday and celebration recipes and menus. A seasonal magazine with a focus on entertaining would be the perfect companion to MyGourmetConnection.   Both Erika and Lynne have graphic design backgrounds, and it seemed like a terrific way to bring specialized content to their audience in a new, accessible and aesthetic format. And so ZEST was born in the early part of 2011.   We asked Erika and Lynne to share their insights and lessons learned in the world of print and digital publishing.

Zest Past Issues

What got you started publishing through MagCloud?

Erika & Lynne When we started ZEST in summer of 2011, we were publishing in digital format only. The service we were using worked well enough, but we’re always looking to improve and expand our options. When we found the MagCloud platform, we were attracted by the high-resolution capabilities it offered. Erika’s husband Tom is a professional photographer, and he works with us on all the shoots for ZEST. Between the amount of work we put into styling the food and table decor, and the professional quality of Tom’s photos, we want our work to be displayed at its absolute best, and we love the way ZEST looks on MagCloud.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when you made the transition from bloggers to magazine publishers?

E&L First, finding a platform with an interface that worked smoothly and easily for our readers required some trial and error, and we ended up experimenting with a few before settling on MagCloud. The bigger challenge, however, was determining how to present this new format to our existing audience in a way that was simple and appealing. We’ve found that showcasing snippets of content from each new issue on both the magazine website and MyGourmetConnection is an effective way of introducing people to the format and attracting new readers.

Why print and not just digital?zest-and-ipad

E&L We were thrilled to be able to order printed copies of ZEST through MagCloud. Printing wasn’t on our minds when we first started ZEST, but now that we’ve gotten a few issues printed, we plan to utilize the service more in order to help our audience on MyGourmetConnection discover the magazine. It’s amazing how with just a few tweaks you can create a single publication that looks great in both digital and print formats.

What’s your favorite feature on MagCloud?

E&L From the publisher standpoint, we really like the upload tool on MagCloud. It works flawlessly and makes it easy for you to spot any errors in your layout that could result in a less-than-satisfactory printed copy. Armed with this information you can correct the problem, upload again and be certain that your publication will print the way you want it to. From the consumer standpoint, we like the shop. It’s well organized, the search works well and it gives us an opportunity to discover some great reading from other small, independent publishers like ourselves.

What tips do you have for someone new to self-publishing?

E&L It’s important to have a plan laid out for your publication – whatever type it is. You should have a good idea how many photos you’ll need, a logical order in mind for the various features and a relatively uniform look throughout the publication. Keep your goals within reason and if you’re working within a time frame, allow yourself enough time to complete the job without rushing.

If you could invite anyone (living or dead) over for a casual dinner who would it be and what would you serve them?

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E&L Julia Child, of course! She was and always will be a wonderful inspiration – not just from a culinary standpoint, but as a symbol of what women are capable of achieving. We share her love of good food and the process of creating it, and that approach makes what we do seem a lot less like work. As far as what we’d serve for dinner – it would have to be a few of the Hungarian recipes that have been handed down in our family for several generations. Family recipes are part of who you are and probably some of the best in any home cook’s repertoire.

Creating Conversions: How to Maximize Instagram for SMBs & Publishers

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So you’ve survived the holiday season, but now your smartphone is filled with a veritable art gallery of filtered Instagram photos. Those Amaro- or Kelvin-tinted shots don’t need to sit there collecting dust in your phone, however, and this is especially true for small businesses and publishers. The question is: How can those Instagram pictures lead to more paying customers for your small business or publication?

Instagram’s core idea is less about cool filters and more about creating strong visual narratives. We hear all the time about how visual content draws the most eyeballs on social media pages. For you the business owner, this key insight can change the way you tell your brand’s story.

For instance, let’s say your publication holds a launch party. You can use Instagram to highlight portions of the party that make your brand stand out amongst your competitors. You can use Instagram to create a visual narrative that will draw new eyeballs, and thus new potential customers. This process is called conversion. Check out our Instagram profile to see an example.

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Here are five tips to create business conversions on Instagram:

  1. Create clear branding on your Instagram Profile Page. When Facebook bought Instagram recently, social media users started noticing small but important changes in how the platform behaved. One of those changes was Profile Pages. Profile Pages are no different than a Facebook page. They house all the photos you’ve uploaded to Instagram, and allow you to browse your feed. To maximize this for your brand, make sure you have a link driving back to your business’ home page, write a short and catchy bio and display your logo prominently.
  2. Upload your Instagram photos to as many other social platforms as possible. This sounds counter-intuitive, but keep in mind Instagram’s core idea. Instagram tells visual stories. In order to tell that story to as many people as possible, post your Instagram shots to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc. Spread the #love.
  3. Use hashtags. For those of you unfamiliar with a hashtag (#), it’s no different than your average pound key. But, when used in a caption of an Instagram photo as a theme, your photo has the potential to be introduced to a much wide audience. This is because whenever the hashtag is used, it’s picked up by Instagram’s search tool. For instance, if your publication centers on classic cars, and you’ve just uploaded an Instagram shot of your favorite ’67 Chevy, don’t forget to put #musclecar or #Chevy in the caption of your photo to introduce it to more potential readers.
  4. Use location tagging. But do it wisely. Many folks are afraid to tag a location to their photos, but it’s a great feature aimed at growing your exposure. When you tag locations, your image is grouped with all the others taken at that location, which again adds to the potential for your image to be seen by a wide audience.
  5. Be a consumer. Most brands and publishers use Instagram as a one-way street. They upload the pictures, with the appropriate hashtags, and then leave it alone. Make sure you add new followers with similar interests to your business or publication. Follow your readers. Like photos that relate to your own. This is called building a community, and doing so will reap large rewards in future conversions.

We here at MagCloud have talked about Instagram and seo services a few times in the past for businesses and consumers. Highlighting ways to use your Instagram photos to create business collateral whether that be a client calendar, trade-show or event poster or portfolio or photo collectible.  There are lots of ways to extend your Instagram conversations from the phone through other marketing and sales channels.

Do you guys use Instagram for your business? How do you use it differently from your own private Instagram account? What other tips do you have? Make sure to share in the comments!

New Year’s Resolutions

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While we will always look back at 2012 with a smile thanks to our great MagCloud community and lots of cool new products and innovations, we are super excited about what 2013 will offer.

Here are a few 2013 resolutions from the MagCloud team:

  • Provide more ways to create MagCloud publications with new web based authoring tools and templates to make creating publications a snap.
  • Allow others to build applications and services on top of MagCloud, so they can tap into our printing and publishing and global distribution capabilities without having to reinvent the wheel.
  • Introduce MagCloud subscriptions, making it easier for returning readers to get new editions of their favorite publications.
  • Enhanced support for frequent MagCloud customers.
  • More ways to discover and purchase publications via the web.
  • Introduce Perfect-Binding options for our Large Square and Tabloid products.

These are just a few of the things we have in mind.  Let us know what you think in the comments section below or share some of your own publishing related resolutions with us.

Ringing in the Holidays with a Meet-up and Twitter Chat

Hope you’re all enjoying December so far and that you’ve got those final MagCloud orders in for the holidays!

For your viewing pleasure, below are a few shots from our recent holiday meet-up at the Press Club in San Francisco. Be sure to follow MagCloud on Instagram to see the latest and greatest from our team. We look forward to seeing you at our next meet-up in the new year!

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MagCloud’s Chief MagClouder Andrew Bolwell and
Marketing Mixologist Patty Tulloch at the MagCloud Meetup.
 

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All the awesome MagCloud publications at our meetup!
 

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Hooray for new MagCloud fans and friends!
 

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Delicious food and wine from the Press Club
at the MagCloud Holiday Meet-up.
 

We also had a memorable Twitter Chat last week with Kyle Menard, editor of BRINK Magazine. There were quite a few inspirational tweets that we wanted to share with you. Below is a brief excerpt from the Twitter Chat – feel free to read our entire Twitter Chat via Storify.

  1. MagCloud
    Q1 – To start things off – @BRINKmag, how did you get started in publishing? #MagCloud
  2. BRINKmag
    Started with a vision & to create a guide for young professionals RT @magcloud how did you get started in publishing? #MagCloud
  3. MagCloud
    Q3 – Do you see a difference in behavior/interest between your print and digital readers? #MagCloud
  4. BRINKmag
    @MagCloud It’s a challenge, but readers want that hard copy AND the instant download of the latest issue. MC lets us provide that #MagCloud
  5. BRINKmag
    @MagCloud Definitely. Big digital numbers when an issue debuts, but it tapers off. Hard copy somewhat sustains through the year #MagCloud
  6. MagCloud
    That’s great to hear, @BRINKmag. Digital offers instant gratification while print gives longevity – makes it easy to go back to. #MagCloud
  7. MagCloud
    Q5 from @TONE_DOPE: “When will @MagCloud begin offering subscriptions & an oversized 10×13 print copy option? #MagCloud
  8. MagCloud
    @TONE_DOPE We’re looking at subscription models and new product types. We do offer 11×14 today. #MagCloud
  9. MagCloud
    Okay, @BRINKmag. Jumping back to you with question from our community, how do you see #mag publishing evolving in the future? #MagCloud
  10. BRINKmag
    @magcloud There will always be a place for print, but with trends, it seems essential that a publication have an app #MagCloud
  11. MagCloud
    Last question from our team, @BRINKMag – what advice do you have for magazine publishers starting out? #MagCloud
  12. BRINKmag
    @magcloud It comes down to being on top of your game (in whatever you do), being a leader in what you believe in & staying current #MagCloud
  13. BRINKmag
    Lay the groundwork, be prepared (cont) RT @magcloud – what advice do you have for magazine publishers starting out? #MagCloud
  14. BRINKmag
    Also, (turning the tables) what advice do you have for publishers? RT @MagCloud Do you have any questions for Andrew? #MagCloud
  15. MagCloud
    Answering your 2nd Q: Listen to your customers, focus on innovation, embrace change, and don’t be afraid to take risks. #MagCloud
  16. BRINKmag
    BOOM —> RT @MagCloud “Listen to your customers, focus on innovation, embrace change, and don’t be afraid to take risks.” #MagCloud
  17. BRINKmag
    Definitely going to be quoting some of that for the next few weeks @MagCloud! Great stuff. #MagCloud

MagCloud Holiday Meet-Up and Twitter Chat

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Hey Bay Area! Help us celebrate 2012 at the MagCloud holiday meet-up in San Francisco with our Chief MagClouder and his team. Hear about all the latest MagCloud products and services, and learn what’s in store for next year.

  • Who: Fans of MagCloud – from new to seasoned publishers and all our social media fans!  Not sure what MagCloud is? Stop by to find out!
  • What: Learn about what the MagCloud team is working on, ask questions, share feedback and win prizes!
  • When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 11
  • Where: Press Club, 20 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco, CA 94103 (View Map)
  • Cost: FREE! Light appetizers and drinks will be served
  • RSVP: Let us know you’re coming by RSVPing in the comment section below!

If you can’t join us on Tuesday evening, you can still discuss all things publishing during our next Twitter Chat with one of our MagCloud publishers! The hour-long Twitter Chat kicks off at 10:00 a.m. PST on Tuesday, December 11 on our MagCloud Twitter handle (@MagCloud) and will feature our Chief MagClouder Andrew Bolwell and BRINK Magazine editor Kyle Menard.

What are Twitter Chats? It’s simply a discussion conducted on Twitter, where you get to Tweet live with our Chief MagClouder and Kyle about, in this case, publishing as well as any other MagCloud questions you have on your mind.

How can you participate? Starting now, submit questions for Andrew and Kyle by either tweeting them to @MagCloud using the #MagCloud hashtag or ask them right here in the comments section of this blog post. We also encourage everyone to join our Twitter Chat from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. PST on December 11 where Andrew and Kyle will respond to your questions live.

As an added incentive, all fans who ask a question will be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win a $25 Paypal MagCloud gift card perfect for you, your colleagues, friends, family, etc. to purchase your favorite publications on MagCloud.com during the holidays. The drawing is open to residents in the United States only. For the complete rules, see below.

Here’s a little more info about Kyle:KyleMenard

Kyle Menard sets his sights on achievable goals while keeping the big picture within his scope. After launching his own award winning magazine in 2009, BRINK, he continues to explore fresh and innovative channels to reach a bigger and broader audience while keeping the current audience engaged. He thrives on spreading the message of entrepreneurship, attainable goals and staying dedicated to a brand – the ultimate message of BRINK Magazine.

Don’t forget to follow our Twitter handle, @MagCloud, for the latest MagCloud news and updates, and ask those questions using #MagCloud or in the comments section here! Look forward to seeing you in-person or virtually next week!

The giveaway opens on Thursday, December 6, 2012. Entries must be submitted by 10:00 a.m. PST, Tuesday, December 11, 2012 and the winner will be announced via Twitter and our blog on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. The prize will be one (1) $25 MagCloud gift card and one (1) winner will be selected at random. All entrants agree to be contacted by Hewlett Packard for prize fulfillment. The drawings are open to MagCloud blog readers, Twitter followers and Facebook fans that reside in the United States and are at least 18 years of age at time of entry. No purchase necessary to enter or win. There is no limit on the number of entries from any entrant, but each entry must be submitted separately as a Tweet using the hashtag #MagCloud on Twitter or as a blog comment on this blog post. Anyone found to be in violation of any of our rules or third party networks will be ineligible. Entries in this contest will not be carried over into subsequent giveaways or drawings.

Q+A with Rachael Cavallo of Palu Ltd.

Rachael Cavallo refers to her job title as “magician.” She and her coworkers – her fellow “magicians” – run Seattle-based Palu Ltd., specializing in the design and manufacture of affordable home furnishings. It might take a bit of magic, she says, to combine fine craftsmanship, quality materials and contemporary style with the needs of an increasingly green world – yet Palu remains committed to environmental responsibility in all aspects of its business.

And when it comes to publishing catalog that help sell Palu products, Cavallo leaves the magic to MagCloud. “It’s been absolutely wonderful – and we especially appreciate the fast turnaround,” she says. “I can’t recommend MagCloud highly enough.”

  Tell us a little bit about Palu.

Rachael Cavallo We like to imagine things differently. From a broad range of chairs to cabinets, dining tables, mirrors and more, our line offers versatile furniture that is elegant, appropriate and approachable.

We recognize that the business of making furniture can have a heavy impact on our environment and our world. We are constantly working to minimize the impact we have and to promote positive change. We actively support sustainable and accountable forest management, fair labor practices, energy conservation, recycling, transparency and innovation in everything we do.

  How did you get started publishing through MagCloud?

RC We used to do a catalog with each item having an individual page, and we assembled all of the pages into binders. It didn’t take long, though, for customers’ binders to become unorganized – especially when we’d add or discontinue items. If we weren’t there to update the customers’ binders personally, it just wasn’t working. Plus, our printer wasn’t doing a very good job. So we needed a new platform.

We found MagCloud and began creating individual booklets by room. So we have a bedroom booklet, a dining room booklet, a living room booklet, one for accessories – and the like. So now when we have revisions, we just alert customers to the revised booklets and they can order them directly from MagCloud.

  How has MagCloud improved your business?

RC I like that we can do very small print runs. We can easily put together a 12-page catalog every few months, print out a few and send those to anyone who’s interested in what we have to offer. We’ll do about 400 or 500 at a time. And if we need, say, three more, then we order just three more. Or 300 more. The quantity is never a problem.

The expense is so small compared with the benefit of always having something for customers to hold on to. That’s always been the challenge for us.

  What tips would you give to someone new to self-publishing?

RC Learn your publishing software. I think that’s the most important tip I can give. We use InDesign, and we had a local designer create 10 styles of a template that we use on a regular basis. InDesign is a wonderful tool. Learn to use it, and it will not fail you.

  If your catalog were an ice cream flavor, what would it be?

RC I’m going with Marionberry Swirl because vanilla is its classic base – you can’t go wrong with that. The marionberry comes from our part of the country – and our pieces definitely have a Seattle/Northwast flair. The marionberry shows that we’re classic, but with a special twist.

Q+A with Kyle Menard of BRINK Magazine

Kyle Menard has loved magazines since he could read. So much so that he once even dreamed of opening a newsstand selling magazines from around the world. “Like the kind you see in New York City,” he says.

Now an adult in the digital age, Menard has directed his passion for print into a magazine of his own. In 2009, he launched BRINK, an Orlando, Fla.-based bimonthly magazine that celebrates entrepreneurs – those already successful and those just starting – and the spirit that makes them all so special. BRINK was voted “Best Magazine in Orlando 2012” by TheDailyCity.com readers.

  How did BRINK come about?

Kyle Menard  I’m just a huge fan of magazines and wanted to create a magazine of my own. So I put all my ideas together and named the magazine BRINK – because it’s always exciting to be on the cusp of something new, whatever that might be.

BRINK celebrates entrepreneurs and shares their stories and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. We feature entrepreneurs in the realm of entertainment, fashion, human interest and pop culture – everyone from indie musicians and actors to designers and artists – people who’ve quit their day jobs to live their dreams. We hope these stories inspire future entrepreneurs to create their own paths to success.

  How has publishing a magazine changed for you in the past five years?

KM My name has definitely become more recognizable in Orlando. And through the years people have become more willing to work with me and participate in BRINK. They want to join in the conversation. There’s something about publishing a print magazine that gives you more credibility.

There’s been a lot of talk about the demise of publishing, but print is not going anywhere. Online is great – everyone loves immediate gratification. But people still want to hold something in their hands. They want the physical magazine that they can hold – they want to experience a deeper connection.

  How did you get started publishing through MagCloud?

KM I did a web search for “publishing magazines” and found MagCloud. I began with a simple eight-page prototype. And after teaching myself Photoshop, going through some MagCloud tutorials and trial and error, I’ve never looked back.

  Why did you choose MagCloud?

KM We’re always evolving, and MagCloud is always evolving. The convenience factor is huge. If we need something printed right away, MagCloud can do that. If we need perfect bound instead of saddle stitched, MagCloud can do that. If we need 10 copies shipped to Spain, again, MagCloud makes all that possible. Plus, MagCloud is always encouraging us to do more with our magazine. They don’t just print your PDFs. They really care about your success.