By Cameron Strang
March 1, 2012
On the cover, what if it looked like a photo—but it was actually a video of The Roots holding really still, and you could see them just barely move? Do you think we could we get ?uestlove to wink?
It’s ideas like these that dominate our planning sessions now. What was once a meeting about the print magazine with me and a few editors has morphed into a packed room with videographers, digital designers and producers joining us.Since last fall’s debut of our iPad app, we now publish RELEVANT on multiple platforms—and story ideas are no longer just words and pictures. The print magazine, rather than an end-all, is now a launching pad.
Today, when we dream up story ideas, we push ourselves to create intentional, immersive, surprising experiences on multiple platforms.
A cover can wink at you now.
We launched the print magazine in March 2003—this issue marks our ninth anniversary—and ever since then, we’ve felt the itch to keep tweaking and evolving the medium. You may notice our design pushes creative boundaries (which, admittedly, sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t), but my philosophy is, I’d rather make a mistake by trying something new and it not working than not stepping out at all.
So, when the digital revolution in publishing started to become a reality, we couldn’t wait to jump in. We just didn’t know what it would look like, or what we could afford to do.
We’d already been dabbling in multimedia for a while. It started with the RELEVANT Podcast, which launched all the way back in 2005 (and now has more than 75,000 downloads a week). Bands were regularly coming through to be on the podcast, so a few years ago we started filming the performances and putting them on RELEVANT.tv. The production was awful in the beginning, but there was something cool taking shape.
Then we launched The Drop and RELEVANT.fm for people to discover new music we were excited about. And, of course, we continued publishing daily content on RELEVANTmagazine.com. But all of these seemed more like random, individual endeavors than true multi-platform publishing.Then the iPad came along and it forced us to rethink everything. We couldn’t wait to make a tablet issue. But the last thing we wanted was for it to be a digital version you basically just flip through.
If we were going to publish on a tablet, we wanted it to be ground-breaking. We wanted to try things we hadn’t seen other magazines do yet. We wanted it to be a completely new content experience—and do it on an indie budget.
So, the team was challenged with thinking outside of a pretty well-defined publishing box. Instead of just taking print content and slapping it on a device, we began to reconceive how we tell stories from the ground up. What would it look like to have video narratives complement the print articles? What could we create in our studio? What could we do with photography we’ve never had the space to do before?
These are the questions we ask ourselves when we’re dreaming up stories now. If there isn’t an “extra” we can do to tell a story better, we probably skip it altogether now.
Like all publishers, we have no idea how the digital revolution will play out, or what the future will actually look like. But we know we have to jump in and pursue innovation and excellence. Shaking things up is a huge risk, but it’s exhilarating. There comes a time in every business, life and career when you have to stop and rethink everything. Maybe it’s external forces (like in our case, the emergence of new technology) that forces it. Or maybe it’s just restlessness with a job or relationship.
The question is, what do you do in those moments? Do you pursue a new future? Do you push yourself to find out how you can make your job or relationship better—even if you could fail? Or do you hold on to how things are today instead? There’s a safety in the familiar, but God calls us all to walk by faith and take risks.
In the back of the March 2012 issue, you’ll see a new page spotlighting some of the multimedia content we now create online every week. It’s just a small first step in some very exciting, big changes for RELEVANT this year that will completely alter how you interact with the magazine.
We’ve stepped out, completely rethought the model and are excited about the future more than ever. This issue may be our ninth anniversary, but in so many ways it’s just the beginning.
Cameron Strang is the founder and CEO of RELEVANT Media Group. Connect with him on Twitter.com/cameronstrang or Facebook.com/cameronstrang. This column originally appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of RELEVANT. Want to read more? Get your own subscription here.