For One Night Only: Pop-up Magazine

Lisa Park   May 9, 2012

You had to be there. Ephemeral content takes the stage. (photo by Lisa Park)

The sixth issue of Pop-up Magazine hit the stage at the SF Davies Symphony Hall the week before last, playing to an audience numbering more than 2,700. I was lucky enough to grab a golden ticket for this sold-out, live event that goes unrecorded, showcasing writers, documentary filmmakers, photographers and radio producers — from The New Yorker and Vanity Fair to This American Life and Pixar — in a magazine content format. As soon as tickets went on sale, the online box office promptly crashed due to the avalanche of traffic hitting the site. After dozens of failed attempts to gain access, I finally got through and had my ticket in hand. Success!

Three years ago, Pop-up Magazine got started in the humble 364-seat Brava Theater. It’s since morphed into a grand affair: Folks like me are more than happy to queue up virtually to fork over 20 dollars and change for a chance to be a part of an exclusive club, one that runs for one night only.  The founders have clearly struck a chord with those in attendance seeking to hear, see and experience never-before-aired-or-published stories that are here today, gone tomorrow. Attend one of these literary events (I’ve been to two), and you’ll feel a strong sense of community plus a whole lot of buzz, excitement and goodwill — as if we’re the lucky few going on a great ride.

And a great ride it is, providing plenty of chills and thrills as well as a few lasting memories. Pop-up Magazine covers topics ranging from food and foreign affairs to sports, science and work life. Short pieces kick off the event, with longer features taking up the rear. Most of the stories are good. Some are incredibly well-crafted. Meanwhile, the majority of the contributors — from Pixar director Lee Unkrich to NPR journalist Annie Murphy in this latest issue — skillfully combine oral  storytelling with video and audio to enhance their already robust and engaging narratives.

It’s clear that the key to Pop-up Magazine’s success is a clever repackaging of an age-old art, oral storytelling. The event’s creators/editors have managed to refresh the theme or concept of oral storytelling by renaming it with what’s hot now: a pop-up. And on top of that, they’ve made sure to curate the heck out of the content — with fresh and compelling narratives that speak to their audience.

These winning formulas certainly resonate with content strategists. After all, part of our mission is to find ways to refresh and update legacy content, concepts and themes to make them relevant and engaging for our audience. It’s vital that we understand who our target audience is in order to give them what they want. And if we can give them what they want — in the form of curated content — our business and the bottom line will benefit.

The proof is in the Pop-up Magazine pudding.

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2 Responses

  1. Joy says:

    Interesting relationship to web, which is both ephemeral because it’s UPDATED, or should be, AND everlasting, thanks to it’s digital, steal-able nature and lovely tools like the wayback machine. Anyway, I think you should have secretly recorded it. On one of these, with 8 C batteries:

  2. Lisa says:

    Next time I go, Joy, will you lend me yours? Or better yet, why don’t you join me for the next issue?

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