This week’s entry in our Media and Social Media series brings us to what we believe to be the only traditional media property totally driven by social media. And it’s not that this particular magazine made a transition to that status. I Am Modern Magazine for Moms was started with that model in mind: to produce a magazine completely driven by user-generated content.
I Am Modern was the brain child of publisher and editor Hulya Aksu who wanted to provide a connecting point for upscale mothers, many stay-at-home moms that make up a large portion of the single-most influential buying target for advertisers. With limited funding, an outside-the-box approach and the burgeoning social media movement shifting into full throttle online, Aksu had a plan: To publish a monthly magazine completely driven by user-generated content from a social networking website centered around connecting the upscale moms in the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia area. It was user-generated. It was hyper-local and it was socially driven.
“The unique combination of those three movements gave us immediate business and social success,” Aksu said. “We have been profitable from the first issue of our print and online magazines supported by advertising revenues.”
And while Aksu declined to share specific revenue figures from the privately owned company, she did report a 100-percent advertising revenue growth each quarter since the publication began in the fall of 2007. I Am Modern Magazine for Moms now has two quarterly print editions and a popular website that provides hyper-local expert and entertainment content to area moms.
Skeptical of the success of relying totally on users to provide “expert” opinion pieces, photography and more, I asked the question of Aksu, “How are you doing on content? Is there enough? Have you had to be creative to cultivate what you need?”
“Jason, we have content coming out of ears. What some people do not realize is that there are highly educated, very smart women living in the suburbs who are treated very poorly by corporate America as they try to re-penetrate the job market after taking time off for their families (babies). They are experts in their fields and they are looking for viable outlets to contribute back to their respective communities. Volunteering is one way. Writing and being involved in a hyper-local social media movement is another one.”
Some examples of the articles users have written include pieces on whether or not you need flood insurance in Loudoun County to giving your child fluoride treatment after drinking tap water in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties with a comparison of the fluoride levels in each.
While the profitable end result is the print editions of the magazine, Aksu says the website is what makes it all work, and not just because it’s the primary submission tool. By using forums, blogs, article ratings, polls, social bookmarking, RSS feeds and more, the online community is vibrant and interactive. But the community doesn’t stop there. By taking the online community offline, I Am Modern bridges the gap between virtual community and an actual one.
“We have monthly meet-ups that take place in different local restaurants for up to 50 of our readers to get together and have a good time while meeting new people in their community,” Aksu said. “Nothing can replace the power of pressing flesh with real people. Social media helps us get out of our isolated lives and meet our neighbors.”
That is perhaps the strongest example of what I would consider a fundamental strategy in the application of social media tools for long-term success. Cultivating a community online only gives you benefits if the bottom doesn’t fall out of online interaction. By migrating your online community offline and seeing strong connection flow in both areas, your media outlet, company or brand is better prepared to withstand shifts in the market like the dot-com bust of 2000 or a major brand crisis.
No matter what happens with the online world or the social media “market” as it were, affluent moms in Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia will most likely stay connected through it all.