A digital-first magazine created at the dawn of the mobile publishing era.
My journey into design and digital marketing began with Citygram. The lifestyle magazine and app was developed at the dawn of the mobile pushing era, and a lot of questions were yet to be answered.
How would people want to engage with magazine content digitally?
How would the content ecosystem evolve?
How would devices evolve, and how would they influence audience preferences?
Having worked as a freelance writer and photographer for Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn the prior year, I not only discovered my love for photography, but my love for storytelling. That experience, along with my engineering and art background gave me an ambition to be a part of influencing the conversation. And after months of gaining backing and credence on the idea from other magazine publishers in the area, I dove in to create it.
The Journey into Content Development
Citygram Magazine sought to celebrate the people and stories behind Austin’s creative culture. It filled a gap in the publishing industry where most issues were delivered in print, or as static digital PDFs. It aimed to connect Austin to the growing landscape of food, art and culture through interactivity and multimedia in an app that readers could access anywhere – from their smartphone, tablet or desktop.
Curated by the best photographers, writers and influencers in Austin, the magazine was engaging with beautiful content, interactive with audio and video media, and was updated weekly. We created an environment to connect readers to the content and started a continuous publishing model. With builtin integrations like maps, phone, email and share buttons attached to every article, our magazine app not only showed readers where to go, but it got them there.
Very quickly Citygram received investor interest (which I naively turned down), national accolades and recognition, and a #1 ranking in the City Guide section of the Apple App Store (even outranking the Austin American Statesman and TRIBEZA).
Being built in their software, Adobe considered the independent magazine a model of success for the future of mobile publications. I was soon invited to speak and present the model I built at the Parsons School of NY, and later at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles.
An MBA in UX
The industry was evolving rapidly. And as owner, producer, and developer of the app (by now with a team of great graphic designers and collaborators), I had my hands on some critical data points that I didn’t quite understand.
I saw the shifts in mobile preferences across devices with each issue, so we started to design for various aspect ratios.
I started to see more consumers with Android devices in the field, so I built an Android version and it quickly had a sizable audience.
I saw the growing need for website content and the burden of gated content, so I built a workflow for adapting our content to the web more readily (so users could access the articles and content outside of the app).
But something even more of an issue at that time, was the pain point I saw around a consumer’s limited data capacity.
During our many in-person events (which were integral to building a community), I saw how hard it was for people to download the app. In fact, I’d say about 40% of users at an event would be greeted to a “Cannot Download: There is not enough storage available” message on their devices (at that time 8MB smartphones were the norm and iCloud storage management options that exist today had yet to make it to the mainstream). This prompted users to either delete some apps or photos to clear up just a single MB of space tp accommodate the download. Or, as was often the case, abandon the download attempt altogether.
This is often the issue with ideas that surface at the cutting edge. The edge of technology can cut you. And outside dependencies like limited wireless access, unreliable connections, and device limits can strongly dictate the actual customer experience.
Though the app was growing in popularity, the path to monetization wasn’t becoming more clear or probable. What we were fielding though, were inquiries. It turned out that presence in the App Store was a highly visible spotlight to us as a developer, and the Citygram product was a great working use case of our capabilities as a team.
We began to pivot from building a single app to being an agency with the capabilities for app design, web design, media production, content development and user experience – leveraging the many workflows, processes and mobile design best practices to other apps and client projects.
Enter Left Right Media as an agency, and the beginning of the product builds for the rest of the projects in my portfolio.