Pop-Up magazine rethinks the definition of magazine media

“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.” Pop-Up Magazine is a living expression of that idea.

The “magazine” follows that same basic concept in that it’s only accessible in a given location for a very short time—sometimes only one night. However, the name actually plays off of pop-up books because of the multiple dimensions it takes on. But here’s where things get interesting, and innovative.

Pop-Up Magazine is not really a magazine at all, at least not how we have come to think of them or define them. It’s not printed on paper, or sitting on newsstands, and it definitely doesn’t have some sort of contrived digital edition. Pop-Up Magazine is a live, or rather living, embodiment of the structure and content you’d find in a magazine—performed in front of more than a thousand audience members on a given night across the country.

In simpler terms, it’s an event—something all magazine publishers have been doing for quite a while now—but married with the fundamental component of any good magazine—storytelling. Thus, it took two things that already existed and created something entirely new, and innovative.

Now it’s in phase two, Pop-Up Magazine tours the US in large theaters in cities that include New York, D.C., Atlanta, New Orleans, and L.A. All of these venues seat more than 1,000 audience members, and tickets range from around $30 to 60, so this is no small-time production.

Unlike many magazine events, Pop-Up Magazine wasn’t developed alongside marketers and experienced event planners. Instead, it was the editorial team who was largely responsible for developing the concept and how it all came together.

“We didn’t have production experience for the stage, but we did know how to make a magazine,” Co-Founder Chas Edwards says. “We reached out to journalists and invited them to pitch us their ideas. We wanted the ideas first and then we figured out the production product. The process and final product isn’t that much different than a general interest magazine.

Theatergoers at a Pop-Up Magazine show are given a printed program that includes a magazine-like table of contents. The show format is familiar to a magazine in many ways, with short lighter pieces opening the show—similar to the front of the book in a magazine. Long deep-dive features occupy the latter part of the show. In total, a Pop-Up Magazine show includes about 10 to 12 stories and each feature can include multimedia elements like film or photographs that appear on a giant screen behind the performers/journalists who are doing the storytelling. Edwards says there are even instances of interactivity, depending on the piece or the show.

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