For the Love of Sunday: The Deal With California’s New Weekend Zine

A quickie Q&A with California Sunday Magazine editor Douglas McGray

Some Los Angeles Times subscribers got a bonus delivery with last weekend’s Sunday edition: A new zine called California Sunday Magazine. No, the Times isn’t bringing their weekend magazine, which shuttered in 2012, back to life. California Sunday is something new. The brainchild of Pop Up Magazine founder Douglas McGray and publisher Chas Edwards, the periodical exists online (think web, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle) in addition to print, and it will be delivered in part via newspapers here and in Northern California. We emailed with McGray about his editorial vision, CSM’s business model, and the national interest in the 31st state.

Why did you select California as your subject?
We’re made in California. We’re going to tell stories from across the state, as well as the wider West, Asia, and Latin America. It’s a totally fascinating part of the world. And a really influential part of the world.

What kinds of stories are you looking to tell?
We’re a magazine of stories, mostly about people. We’re interested in the lives lived all around us. We like vivid characters and surprising plots. And we’re curious about everything: culture, politics, science, business, food, entertainment, social issues, technology, art, and more.

The product will be multi-platform, and include a print edition—an interesting move for the founder of Pop-Up Magazine. Is bucking conventional wisdom, proving a point about the power of print a part of your vision? There must have been at least a few naysayers.
Very few, actually. I’m proud of our web site and our apps, and we expect to reach a big audience that way. But we also found a really efficient, practical way to launch a print edition with a large circulation—even though we’re a small, lean, startup media company. And we designed our print edition with phones and tablets and laptops in mind, so we wouldn’t have a print title that’s tough to translate to the web. And you know, people read all different ways. We like the idea that we can make a magazine for however you like to read.

California Sunday Magazine will be delivered, in part, through the Los Angeles Times, which had trouble keeping its own Sunday magazine afloat. Why did you select them as a partner?
We’re delivered on Sunday in select editions of the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee. The newspapers have existing paid insertion businesses, for ads. We’re using that distribution channel for a different purpose. It lets us achieve scale very quickly. Also, we’re fans of the newspapers.

Google is already on board as an advertiser, and I’ve heard you’ve raised a figure in the low millions from investors for the launch. Was it tough to find that seed money? Or do you feel like this launch represents a change in attitudes towards the industry, a belief in what new thinking can bring to media?
I can’t speak for the whole industry, but investors liked our business plan, and they loved the idea of a new outlet for smart, beautiful storytelling, made here in California—and reflecting life and culture and ideas here—for a national audience.

The magazine will be available online, but you’re not looking to cover your costs through online advertising, is that right? What’s the thinking behind that strategy?
The magazine is available on the web, apps, and in print. We bring in revenue a few different ways. Print advertising. Digital advertising. Live shows. And—this one is especially important—directly from readers. And we focus our resources on stories and art, and everywhere else in the business, keep our costs as low as possible. We think if we bring in revenue a few different ways, and spend it really carefully, we can make a great magazine that will be around for a long time.