Mixtapes and magazines
I heard the best idea story this week.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, he of much musical fame, needed a holiday. He headed to Mexico with his wife and, being the curious life-long-learning type, took Ron Chernow’s biography Alexander Hamilton (yes, you know where this is going).
Reading the book, he started to think Hamilton’s whole life had been about the power of words:
"I’m thinking ‘This is Biggie, this is Tupac ... this is hip-hop!’
By 2013, Miranda’s hip-hop song cycle, “The Hamilton Mixtape” was taking shape as a stage musical. The rest is history.
This story was told to me by Robin Landa, author of The New Art of Ideas, out next week. I’ll be sharing more of our conversation soon.
For her, this story shows the power of staying curious - and of taking vacations. For me, a hip-hop mixtape curated around the the life of an 18th century politician killed in a duel is just the best idea-stealing story ever.
Newsletters are taking over my life. There’s this, then there’s the Media Voices Roundup. Last week, we released the newsletter episode of our Media Moments podcast, with AdWeek’s Mark Stenberg. On Monday, we launched the Publisher Newsletter Awards and yesterday, I went to an International Magazine Centre session on newsletter profitability.
That last one is interesting. We’re only just starting to talk about newsletters in the context of cold hard cash. Until recently, email was all about marketing - product blasts and issue updates. Now it’s about subscription sales, advertising and ecommerce.
The linked piece from the Local Media Association describes a case study on the development of revenue-focused newsletter strategies at two local US newspapers. The detail is maybe unique to their circumstances, but their intentionality brought real results.
Some people hate industry awards and I get it. Too much smug, not enough humble. Me, I love them. Don’t get me wrong, I never enter them, but I’m frequently a judge and I’m part of a team that organises two - The Publisher Podcast Awards and now The Publisher Newsletter awards.
My love for awards is really simple: looking at the lineup of winners and, even more so, the shortlists, is one of the best sources of inspiration I know. So long as you trust the organisations running them are not fixing the top spots as pay-to-play rewards, they provide the best-of-breed insights available.
I’ve linked the headline to the British Journalism Awards’ shortlists released last week. If you’re looking to see who is doing the best journalism from sports to photos, then it’s well worth a look. But build your own list of awards relevant to your magazine, and mine it every year for ideas worth stealing.
Hearst has launched FirstFinds, a new ecommerce platform designed to ‘shorten the time between discovering a product, learning more about it and ultimately buying it’. Firstfinds’ curators look for products that could be ‘the next big thing on social media’, list them on the site and then let users upvote the ones they like.
The site looks a bit Myspace and the categories are vague as anything, but the concept is interesting, especially if you forget the tech. What about just positioning your magazine as the place to go for killer recommendations? Involve your readers by all means, but let’s reclaim our role as trusted tastemakers.
This week’s magazine song is ‘Tabloid Magazine’ by Australian band The Living End. They got their big break after sending a T-shirt and demo tape to Billie Joe Armstrong. That little stunt snagged them a support slot on Green Day's 1995 Australian tour.
Thanks for reading
Please remember to send me any magazine publishing ideas that you think are worth stealing for future issues. And remember, if you would like any help finding ideas for your business, let's arrange a chat.