Ever consider starting your own digital publication? Kate Kirby dreamed up her first magazine while she was still in college and now runs two successful pubs, Mini magazine and Tulle magazine. Ed asked her to give us the inside scoop on everything from how she juggles editing and adulting to how to launch an online magazine.
Can you share more about your career backstory with us?
I have a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison— which is actually where I got the idea to start Mini. I was a junior in college with no kids of my own yet and decided to start a parenting magazine—crazy, I know! I had been a longtime lover and reader of Condé Nast’s Cookie magazine—no longer in print—simply for the design and overall look and feel of the magazine. When that closed, there was just nothing else like it, especially in the digital space. I was learning the basics of magazine layout at the time and went home, downloaded a trial of Adobe InDesign, and mocked up a few covers. After that, I was hooked! I threw the idea of a digital parenting magazine onto Twitter with no real business in place yet, and we had interest on day one. People wanted to know where they could buy it or read it and I knew I was onto something.
I got busy putting together our holiday preview issue in November 2011, coordinating features and interviews, and with zero experience or idea of where my idea would go, I hopped on a plane to L.A. to shoot our first cover. We launched that first issue in December 2011 and had 10,000 readers at the end of the month—which I thought was huge. We can now average around 200,000 to 300,000 readers per issue.
How does one go about starting an online magazine?
Back then, I had this burning idea that I just had to get out somewhere. I started a Twitter account for what would become this digital lifestyle publication and after seeing the interest, I made a list of who I wanted to interview and researched digital publishing platforms. I used the skills I learned in my journalism courses to put together the magazine with just myself and the help of one other designer.
I bought a domain, stamped the website with a “Coming Soon” graphic, and once the magazine was ready to launch, we were off and running! I only planned to launch issues once a year, but after seeing the turnout, we launched another just a few months later and have published quarterly every since.
When was Tulle created? Can you tell us more about that publication?
Tulle started in 2014 when I was newly engaged and planning my own wedding. I had such a love for fine art wedding photography and film and because I have no off switch, decided why not start another magazine to pour out this newfound passion? Tulle is also a digital magazine, published twice per year, and features beautiful images and real weddings from some of the top photographers in the industry, including Elizabeth Messina and Erich McVey, to name a few. We launched the first issue in November 2014 and it garnered one million impressions, which again, was big for me, because it was really just a passion project.
How do you determine what kind of content goes into each publication?
I like to think that each magazine is timeless, but current trends in both the parenting and wedding spaces do go into consideration to a certain degree. I also look at who I’m interested in around the time of each issue planning session—maybe I have an obsession with a new kids brand or maternity collection that I discovered. If I’m out and about and see a new product I love, I add it to the running list of notes in my phone and try to get them in the next magazine. On the wedding front, I am constantly scouring Instagram for wedding photography and reach out to anyone whose work I love.
In a typical day on the job, what five things are you accomplishing?
It’s a bit more difficult now as I’m also now juggling a very energetic 1-year-old, but it means a constant shuffle between computer and phone. I’m always working on dreaming up and writing content for Mini’s site, coordinating shoots for the next issue, reaching out to new moms/brands to feature, posting to our social media, and calls with advertisers.
Mini has had some incredible cover stars over the years. Who would you love to feature that you haven’t already?
We’d love to get Lauren Conrad on a cover soon!
In addition to being a magazine editor, you’re also a mom. What are your tips for creating a great work/life balance?
Some days I feel like I’m on top of everything and the next day ends in a puddle of tears, feeling I’ve dropped every ball. I’m still figuring out if there even is a balance to maintain, but one tip I’ve learned is to let your spouse help you. I have this impractical need to do everything myself and with two businesses and a baby, that just doesn’t work. I’ve had to be willing to let go a little, so I can put on my editor hat when he gets home from work and let him take the morning routine with our daughter, so I can squeeze in some writing/emails before he leaves. Oh, and drink a lot of coffee.
What does the future hold for you, Mini, and Tulle?
Mini is really ramping up content on our website as opposed to just the digital issues and we have new features every day. Tulle is expanding into print soon, which is a major move, and I’m equal parts nervous and excited about it. The work we feature in these issues is so beautiful that it deserves to be turned into a coffee table book of sorts, so that’s what we’re going for.
What’s your best advice for anyone who wants to get into editorial?
Read everything and write often. You’ll become a better writer the more you read, and reading websites, blogs, and newspapers will keep you fresh on what topics and angles outlets are picking up.
Heather Taylor is a former entertainment writer turned brand mascot aficionado (and head writer) for Advertising Week’s Icon Blog. She been published on HelloGiggles, Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Find her on Twitter @howveryheather.