Dwell editor in chief chronicles journey from magazine to media brand.
By Jennifer J. Salopek
After several days of sessions on everything from detailed copyediting techniques to data mining, Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting attendees were educated, inspired, and energized. To wrap up the entire conference experience and bring it home, Sam Grawe, editor in chief of Dwell magazine, chronicled his publication’s journey from magazine to media brand.
Using the tagline "At Home in the Modern World,” Dwell published its inaugural issue in September 2000. Celebrating all things modern in residential architecture and design, the magazine filled a void in industry publishing. Its main goal is authenticity, as it strives to speak to real people rather than design professionals.
As magazine editors, designers, and publishers, "you must explore unusual territories; you must stake out mountaintops for people to recognize you,” Grawe said. Some of Dwell’s other mountaintops, or goals, are sustainable design and prefabrication.
To expand a magazine brand, one must first have readers. "The flagship of our brand is our reader,” Grawe said. "An audience must exist for all else to exist.” Now at a circulation of 325,000, Dwell has expanded into a website, products, events, books, apps, social media, foreign editions, and special interest publications. Each has enjoyed a varying degree of success. Products are an esoteric mix, including everything from furniture and artwork to shirts and ceramic tiles.
Dwell editors use social media to provide readers with a behind-the-scenes look at how the magazine is created, and to imbue it with personality; they use hashtags to create a diversified content stream. (Grawe’s Twitter handle is @grawesome.) The staff created and observes written guidelines about social media conduct, including referring to themselves in the third person.
"Social media is a great way to drive traffic, interact with our audience, and take the temperature of the environment,” Grawe said.
The key is integration. All of Dwell’s channels and efforts overlap, as the staff attempts to exploit each medium for what it does best. Grawe compartmentalizes to an extent, citing the newsstand as the space "where you can make the tent a little bigger” and online/digital media as a place to "try things; if they fail, move on.”
He remains bullish on magazines. "Dwell’s print product is a well-oiled machine. There is still no experience as immersive. Magazines aren’t going to go away. There may be fewer magazines on the newsstand, but hopefully they will be better.”
Jennifer J. Salopek is a freelance writer based in McLean, Va., and a frequent contributor to Signature magazine and Final Proof e-newsletter. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this Annual Meeting session for our members who were unable to attend.