California Sunday Magazine, sent out six times a year with the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday papers, is publishing a special issue dedicated to teens this weekend, with branded content for Airbnb and Dropbox.
The December issue, which goes online today and will be distributed to 350,000 readers this weekend, will feature photography, writing and illustrations by teenagers, or stories told by teens to journalists. Instead of arranged by page numbers, this issue runs from “morning” to “night” to show how teens spend their day.
This is California Sunday’s second-themed special issue. Its first focused on sound, and the book was organized from “quietest” to “loudest.”
“A big reason we wanted to do this issue is it is kind of an interesting, odd, anxious time in the States,” California Sunday executive editor Raha Naddaf told Publishers Daily. “We are being inundated with near constant news events, and we wanted to pause and look at how teenagers are handling all of this today. We wanted to give them a chance to take over the magazine and hear from them. How they are living their lives, and what they’re making of everything.”
The morning section includes a feature on three kids who have “incredibly long school commutes — close to two hours each way — because families are being priced out of San Francisco and are attending schools in their old neighborhoods,” Naddaf said.
A feature in the night section is a photo essay of teenagers hanging out in “pockets of the state” of California, in places like bowling alleys, cars, bedrooms and diners.
California Sunday partnered with writing center 826Valencia to hold a personal essay writing workshop for teenagers. Two pieces from that session — one from a girl struggling with disordered eating, another with an identical twin — are featured in the issue.
The issue is 92 pages, the longest issue California Sunday has printed (a regular issue is close to 80 pages). About nine of those pages are branded content and other ad pages.
Airbnb Experiences has a two-page branded content spread in the magazine and online about a man who brings home wolves and allows Airbnb users to visit them.
The other branded content campaign for Dropbox Paper features illustrations of users who live far apart, but use the program to collaborate on work together. The pub also produced three short films for Dropbox as part of the campaign.
About a third of California Sunday’s overall business comes from branded content, publisher Chas Edwards told PD.
“Most of our customers who commission branded content from us also want to pay for sponsorship [of our shows] or advertising as well,” he said.
California Sunday was borne from a biannual live event show started in 2009 called Pop Up Magazine, a “live magazine” show that hosts writers, photographers, filmmakers, journalists and artists in San Francisco.
The popularity of Pop Up Magazine, which went from being housed in a 300-person theater to a 3,000-person theater and expanded to a number of cities, spurred the creation of the print and digital editions of California Sunday in 2014, Edwards said.
“We could publish original storytelling and journalism and distribute it to a much bigger audience than could fit in a theater on any given night,” he said.
The business model of California Sunday is reliant on three primary sources of revenue: ticket sales to Pop Up Magazine live shows, sponsorship of those shows, and the company’s print and digital products and branded content created by its Brand Studio for clients.
California Sunday mostly prints long-form features, often narratives or profiles, with “a West Coast sensibility,” Edwards said.
Why did Edwards decided to create a print magazine along with the digital edition? “We have a bunch of readers who prefer a print format — and how the photography looks on print. They like to start Sunday morning with a great magazine in their hands and a pot of coffee. We want to make sure we are there for them, and also online for those who prefer to read it that way.”