I love this picture of Nellie Huang, which I took on a trip in the Pyrenees. We were on a train, headed into the spectacular Valle de Nuria, and Nellie was being characteristically Nellie: fully engaged in the conversation around her, while also fully engaged in the world outside.
I sent her some questions via email to learn more about her latest project:
What gave you the idea to start a subscription-based digital magazine, especially in an “economic climate” that’s so dismal?
As a travel blogger and journalist, I face a constant need to innovate, improve and keep up with new trends and changes in our industry. I wanted to expand my brand over at WildJunket.com; while everyone else was producing e-books, I wanted to be different. It was actually Alberto, my husband, who proposed the idea at the beginning of 2011 – he’s since left his full-time job to focus on building our magazine.
With the arrival of the digital era, readers now favor digital publications to print media, so it seems like the perfect time to launch a digital magazine. Many online publishers are producing e-books; we wanted to be different. And since I’d already built up a substantial readership on wildjunket.com, Alberto and I decided to take the plunge. We spent months researching, weighing our options and considering the feasibility, but everything seemed to point in the right direction and we decided to go ahead with it and haven’t looked back since. The magazine has received plenty of attention so far, but we want to take things slow and not be overly ambitious.
What void are you hoping this magazine fills?
While there is definitely no lack of travel magazines in this industry, we definitely found that there are not many publications that provide in-depth coverage of off-grid destinations and unconventional travels. Most magazines tend to generally cover a wide spectrum of travel styles and destinations – in contrast, we have narrowed our scope to specialize only in lesser known destinations and we dig deeper than most other publications. Our features tend to spread over 10 pages, covering many aspects of a destination, allowing readers to get a good sense and understanding. In the first issue, we’ve covered far-flung destinations like Oman, Namibia, Macedonia and the Arctic.
You’ve been a solo travel blogger for three years. What is the transition (or addition!) of editor-in-chief like? What sorts of skills are different for an EIC role?
The two roles are definitely very different but I’d say that the difference between being a travel blogger and writer is even bigger. As a travel writer, my main responsibility is to simply research, investigate and write the story. But as a travel blogger and editor-in-chief, all the responsibilities of writing, investigating, editing, photographing and marketing fall on my shoulders. Although it’s much more challenging, nothing beats having the freedom to be creative and producing work based on my own travel ideals and interest.
But to answer your question, an EIC role definitely requires some new skills that I’ve had to learn and acquire – such as attention to details, fundamental knowledge in magazine design, and communication skills in order to work effectively with writers. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the new role so far – while I’m sure there’ll be new challenges ahead of me, I’m sure that they won’t stop me from finding fulfillment through this path.
How did you go about sourcing articles and photos for the first issue?
We’ve been extremely lucky to get the support of numerous writers and bloggers I know in the industry, I’m really thankful to work with talented writers and friends like Candace Rardon, Abigail King and Lola Akinmade to produce high quality content. Several of them write for major publications like BBC, National Geographic and CNN, and I’m stoked to have their voice in the magazine. They’ve definitely set a high standard for our first issue, and we hope to produce equally quality content for the following issues.
How are you monetizing the magazine?
We are concentrating on making profits through selling the magazine on major digital stores such as Zinio, Magzter and Barnes & Noble. Advertising on the magazine is another monetizing channel but we are not going to be splashing advertisements all over the magazine. We are going to make the content our priority and keep the advertising to a reasonable amount.
Are you paying contributors?
Yes, we pay from $50 to $150 per article depending on the length and style. You can find the full details in our editorial guidelines.
What are you long-term goals for the magazine?
As a small startup, we want to take things slow and go step by step, we don’t want to be overly ambitious. For now, we’re happy with the positive feedback we’ve received but we know that it’s a permanent process and we need to constantly improve to reach our goal. We’re still focusing all our efforts on producing quality content. In future, we might expand and hire staff to join our team or publish the magazine in print – who knows?