How We Turned the Contently Quarterly Into One of Our Biggest Assets

It was March 2012, and I was packing for South by Southwest Interactive when I got a Gchat.

“Are you going to SXSW?” asked Sam Slaughter, the VP of content at Contently, where I was working as a freelance writer and editor.

“Yep,” I responded.

“Want to help us make a magazine?”

I jumped at the opportunity. I had a media pass and a couple freelance assignments that would pay for my flight and hotel, but otherwise had no real plans besides eating free tacos and hitting up VC-backed open bars. Plus, with the way the media industry was going, I figured this was probably my last chance to work on a print project ever again.

Once we landed in Austin, we all got a little obsessed. Making a last-minute magazine was thrilling, and I ended up writing the entire features section while also recapping four panels. (Luckily, one of the features was about SXSW partying as a form of marketing.) None of us slept much. Shane Snow, Contently’s co-founder, stayed up all night editing the stories as they came in, and then laid out the entire magazine when we got back to New York.

In retrospect, the whole thing was a bit crazy, as Sam wrote in the publisher’s note for our latest Contently Quarterly:

It was 60-some-odd pages, printed in 14-point font, and illustrated with low-res photos from my uncle’s Instagram feed. At the time, Contently only had eight employees, and we put the whole thing together in two weeks. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was effective; it quickly helped us raise awareness for our young startup. There are still copies floating around the office, and when I see them, I get a tinge of nostalgia—although it might just be nausea from the amateur design.

Things are much different today. Contently has seven times the number of employees, and the design process has evolved dramatically. Instead of a sleep-deprived Shane armed with an Instagram feed, the magazine is now a months-long process led by an incredibly talented design team. Instead of being distributed to anyone who would take it, the Quarterly goes to a VIP list of marketing execs. And I now work for Contently full-time as our editor-in-chief, although I still try to write half the magazine. (Luckily, we now have enough people on staff to keep me in check.)

With the last issue in the rearview mirror and the next edition in production, we decided to make a video about the Contently Quarterly‘s evolution, which you can view below. Highlights include photo evidence of when I had a fro.

Image by Joe Bosch

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