WeWork’s User-Generated Magazine Is Surprisingly AmazingBy Natalie Burg May 14th, 2015
Would you trust customers to create your brand’s content?
Imagine the average Ford Focus driver drafting a travel story for My Ford magazine, or a random handbag shopper profiling a designer scarf buyer in Porter. It would, in all likelihood, be unreadable madness. But that’s exactly what shared space provider WeWork’s newest brand publication Creator by WeWork is doing: Many, but not all, of the writers and subjects of their stories are WeWork members.
Rebranded from WeWork Magazine in March with a new logo, layout, mobile optimization, and name to better reflect the values of the brand, the publication is trying to recalculate the brand publication equation. Disruption is nothing new to WeWork, the fastest growing business in New York City by footprint, who has plans to control 3.5 million square feet of space globally by the end of this year. With pageviews up 25 percent since the rebrand and 66 percent of unique visitors being new to Creator by WeWork, the unusual approach to content is officially taking off.
Though WeWork won’t disclose traffic numbers, TrafficEstimate.com projects Creator has generated more than a million visits in the last month. What are those visitors reading? Amazingly, a big portion is traditional think pieces like “Why Actors Love Scientology” and “The Religion of Cities.” These are philosophical, well-reported, and unmistakably written by professional writers. But they’re not necessarily Creator‘s primary offering.
“Those stories are the little sprinkles we add to Creator by WeWork,” says Christina Choi, editorial director for WeWork, “but our focus is really to spotlight our community as much as possible.”
Those stories, like “3 Tools to Make Meetings More Manageable,” which was written by a WeWork member, and “The Founding of Caseflex: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone,” in which the subject of the story is a member, are at the core of Creator. Like WeWork’s own mission, “to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living,” Creator is all about building community—not just with their audience, but with their members and writers, too. As Choi says, Creator wants to become the “voice of the We generation.”
Curating community content
Those intentions may be noble, but when customers contribute, how do you ensure the magazine isn’t, well, terrible?
It begins with a highly professional set of gatekeepers. Since launching in 2013, the WeWork team has set a high talent bar for its editorial staff. When community members pitch a story, the staff works with them to finalize the idea, edit the piece, and ensure drafts are on par with editorial standards. And those “little sprinkles” of well-crafted stories by professional writers don’t hurt Creator’s overall quality either.
Then there’s the fact that Creator taps their members to tell the kinds of stories they’re most likely to tell well: their own.
“Not everyone has a clear path to finding success,” Choi says, “and our community has been awesome in sharing the advice they’ve been given, the lessons they’ve learned and the struggles they’ve had to overcome in building their companies.”
Content as a service
As a business, WeWork is all about offering their members a huge array of services. Members get discounts with a number of vendors, free beer, networking opportunities, and more—for WeWork, learning from other members’ stories through Creator is yet another service. So is being featured on a site with growing visibility.
“For some of our members, this is their first real piece of press, so it is really exciting to them to see themselves or their fellow members featured in such a prominent way,” says Choi. To date, at least 450 WeWork members have either contributed to or have been featured in the magazine.
Of course, WeWork’s goals matter too. And the more members get out of Creator, as readers and as contributors, the more effective it is at supporting the WeWork brand.
“We believe our product is community and the magazine is a digital extension of our community. Creator by WeWork has allowed us to tell the WeWork story and build brand awareness,” Choi says. “[It’s] a great way to connect with people who may not have experienced WeWork in-person yet and allow them to engage with our community.”
Now valued at $5 billion, WeWork has been compared to Starbucks, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the company become as pervasive as the coffee giant in coming years. The growth plans for Creator are likewise lofty.
Choi hopes to create more multimedia content going forward, as well as commission long form features and possibly even expand into print. And it’s a safe bet that the growing WeWork membership will be a major part of it all.