Curating Cool: de Witte and Mulder Reveal Digital Content Creation Trends.
By Josiah Mackenzie
Wednesday, 23rd November 2011
Sabine de Witte and Patrick Mulder are curators of cool, Splitting time between Amsterdam, Barcelona, and other hip cities around the world, they represent the quickly growing number of young, creative 'mobile citizens' made famous by citizenM.

Although our schedules caused us to miss previously scheduled meetings in Barcelona, Amsterdam, and New York's JFK airport, the fourth try was a success, and I finally caught up with them at New York's Ace Hotel to discuss trends in digital content creation and curation.

We began talking about the citizenM digital magazine, one of the projects Sabine is involved in…

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Curating lifestyle content with a digital magazine

"Instead of having a blog, we created a digital magazine to share brand information and curate lifestyle content for everyone," citizenM's digital strategist Diego Sartori told me. CitizenMag uses themed issues to connect with the brand's core audience.

"It had to be something different – something that could be read on your mobile phone while waiting," Sabine said. In just a few issues, the publication has covered topics such "Beautiful" "Tasty" and "Social". Content ranges from short-form interviews to video clips, and is very visual.

Engaging top talent

When the magazine first launched, it was easy to gather content from writers and media producers. Everyone wanted to contribute.

But the dynamics of encouraging participation always changes with time: "When it's not brand new, you need to get creative." With a rapidly growing subscription base, magazine contributors now receive significant visibility for their businesses and projects.

Once the theme of the issue is established, Sabine approaches writers she feels would be a good fit for the issue. Tapping into her network is important for finding the best talent, and she also encourages citizenM ambassadors to reach out to their own networks to find top talent.

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Content that connects

Deep articles that go beyond "where to go, what to buy" seem to resonate best with the readers of CitizenMag. An example was an in-depth interview with the CTO of Amazon, where he shared his experience in developing the internet.

There's a strong interest in hearing about trends – and the people who are shaping those trends. "Our readers loved our ‘day in the life' profile story of a very famous 23-year-old fashion blogger in the Netherlands. People want to hear about more than the superficial: they want to know about other people's lives."

Detailed articles work well for the magazine, but for other digital publishing projects, spontaneous content seems to work really well. Patrick shot a quick video of the 5th Avenue Apple store re-opening with his iPhone, uploaded it to YouTube – and it's received over 115,000 views to date via Huffington Post and other sites.

"Sometimes something you've worked on for weeks will get less attention than a quick photo or video. It seems people often don't like the over-planned content as much as the spontaneous."

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"You must live the lifestyle"

How do you identify the best topics to work on, pieces of content to use, and people to engage for your publication?

"If you're living the lifestyle, you'll know what type of content will connect with your audience, because it connects with you."

Sabine began working with citizenM because she was "living the lifestyle." This is critical if you want to create truly amazing and engaging content. Hire people living the lifestyle.

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Format preferences are changing

Preferences for content consumption have changed dramatically over the past few years. With multiple screens and an exploding diversity of distribution formats, selecting the right way to display content has become crucial for maximizing the visibility of that content.

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"This era of ‘there's an app for that' will become history," said Patrick. "Content inside apps is not searchable and visible elsewhere on the web." Apple and others are developing one ‘umbrella' app to include all types of magazines and digital content, instead of every publication having an app on its own.

Zite and Flipboard are other services that provide great user experience. Distribution and coverage here will become increasingly important.

"You must promote your content"

The biggest mistake people make when publishing online? Failing to promote it.

"You can have very good content, but you still need to sell it. You must promote your content to attract readers."

Thanks, Sabine and Patrick!


About the author

This blog is written by Josiah Mackenzie, who enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry. 

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