Jake Warner needed a tool to streamline his workflow as a photographer and media manager for Red Bull’s auto racing series.
So, with the help of long-time friend Joey Chowaiki, he created Magma and has since taken the software tool and built a business around it.
Magma, based in Calabasas, is a platform that allows users to create their own digital magazine directly from their phone.
Just launched last month after a lengthy beta period, Magma allows its creators to create a “mag” that can include high-resolution video and photos, embedded videos, interactive maps and shopping links.
“You name it, as far as media goes, it can be fit into a mag,” said Warner, the company’s chief executive.Chowaiki, chief marketing officer, said that when a reader sees all a mag’s content and then sees the creation software, they realize how easy it is to create a powerful online publication.“That is what we spent a lot of our focus and energy on – to enable users to create something so powerful in a matter of minutes,” Chowaiki said.The free software is available through Magma’s website as well as mobile app stores.
The platform was designed to be easy to use for both amateurs and professionals in the digital publishing space. The pre-created templates allow creators to drop in their media, add text and then tweak it so it fits their needs.A mag can be published either publicly or privately and once published, the mag gets its own URL that lives on the web and is ranked for search engine optimization, Warner said.
If a reader does not have Magma downloaded, it will still open in a web format. If the reader has the software, Magma will automatically open in the platform once a link is clicked on, Warner said.
“It is a great way for people to bring content to their followers as well as have a new destination for their subscribers, followers, consumers,” he added.
Among the mags that have been created and available at the website are for news, photography, health and wellness, travel and fashion.
Lonna Weber, co-publisher of Hidden Hills magazine, will use Magma for the publication’s first issue this year. It will be broken down into four mags on Magma of five pages to 10 pages each. Each mag will pull content from the physical publication and expand on it.
Weber decided to use the platform as a way for her team to organize and discuss stories for her publication, she wrote in an email to the Business Journal.“The ability to easily put together stories both narratively and visually with different forms of media than our flagship magazine allows us to make ‘snippets’ of our larger issues that pair well with our digital presence,” Weber wrote.
Revenue streamsMagma is raising funds to stay in operation.It received an angel round of financing about two years ago in the amount of $1.5 million from an investment group. Now, Warner and Chowaiki are not just looking for capital but what the former calls “smart capital.” “Capital that has resources and experience attached to it that you cannot put a price on,” Warner explained.Currently, it has raised another several hundred thousand dollars, mostly from individual investors. It is looking to institutional investors that want to be strategic partners with Magma to handle a majority of the round, which is pegged at $3 million and set for completion by March.
The pitch to potential investors is that the pair has created a platform that is the easiest and most powerful way to publish online.They are doing for the publishing industry what other products have done for design and retail. They have taken the tools that were a barrier to entry, broken them down and made them easy to use and cost effective, Warner said.
“There is no need to have a lot of background or education to create something powerful,” he added.
In the meantime, the pair are moving ahead with different revenue streams based on in-app purchases of products that are linked to posts in the mags.
“We want to build out a social commerce system,” Warner said. “We have already started with that; it’s called Mag Bags.”Right now, publishers can add shopping links or travel links on top of any media they put on their mag and a reader can purchase directly from the advertised company’s website. What is next is being able to save a product to the Mag Bags and then checkout like you would with an Amazon.com Inc. cart, Warner said.“That is coming soon,” Warner said. “We do have quite a few different revenue streams that we will be rolling out in the near future, as well as some ad-based ones, but that’s for another time to talk about as we are still building out that model.”Advertising and its connection to a Magma presence also garners interest from Hidden Hills magazine’s Weber.“If it helps me sell ads, it might be good for us,” Weber wrote in her email.
Future of publishingThe origins of Magma go back to when Warner worked as a photographer and media manager for Red Bull Global Rallycross, a race series for which he photographed, filmed and created content for the drivers and teams.
At the same time, Chowaiki was working for Open Influence, a social media marketing agency he co-founded in Los Angeles.
“To my joy, I had heard that he was looking for a similar tool and that he had been getting feedback from people in the industry and they too were looking for something to bridge the gap between long-form storytelling and quick social snippets,” Warner said.The pair co-founded Magma in spring 2017 and began to work on building out the tool that Warner described as an idea that had been in his head for about six months.
As the tool took shape, both realized that it wasn’t just a fun, cool app that could be used by both amateurs and professionals. If done properly and if features were added to it, it could become the future of digital publishing, Warner said.
“For us to be able to create a tool that allows anyone to essentially create a professional-level story directly from their phone in minutes and then share that anywhere, that is taking something that was regarded as taking years and years of experience or education,” Warner added.