Off the Page, with Today’s Parent editor Sasha Emmons

Sasha Emmons (photo by Roberto Caruso)
Sasha Emmons (photo by Roberto Caruso)

This week on Off the Page–our interview series with National Magazine Award winners–we’re chatting with Sasha Emmons, Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Parent magazine. 

NMAF: Today’s Parent had a banner year at the 2015 National Magazine Awards—8 nominations and 4 Gold Medals including Best Single Issue, Best Web Editorial Package, Single Service Article Package, and Tablet Magazine of the Year. Can you describe the feeling that you and your team experienced that night of the awards gala?

Sasha Emmons: It’s such a cliché but we were just so giddy to be nominated. I’m new to the Canadian publishing scene but I understood that parenting publications rarely get nominated, much less win. So it was pretty surreal to hear our name not just once but four times, especially considering the quality of work from all the nominees. I wish I’d spent more time working on speeches — I really thought there was no way I’d be up there.

Sasha Emmons of Today's Parent accepts the award for Best Single Issue at the 2015 National Magazine Awards gala.
Sasha Emmons of Today’s Parent accepts the award for Best Single Issue at the 2015 National Magazine Awards gala.

NMAF: What has been the significance to you, your team and your readers from winning the National Magazine Awards? 

Sasha Emmons: I think for us it was incredible validation that our digital-driven but platform-agnostic approach to creating content was working. We regularly get caught up in excitement for our projects, and sometimes we lose objectivity and wonder if what we’re working on is as cool as we think it is. Seeing our risks pay off, both with awards but also with audience engagement and amazing feedback, has also given us motivation to keep pushing ourselves to try new, bold things.

The awards have certainly made the industry take notice of us, and that’s led to really talented editors, designers and new partners knocking on our door, wanting to work with or be part of our incredible team.

NMAF: Winning the award for Tablet Magazine of the Year must have been particularly special. How has Today’s Parent developed its presence on the tablet magazine platform, what challenges have you faced in delivering digital content, and how has it been successful?

Sasha Emmons: I really wanted to win for tablet. After we close our print issue, the editors get a bit of reprieve but not our art team, who work long hours on a platform where we have fewer readers than print.

For our busy parents, there’s not a lot of Sunday morning long-reads lounging, and many can’t take out the iPad without their kids clamouring for it. The phone is more our device, and we actually create an iPhone edition each month as well. But despite a huge digital audience that’s largely mobile, the idea of consuming an issue on a phone or tablet hasn’t quite caught on in a big way yet. But it’s growing, and we’re hopeful it will continue to grow.

Our art director Sun Ngo has incredibly high standards but she also promotes a culture of playful experimentation. Her leadership and her team’s hard work are the reason our tablet edition is so great, and I was beyond thrilled to see her be acknowledged for that.

Her philosophy is both simple and complex. She’s laser-focused on making the content readable, with clear text and directional icons. We never want to get so enamoured of bells and whistles that we forget about usability. But then she and her designers go the extra mile, creating gorgeous animated covers, making food and crafts pinnable, integrating video and playing with stop animation.

I really believe our tablet edition is the best, richest way to read Today’s Parent.

NMAF: The package called “30 Awesome Cupcakes” (Gold Medal winner in Single Service Article Package) has been the most tweeted, most viewed article in our awards archive since June, doubtless because it’s just about the most attractive cover line imaginable, and also because the layout is so eye-catching, so much fun. How is that piece exemplary of the editorial mission of Today’s Parent? (And did you get to try all the cupcakes?)

Sasha Emmons: I didn’t know that, and it’s so great to hear. It is one of the great professional regrets of my life I was not on set that day. However, I have to give credit where it’s due and say that this story was already in the works when I started at Today’s Parent, so really Karine Ewart and Alicia Kowalewski, the editor-in-chief and art director at the time, deserve the credit. I did write the line though!

Overall, we aim for a mix of daring, zeitgeisty content, and smart, creative bread-and-butter service. This piece falls into the latter — after all, every parent has to figure out how to pull off their kid’s birthday.

 

NMAF: You’ve called raising two kids “the most humbling thing” you’ve ever done. (“There are moments where I feel like I’ve nailed it, but there are still so many moments where I have no idea what I’m doing.”) How does your daily experience as a parent help guide your leadership of the magazine, and your understanding of what your readers want you to deliver?

Sasha Emmons: I feel like the parents on staff have the best scam going. One of us has an issue with our kid, and we get to talk to leading experts on exactly how to handle it! Seriously, it’s such a privilege that my professional life is centred around what interests me most personally as well.

It’s hugely useful to be a parent and have many moms and dads on staff to gut-check everything we write. Believe me, I’m struggling with everything our readers are struggling with. Overall, I think there are a lot of ways to get parenting right, and only a few ways to get it wrong, and that laughing about its challenges makes the whole thing easier.

I hope that comes through in our content.


Discover more about Today’s Parent at todaysparent.com and on Twitter @TodaysParent, and follow Sasha Emmons @semmons. The mobile edition of the magazine can be found here

The 2016 National Magazine Awards are now open for submissions.

Check out more of our Off the Page interviews with NMA winners, including editors like:
Patrick Walsh of Outdoor Canada
Judith Pereira of Report on Business
Mark Reid of Canada’s History
Curtis Gillespie of Eighteen Bridges

The Call for Entries for the 2016 National Magazine Awards will be announced on December 8. 

NMAF to launch Digital Publishing Awards in 2016

The non-profit National Magazine Awards Foundation, a leader in facilitating rigorous and transparent awards programs, in consultation with Canada’s leading producers and creators of digital media, is launching a national, bilingual awards program exclusively for Canadian digital publishers.

The Digital Publishing Awards will recognize and promote excellence in the content and creation of Canadian digital publications through an annual program of awards and national publicity efforts. The inaugural Call for Entries will be in January 2016. Follow @DPAwards on Twitter.

[ Full Press Release on CNW: English | Français ]

Canadian digital publishers—including those that support established brands in magazine, newspaper, broadcast and other journalism, as well as those that serve their audiences exclusively as digital brands—will be eligible to participate, including those that publish in either English or French.

The Digital Publishing Awards program has been developed in consultation with and guidance from the leaders and members of Canada’s digital publishing industry, and is led by a steering committee composed of:

  • Kevin Siu, Head of Digital (Editorial), the Globe and Mail
  • Ken Hunt, Publisher, Toronto Life and Torontolife.com
  • Craig Silverman, Founding Editor, BuzzFeed Canada
  • Jessica Ross, Content Director, Multiplatform Editions, Books & Special Issues, TVA Publications
  • Matthew McKinnon, Online Editor, The Walrus
  • Brodie Fenlon, Acting Director of Digital News, CBC
  • Chris Frey, Founding Editor-in-Chief, Hazlitt, and Correspondent, Monocle
  • Terry Sellwood, former President, Cottage Life Media and Vice President, National Magazine Awards Foundation

“Digital publishing in Canada is robust and exciting, and now there will be a truly national and not-for-profit awards program and publicity campaign to support its achievements. Our vision for the Digital Publishing Awards is a program that accurately and fairly reflects the incredible landscape of online media in Canada. It will recognize excellence amongst our peers, serve as inspiration and education to continue to engage audiences with impactful digital media, and will be celebrated by our editorial teams, our readers and consumers, and our sponsors and advertisers.”
Craig Silverman, founding editor of BuzzFeed Canada.

In 2016 the Digital Publishing Awards will recognize excellence in 15 categories, including recognition for achievement in tablet and web design and development, news coverage, feature writing, video production, podcasts, editorial packaging, blogs, and the use of online multimedia and social media tools to create successful and engaging online news and storytelling.

Awards will include cash prizes for most Gold and Silver winners, certificates and seals for all finalists and winners, and national recognition for achievement in digital publishing. Winners will be announced at the first of an annual series of Digital Publishing Awards in June 2016.

A complete list of categories, eligibility requirements and other details will be announced on the Digital Publishing Awards website scheduled to launch in December. Submissions will open in January 2016 for digital content created this year.

Follow the Digital Publishing Awards on Twitter @DPAwards.

The Digital Publishing Awards are produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation, a not-for-profit, registered charity that has administered Canada’s annual National Magazine Awards since 1977. With a reputation for facilitating a rigorous, fair and transparent awards program in which content creators are recognized and rewarded for outstanding achievement in magazine journalism, the NMAF is proud to present the Digital Publishing Awards in consultation with Canada’s leading producers and creators of digital publishing.

For more information about the National Magazine Awards Foundation, please contact:

Émilie Pontbriand
Communications Manager
416.939.6200
staff@digitalpublishingawards.ca

NMA 2015 Nominees: Top 3 Tablet Magazines in Canada

Magazine readers increasingly seek out great content on their tablets, and the National Magazine Awards Foundation recognizes the outstanding efforts that publishers put into developing the magazine tablet platform with the award for Tablet Magazine of the Year.

Earlier this month we announced the nominees for the 38th annual National Magazine Awards, including 3 finalists for Tablet Magazine of the Year. The winner will be revealed at the National Magazine Awards gala on June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. [Tickets & Gala Info].

Here are the three finalists for Tablet Magazine of the Year. Click on each image to download the free app and free issue (or trial) of each magazine.

Mark Stevenson, Editor
Stephen Gregory, Art Director
The Ottawa Shooting: Bearing Witness (November 2014)
Maclean’s

Christine Loureiro, Editor
Jessica Hotson, Art Director
Contributors: Adrian Armstrong, Michelle Bilodeau, Natasha Bruno, Janine Falcon, Amber Hickson, Laura Lanktree, Alex Laws, Emily MacCulloch, Carly Ostroff, Geoffrey Ross, Carlyle Routh, Rani Sheen, Sheri Stroh, Vanessa Taylor, Kristy Wright, Sonya Van Heyningen, Kristen Vinakmens
Secrets to Great Skin (October 2014)
The Kit

Sasha Emmons, Editor
Sun Ngo, Art director
Contributor: Andrew Lauder
The Books Issue (August 2014)
Today’s Parent

Tweet us your favourite #NMA15 nominee for Tablet Magazine of the Year.

You can view the complete articles of all National Magazine Awards nominees at magazine-awards.com

Tickets are on sale for the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala, Friday June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.

See more 2015 National Magazine Awards Nominees.

7 Things We Love on Cottage Life’s YouTube Channel

Canada’s reigning Magazine of the Year, Cottage Life, delights its readers with great storytelling, photography, DIY advice and other essential things for your cottage life.

The magazine’s broadcasting arm, Cottage Life TV and the Cottage Life YouTube channel, expand that mandate with everything from how-to guides for food, style and entertainment, to just plain outdoor fun. Here are some favs.

How to make a floating hot tub
DIY “Brojects” regulars Andrew and Kevin show off their innovative craftsmanship with an amphibious hot tub that floats in the lake. They almost can’t believe it worked!

Make your own all-natural bug juice
Ever read the label on a bottle of bug spray and wonder if you should just take your chances with the black flies? Try putting these 6 ingredients together:

Great smoked trout
Among the many great food preparation videos, this one takes you from the catch to the plate, via a regular propane bbq, with that most familiar and delicious of Canadian freshwater fish, the trout.

Bring in the Canadian Shield
A guide to creating a granite shield for your stove with Canada’s national rock.

Canoe on wheels
Because what if you need to hitch a canoe to your bicycle for the next portage?

Make your own beef jerky
Why not? It’s actually pretty easy.

How to make a zipline
To deliver beer from the cottage to the picnic table, obviously. Not so much a detailed “How-To” as it is “Hey, look what I did with my spare time.”

Discover more at the Cottage Life channel.

The nominees for this year’s National Magazine Awards will be announced on May 4.

Magazine of the Year Cottage Life debuts Augmented Reality in Spring Issue

On newsstands now, the Spring 2015 issues of Cottage Life magazine and its sibling Cottage Life West feature not only great writing and photography about life in the great outdoors, but also new interactive elements that invite the reader to experience content in augmented reality.

The concept is made possible via a partnership with Blippar, a market leading image-recognition and augmented reality app. After downloading the free Blippar app onto a smartphone or tablet, readers can place their device over the issue’s “blippable” pages to unlock a series of exclusive content.

“We wanted to build an interactive experience for our loyal print audience that would integrate digital technology and enhance the way they interact with that form of media. This partnership with Blippar will not only change the way print magazines are consumed, but also change the way advertisers showcase their products.” — Penny Caldwell, editor-in-chief, Cottage Life.

In 2014 Cottage Life was named Magazine of the Year by the National Magazine Awards Foundation, and has won 48 National Magazine Awards over its 32-year history. This year’s National Magazine Awards will be held on June 5. The nominees will be announced on May 4.

Geist as App: A new way to read Geist magazine

Great Canadian literary magazine content is now more accessible than ever, and Geist magazine is leading the way.

The new Geist Reader App is now available for iPads and iPhones, and contains the same great Geist stories, essays, photography and reviews published in the print edition, available in a beautifully designed digital edition readable on mobile devices.

Download the app and get a free digital issue of Geist no. 95.

The app will soon be available for Android devices, and the magazine is planning to make access to back issues available via the app in the future.

New BC science magazine Hakai to launch in 2015

Launching in the spring of 2015, Hakai Magazine, an independent online magazine based in Victoria, British Columbia and published by the Tula Foundation, will be devoted to the the science and societies of coastal ecosystems.

The foundation also supports the Hakai Institute on Calvert Island (with other research stations in the region) devoted to field research in coastal sciences.

The  new magazine’s editorial mandate, note the publishers, will be to:

explore the ties between the ocean, land, and human societies through long- and short-form journalism, illustrations, infographics, photos, and videos. We aim to inspire people and communities to think about their relationship with coastal ecosystems — from multiple perspectives — on a daily basis. We’re Planet Ocean, not Planet Earth.

The magazine has already announced a call for submissions, looking for features, columns, photography, illustration and video art.

They’ve also put out a self-described manifesto, noting pointedly (and honestly) that “[to] launch a magazine in the 21st century is a little crazy. But the disruption to 20th century media outlets by the Internet has created irresistible opportunities.”

Our mission is ancient: to inform the individual and unite the tribe through the tradition of storytelling. The means is modern: through the web. The goal is lofty: a global conversation about the world’s coastlines.

Well said.

More information at hakaimagazine.com.