Expert Interview with Antonino Tati on Standout Online Content

Established in 1997, Cream Magazine has always offered pop culture lovers an alternative to the gossip rags found in the checkout line at the grocery store. Publisher and editor Antonino Tati maintains that the magazine’s fresh voice has allowed the publication to grow its audience, even as it stopped printing in 2011, opting for a digital-only product.

We recently asked Antonino, whose helmed the transformation of his brand, how he thinks digital publishing will evolve in the next several years.

“Hopefully, content will see a nice compromise between fact and opinion,” he says. “Things will move away from traditional news presentations of ‘these are the facts and we can’t tell you what we think’ and more into a less-conservative, more ‘blog-like’ prose.”

In addition to a change in the voice of online content, he predicts that images will become more slick and minimalist and that websites will look less cluttered.

“Here’s hoping, too, that more readers realize this and turn more to websites that are clean, legible and most of all informative, interactive and enjoyable,” he says.

Antonino recently checked in with us to offer thoughts about appealing to your readers and growing your digital brand. Here’s what he had to say:

Tell us about Cream Magazine…what is it? Who should be reading it?

Cream Magazine abides by its positioning statement: a cooler blend of pop culture. Each day Cream presents news of what’s happening in pop culture, as well as reviews of new release music and films, and coverage of arts, festivals, literature, travel and what’s trending in technology. Cream readers are at the fore of pop cultural thinking and behavior – always wanting to be the first to try that new thing or visit that new venue.

What sets your pop culture coverage apart from all the other pop culture coverage on the web?

As opposed to covering the obvious mass-consumed news such as “What is Kim Kardashian wearing today?” Cream goes further and thinks a little more esoterically. For example, upon the release of new book Rich Kids of Instagram, instead of just “reviewing” the title, we took a more critical and ironic perspective. And as another example, when Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall passed away recently, we realized she was the last of the icons referenced in Madonna’s classic single “Vogue” and so wrote a piece about this.

How have you been able to grow readership to your site? What have been key tools for growing your audience?

Cream‘s audience was always growing for when we were a printed title for 14 years (1997-2011). In 2011, we decided to go fully online and notified all subscribers as well as announced this to media/the public. The strength of the brand saw an instant growth in online readership. To keep this up, and indeed to see readership increase, we use various tactics. Firstly, strengthening the brand through vertical branding, and now we have an internet radio station.

Secondly, we provide lots of competitions for readers to enter, and once a reader enters a competition, their email address is immediately added to our newsletter database. Competitions – indeed, all fresh posts on Cream – are announced via the usual social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

What types of content do you think resonates the most with your readers?

Cutting-edge interviews with musicians and actors – where we get the subjects to respond to questions outside of the norm – if it’s a radical question on a touchy subject, you can bet Cream has asked it. As an example, read our interview with Nick Cave. Also, news of what’s trending resonates well, such as an article recently published on “new entries” into the Oxford English online Dictionary (can you believe they’ve added “amazeballs”?!).

What have been the most useful ways you’ve found to connect with readers?

Up until recently, we didn’t even have comments sections beneath articles, and we’re wanting to encourage readers to add their comments to stories so that this feedback will show us what they do and don’t like to read – what they connect with best. Other than that, feedback via social media has been useful. And also seeing which competitions prove the most popular is a quick snapshot of what readers like.

What challenges have you faced as a digital publisher in recent years?

Because of the strength of the Cream brand built over the years, we’ve been pretty confident about our presence online. If anything, it is the introduction of so many bloggers, taking attention away from the original publications for which “real journalism” is written.

However, instead of seeing this as a threat, we’ve adopted somewhat of a “blogger” approach to some of our writing – often presenting reviews from the down-home, first-person perspective so that things read more “naturally.” That said, we still like to critique things professionally.

What digital publishing trends or innovations are you most excited about these days?

Music streaming, which we have embraced with the introduction of Cream Radio. Readers can “detach” the radio box from our website homepage onto their monitors for access any time. Streaming of Cream Radio is free, too. Apps (i.e.: magazine apps) don’t do much for us. We find them cumbersome and overwhelming for the reader – too tricky to navigate. Sometimes a clean, simple website that’s easy to read on Apple, PC, tablet and mobile is the best and safest option for broader reach.

How has social media changed the way you do business?

Not much so far as content is concerned because we’ve always kept the integrity of “having our say” and bucking traditionalist media trends (which otherwise tend to present what’s “normal”). If anything, social media has just become another avenue to promote content and brand.

What was your philosophy when designing your site with advertising in mind?

We’ve always enjoyed the presence of a nice blend of established brands (e.g.: Virgin Airlines, Red Bull) and your more “niche” brands (e.g.: smaller fashion labels, cool bars). This means appealing to both an “international” readership and, of course, more local sectors.

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