Can This Work? A Look at Pop-Up Magazine’s Live Journalism Experiment

Magazines have been known to sponsor live performances by prominent musical acts or put together lavish awards shows to advance their subject matter, but most magazines would never think about turning their content into live performances. If you want to find a copy of Pop-Up Magazine on your local news stands, you are out of luck.

Pop-Up Magazine is performed live once every six months and it offers no print version or video of its performances for people to enjoy after the fact. If you want to see what Pop-Up Magazine is all about, then you have to go to San Francisco and see for yourself.

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Inadvertently Meant To Be That Way

According to the Pop-Up Magazine website, there is no theme or overriding genre covered by the live performances. Journalists from various media sources are asked to write stories and then those stories are performed live on stage for one night only.

The stories are accompanied by anything the journalist requires from live music to multimedia presentations on a huge screen that runs across the back of the stage. Each story is written like a real piece of journalism and edited by real editors. It all sounds like a growing idea following a plan, but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to, journalist Douglas McGray created Pop-Up as a one-time event that was never meant to grow and never meant to keep going. But now Pop-Up Magazine employs a single editor named Pat Walters and puts on regular shows in the San Francisco area and other select parts of the country. Pop-Up still has no growth plan and does not intend to start releasing videos or transcripts of performances anytime soon.

Is It Journalism Or Theater?

As a way of comparison, The Guardian UK develops plays based on real events and then has those plays performed to an audience. When the Guardian markets its performances, it claims that the performances are journalism. But those Guardian performances are more entertainment than journalism because there are fictitious elements mixed in with the real facts to create a story.

If there ever was such a thing as a live magazine, then Pop-Up Magazine is the only one that would qualify. The stories that are performed are fact-checked and the content is developed by professionals. It is impossible to deny that Pop-Up Magazine is journalism, despite the fact that it is only performed live in a theater.

Is This A Sustainable Business Model?

Other publications put on shows similar to Pop-Up Magazine and those performances have become ways to add revenue to the bottom line. Since Pop-Up Magazine does not offer any sustaining way for others to enjoy its performances, the reach of Pop-Up is extremely limited. But any publishing entity looking for a good way to enhance its revenue may want to look at what Pop-Up is doing and consider creating their own live entertainment. People love to be entertained and journalism can always use a new outlet to keep it fresh and interesting.

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