From a science lab in America to a digital publishing platform in London, Kimberly Karman's career progression into publishing is not typical. However, after 12 years at New Scientist during which she was part of the digital launch of the magazine in the UK and time as Marketing Director at Pugpig, Karman has found her purpose in supporting the ideals of great journalism. She unpicks the engaging power of an app for publishers versus the internet, the acceleration of digital transitions during this pandemic and digital developments on her Radar.
What made you want to work in publishing?
I didn’t actually want to work in publishing when I started my career. I wanted to be a scientist. However, in my current role at Pugpig I made a conscious decision to specifically work in publishing technology because of the amazing people I’ve worked with over the years. Having been a long-time client of Pugpig, I wanted to continue to work with clever and fun people, expand my skills set in technology and continue to support the ideals of great journalism informing the public, which as a purpose has really resonated with me.
Chart your career from the start to where you are now.
I studied genetics and I got my first job in a lab. A few months in and I realized that I liked talking about science more than doing it. I got a job as an admin in a political lobbying firm on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry and following that, I went to a job in advertising sales at Cell Press, part of Reed Elsevier’s portfolio of scientific journals and New Scientist. I then shifted to a career in marketing, supporting circulation development in the US. I found that marketing as a profession was a great blend of the science and art in creating persuasive communication with clear business results. To meet the desires of our tech savvy audience, there was a clear business proposition to launch a digital edition and I moved to the New Scientist London
After nearly 12 years at New Scientist, I spent my pregnancy and shortly thereafter doing independent consulting for a start-up children’s magazine called Brilliant Brainz as well as picking up project work at various news titles. In my current role at Pugpig I made a conscious decision to specifically work in publishing technology because of the amazing people I’ve worked with. I wanted to continue to support the ideals of great journalism informing the public, which as a purpose has really resonated with me.
Explain what service Pugpig provides publishers.
Pugpig is a platform for publishers looking to build best in class websites, digital editions and mobile apps quickly and cost-effectively. We allow publishers to focus on what they do best - creating compelling content for their audiences, build meaningful relationships with them and monetize that content to secure their futures. We can take on the role of technology provider for all website and app systems (as we do for Tortoise Media) or provide products that are the backbone of digital publishing processes for many daily, weekly and monthly titles. Our team is made of incredibly talented technologists, product managers and customer success team members to make sure we’re on top of the latest tech and publishing industry needs.
Why do you think an app creates deeper engagement with readers compared to the internet?
An app creates deeper engagement with readers because it is a more focused user experience. There is an ease of use with a few thumb taps that makes an app a familiar, friendly, go-to icon on your home screen. As a reader, you can enjoy browsing and reading and not be quite as distracted. You can read offline or disconnect if you want to escape from the interwebs temporarily. But more than anything, it’s easier to pay. You can literally pay with your face. There is a seamless integration with app stores to hand over your money. Although audiences may be smaller, the average revenue per user in-app is higher than the web.
Do you think the impact of COVID-19 will lead to more publishers looking to launch an app?
If publishers were on the fence or waiting to make decisions about digital development efforts before, the pandemic has accelerated the transition from traditional publishing to digital platforms. It has forced event producers to go virtual and think about how they are attracting and engaging audiences differently now. If anything, it has created a more compelling business case given the continuity and sustainability that digital production processes can offer.
What user data can Pugpig collect that can be useful to the publisher?
A Pugpig customer can track pretty much anything they would like to with the right systems integrations and set ups in our platform. We integrate with analytics platforms, push notification providers and subscriptions bureaus to help publishers understand their app usage, engagement and conversion funnels. We then have the ability to analyze that data across the industry on an aggregated basis and in turn.
How, if at all, has the Pugpig marketing strategy changed and adapted to the situation over the last few months?
Physical events were a very important part of marketing our platform. As our physical events are evolving into the virtual space, we’re experimenting with new ways to connect with our relevant audiences. Live chat on our website has been a new and exciting way for us to speak with prospective customers and obviously our Slack usage has shot through the roof with existing customers.
What's on your Radar?
The value of subscriptions and memberships to publishers is where my area of expertise lies and I like to stay at the forefront of that evolution. To that end, we’re looking forward to launching a how-to guide and series of webinars in partnership with Manifesto Growth Architects and Piano about how to build a best in class subscription business quickly. So I’ve been thinking about what good digital events look like from a user and host perspective. I wonder what hardware is coming next that will change our user experiences.
What magazine would you choose to stockpile?
My go-to source for news at the moment is New Scientist - the scientific journalists there do a brilliant job of cutting through the noise and giving clear messaging about what you need to know and what you can do. I also have a stockpile of Brilliant Brainz magazine, aimed at making kids think about philosophy, art and science.