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Erin PolgreenErin Polgreen
Erin Polgreen is a media strategist and consultant, as well as an advocate for comics journalism and media innovation.

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Project Blog: Symbolia

Symbolia, headed by Erin Polgreen, strives to be the ideal place to foster the growth of comics journalism, engaging a new generation of news consumers in a way that is exciting and accessible. Symbolia will mesh first-person reports, infographics and comics by pairing reporters and comics artists. Regular alerts via Twitter and e-newsletters will keep Symbolia on a bi-monthly schedule.

Symbolia Generates Buzz, Builds a Brand

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Symbolia has made it through its first six months! In the last month alone, we’ve released our second comics-journalism issue, debuted a collaboration with PopSci and Tumblr, launched on the Kindle Fire tablet and are moving towards a built-out Android app.

We currently have just under 850 subscribers across iPad and PDF, and more than 6,500 people have downloaded our free issue. While subscriptions have slowed down a bit, we are still making great progress towards our year-end goals. Note: Symbolia becomes sustainable at 3,000 subscribers, but will break even at around 1,500.

Symbolia has allowed me to completely rebrand myself in under a year. A community of leaders in the journalism, literary, and tech worlds supports us. I’m so proud to be leading such a creative and exciting project.

Symbolia is an internationally renowned publication, and it has brought me opportunities to speak and collaborate with organizations from around the world. My 2013 speaking engagements include an upcoming conference on journalism and storytelling in Sydney, Australia, the Power of Narrative Conference at Boston University, and the Cusp Conference on design in Chicago.

Symbolia itself continues to net great reviews and feedback from our community. We’ve been covered in Forbes, FastCo, and the Columbia Journalism Review. We've been featured in more than 100 articles. See the list here:


In terms of audience development, we’re aces. Over 6,300 people have used our free preview issue, and we’re holding steady at an average 12.4 percent conversion rate as a result – that’s the percentage of users who purchase a subscription after downloading the free edition. That compares to a 5 percent average conversion rate for digital and tablet publications, according to what peer organizations have told me.

Other metrics include:

  • Average Monthly Visits to 4,945.
  • Followers of SymboliaMag on Tumblr: 625. Ratio of visits to followers has grown from  4.8/1 to 7.13/1 per month.
  • Facebook fans: 1,045.
  • Twitter followers: 1,197. Ratio of followers per Tweet: was 2.5/1, is now 2.06/1.
  • Enewsletter Subscribers: 452.

Lessons Learned

I wish that I had spent more time talking to folks running technology start-ups instead of journalists and media folks. I learned more about mobile advertising, audience development, and revenue generation chatting with non-media people than I did in many, many hours of conversations with journalism-focused start-ups.

Lesson: Always, always approach projects from multiple directions. Don’t just talk to your close colleagues. While working with your network is very important, it’s also smart to be interdisciplinary in your approach to researching and developing your startup.

My biggest success has been elevating interactive non-fiction comics as a valid form of journalism – and convincing people to pay for it. I’ve also been able to completely rebrand myself professionally, which has been huge. I’m no longer a strategist, but am considered a doer. This has opened doors for my consulting practice and boosted confidence in myself and in my vision. This last year has opened so many doors for me. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Supplementary Links

  • Symbolia’s Tumblr/PopSci collaboration:
  • Database of Media about Symbolia:
  • Tumblr/Official Website:
  • Facebook:
  • Twitter:
  • iPad App:
  • PDF subscription:
  • Free PDF issue:
   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 06/05 at 10:40 AM

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