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Who's Blogging

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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Recent Updates

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 launches into space for 1-year anniversary

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Black holes and Mars and space arcitechture? Symbolia celebrates 1-year on earth by delving into the things that seem like sci-fi. Subscribe to Symbolia on iPad or via PDF today.

   • Posted by Jan Schaffer on 03/04 at 11:18 AM

Polgreen joins board, talks marketing

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Symbolia founder and new NMWE advisory board member Erin Polgreen talks about successful guerilla marketing for her venture into comics journalism.



Interview with Erin Polgreen - NMWE from J-Lab on Vimeo.

   • Posted by Justin Warren on 02/11 at 01:15 PM

Symbolia: The Confessional

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The next issue of Symbolia,  the comics journalism magazine, is  looking to tell all. This issue will focus on thoughtful, revealing, and sometimes humorous first-person memoirs.

We're looking for stories of fundamental change, rites of passage, and personal transformation. Think secret lives, travels, survival, adventure, perseverance, and coming to know oneself. This issue will build on a strong tradition of autobiographical comics and zines.

We hope to push the boundaries for interactive content in this issue and look forward to pitches with intriguing ideas for sounds, animation, and other elements that will enhance the story. We're looking for writers, artists, and journalists with experience crafting interactive content. We will pay special attention to pitches for global stories. Note that all work will be fact-checked and will need to be well-documented. Symbolia pays creators for their work.

The deadline to submit a pitch for this issue is FRIDAY, AUGUST 9.

Learn more here:



And here's a direct link to the pitch form:


   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 08/01 at 12:16 PM

Symbolia Generates Buzz, Builds a Brand

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

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

We currently have just under 850 subscribers across iPad and PDF, and over 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 goal of 3,000 subscribers. Note: Symbolia becomes sustainable at 3,000 subscribers, but will break even at around 1,500.

Symbolia has allowed me to completely rebrand myself and my expertise in under a year. We are supported by a community of leaders in the journalism, literary, and tech worlds. 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 BU, and Cusp Conference 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. For a list of most of the 100+ stories on Symbolia, visit


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% conversion rate as a result -- that’s the percentage of users who purchase a subscription after downloading the free edition. The average conversion rate for digital and tablet publications, as peer organizations have described to me in conversation, is about 5%.

Other metrics include:


   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 06/05 at 10:40 AM

Symbolia Expands to Kindle Fire

Thursday, May 09, 2013

As part of an expansion strategy, the comics journalism venture Symbolia is now available on the Kindle Fire e-reader.

Three issues, including their free preview called How We Survive, are available for download, providing readers with a panel-by-panel visual experience.

Kindle Fire is the third way in which users can access Symbolia, which is also available on the iPad and in PDF format.

Next in line is a Symbolia Android app slated for release in summer 2013.

   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 05/09 at 10:02 AM

Meet Symbolia

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Symbolia iTunes pageSymbolia has arrived. And we are so excited to share it with you. Symbolia mixes the best of comics art with thoughtful journalism from around the world.
Here's how to get your mitts on our preview issue today:

  • Own an iPad? Then get our flagship iPad app, featuring audio, animation, and interactive infographics.
  • No tablet? No sweat! Symbolia also has a PDF edition that can be read on any device.


   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 12/04 at 10:02 AM

Some Thoughts on Tone

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SymboliaI’ve been thinking a lot about truth, tone, and entertainment lately. Now that Symbolia is approaching launch (expect an announcement very soon!), we’re planning for future issues and are lining up stories as we go.

I’m bumping up against a bit of an editorial challenge, though. How do we balance personality – or editorial tone ¬¬– with solid reporting and a well-defined brand? I’m not talking about fact-checking or “how to DO comics journalism.” That’s not the problem.

Symbolia’s Creative Director Joyce Rice and I have developed a visual style for Symbolia that feels hand-crafted, clever, bright, and slightly folksy. We love comics and journalism because they add whimsy, celebrate curiosity, and bring artists into the news process. We are also deeply committed to telling true stories.

For years, I’ve been speaking about comics in the newsroom, and every time, editors ask me about subjectivity and truth. We work very hard to make sure that our stories are accurate, are fact-checked, and offer fair representation of the subjects at hand.

Our problem is humor.


   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 11/27 at 02:56 PM

Back from ONA 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I attended the annual Online News Association Conference last week. It was really a fantastic opportunity to connect with other NWME grantees--Hi Jeanne and Sarah!--and other digital journalists.

ONA12 was the first time I was able to showcase near-final versions of Symbolia's app to other journalists/future of media types. Overall, feedback was really positive. It was really great to see part of our core audience playing with the app. I definitely picked up a few user behaviors that I hadn't seen with other testers.

For example, app usage instructions shouldn't take more than 15-20 seconds to skim and grasp. Ours are tight, but could be even tighter. While new iPad users spent more time learning how to use the device and app, those with iPhone-iPad-smart phone experience tended to dive in headfirst, swiping and skimming and tapping on interactive elements at very quick speeds.

I gave a quick demonstration of Symbolia at ONA’s Midway and talked about our intended audience, our business model, and overall editorial strategy. I'll share a version of the presentation on this blog later on.


   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 09/27 at 11:11 AM

New Milestones!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Live Long - SymboliaMilestones Managed!
Symbolia has passed some major milestones in the past few months, as you can see from the images accompanying this post. Our preview issue will feature four blazingly colorful stories from a variety of creators, including Sarah Glidden’s sensitive exploration of life in Iraqi Kurdistan, Susie Cagle’s opus on California’s Salton Sea, and Andy Warner and Lauren Sommer’s investigation into the microflora in your gut.

In the press
The Chicago Tribune's Christopher Borrelli, who recently covered Chicago's growing comics journalism scene, had this to say about contributor Susie's story (Warning, the link requires a digital subscription.):

"...It condenses environmental degradation and class difference, history and anxiety, empathy and anger into about two dozen bright, smartly illustrated pages, painting a literal, graspable narrative of a complex subject."

Speaking of press, I was also profiled recently by the Society for News Design. It was a really fun Q+A--my favorite part was explaining what “symbolia” means:

What does Symbolia mean?


   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 09/18 at 10:31 AM

Making a Dummy

Thursday, July 05, 2012


   • Posted by Erin Polgreen on 07/05 at 10:38 AM