Inside WeChat magazine Leaf: Q&A with founder Leaf Greener

What clearer sign is needed that publishing has changed forever than a well respected journalist defecting from tradition to set up something entirely new? Though not entirely a ‘traditional’ fashion journalist due to always being very much active in the social and digital spheres, Leaf Greener counts senior editorships at Elle China, Self Magazine and guest editing Vogue as notches on her CV.

Fast forward to today and Greener has a small, influential empire built largely around Chinese social networking behemoth WeChat. Her WeChat magazine LEAF has built a small ‘elite’ audience, earning herself many awards and acknowledgements as a rising star in the fashion world.

The Drum spoke to Greener about what a WeChat magazine is and how it works with brands to fight against any fatigue around commercial messaging.

What is a WeChat magazine? How does it compare to a blog or an online magazine?

My WeChat magazine name is Leaf. It is a collection letter abbreviation, it means:

L : Liberty, Love, Literature, Lifestyle.

E : Enthusiasm, Energy, Education, Entertainment.

A : Art, Architecture, Aesthetics, Adventure.

F : Fashion, Film, Fantasy, Fun.

We believe that an online platform can also create high-end and in-depth editorial content.

Our content is not only related to the fashion industry, but it is also a sounder of multi-culture and aesthetic. Fashion is just our branch for discovering new aesthetic.

The readers we target are a group of the elite, no matter what job background they belong to, their pursuits are the same, they are about elitism, and they are neoteric [modern] intellectuals.

Leaf magazine specially invites outstanding representatives from various industries as guest editors, offering exclusive and novel content for us.

Topics also come from exclusive cooperation with art exhibitions and brand display. Through using original photography works and novel editing thoughts we have a conversation between art works and fashion pieces. Through taking part in brand displays, live reporting, the advantage over paper media is to publish before the beginning of an event.

The content also takes many formats, including video, static and dynamic images, which makes our magazine content stand out.

We [also] invite outstanding artists to create exclusive art works for us, which become highlights of the magazine.

What does the WeChat platform allow you to do that's unique?

The WeChat platform is a unique platform, it's a very different digital social media platform from the other apps. We can publish diverse content such as videos, gif images, articles, and if people want to share our content they can share on their personal WeChat account.

How big is your readership now and who is it?

The audience is around 20K and we produce intellectual fashion and culture editorials and features, catering to China's growing affluent readership.

Leaf WeChat Magazine

Leaf imagery
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How does your commercial model work? How do you work with brands?

We do bespoke issues to collaborate with brands. It's a similar working relationship as a magazine.

We do targeted perspectives interpreting the brand culture, we can also create content with multiple ways of wearing the brand’s classic items in street shooting. We also use in-depth content to describe attitudes of the brand including vivid pictures and videos. We tend to customize exclusive content with deep thoughts for brands.

Do you see more platform magazines launching in the future?

For the digital part, maybe a Snapchat magazine is on the way?

Where do you see Leaf being in five years time?

For Leaf, it is not about quantity, it is always about quality. We will produce a print magazine in the future as well. We don't want to go mass, we will still focus on niche market. We always want to create something meaningful and beautiful.

A few people are writing that a 'WeChat Fatigue' is happening - do you agree?

Yes. It could be fatigue. If you read the same content everywhere on WeChat and if WeChat company (TenCent) stop developing and optimizing this app. If you don't change and improve, people will get fatigue eventually.

How do you think WeChat can avoid what's happened to older social channels like Sina Weibo?

Maintenance and development of the user experience is very important for a social media app. So WeChat needs to keep developing that and I think they will be fine.

If a brand wanted to work with you, are you selective over who?

We are very selective. We work with the brand in a win-win long-term relationship, who respect us as we do for them. They care about our importance [as a] real conversational engagement [platform], not a number chasing machine.

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