JMU alumnus Chiedo Jones started Chiedo Labs, a software solutions agency that builds custom websites, online stores and apps. Jessie Knadler, editor of Shen Valley Magazine, describes Jones as “young, hip and savvy,” the type of active personality she wants to feature.
He was one of the first individuals to appear in Shen Valley Magazine, a quarterly lifestyle publication focusing on unique individuals in Rockingham, Augusta and Rockbridge Counties, which launched its first issue at the end of November. The magazine’s first print run delivered 15,000 copies, with 3,000-5,000 people viewing their online content a month.
Knadler has a goal of making a “killer magazine that resonates with people.” She grew up in New York City, and then found her way to Lexington, Virginia, as a freelance writer. In 2015, she transitioned into radio journalism as an NPR affiliate but saw an opportunity in the Shenandoah Valley for a magazine.
“There are magazines here, but they are all single interest focused,” Knadler said. “We can do destination, we can do restaurants, we can do food, art, profiles of people, sports, action/adventure — we can do everything.”
She started working on the first issue in May. With the help of freelance writers, photographers and her publisher Josh Baldwin, she started brainstorming ideas that’d work for her magazine.
“There wasn’t a full color regional magazine that would promote the area, especially one tying the whole region together,” Baldwin said. “We’ve had a great response to the first issue.”
Knadler said that she’s interested in “entrepreneurial energy,” and that’s her target audience. In a place as vast as the Shenandoah Valley, she works with others in order to get an idea of what stories her readers would want to see.
“I’ll have an idea of a story that I just want to do, and I’ll do it,” Knadler said. “I actually prefer getting ideas from outsiders because it just provides a broader picture of what this region is.”
Both Baldwin and Knadler are happy with the response they’ve received from the Shenandoah community. According to Knadler, some advertisers were ready to jump on board before they even saw a finished product of the magazine.
“What we are hoping is that people will get the magazine and they will be persuaded to subscribe, and that’s actually been the way it’s been working,” Knadler said. “People got the magazine, they saw it, they liked it and they have subscribed, so that’s great.”
Hotel Madison received 500-600 copies of the first issue of Shen Valley magazine. Jennifer Sodikoff, marketing manager for the hotel, thinks the magazine will help its guests get an idea of the area that surrounds them.
“Hotel Madison, as far as the Shenandoah Valley is concerned, is a part of that whole piece,” Sodikoff said. “Showing our guests different things of what to do while they’re here or what they can do when they come back to the area, even if its items represented within those counties and not just Harrisonburg City, that’s beneficial to the guests and, therefore, beneficial to us.”
Knadler plans to post their featured stories online to increase their presence on social media by having users share their stories. As Shen Valley moves forward, Knadler hopes to change the idea of where a quarterly publication can thrive.
“That’s the tricky thing about this region — it’s not a media market,” Knadler said. “Which is good because it means we don’t really have competition … Is the community going to support us, are advertisers going to support us? We have to provide value to our readers and to our advertisers for them to get on board.”
Contact Mitchell Sasser at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.