Learn how to start a magazine, be it digital or print, with our quick guide that outlines concept, funding, layout, editorial content,...
Though the print magazine industry as a whole has been a mixed bag in terms of successes and challenges since the recent recession, starting an online magazine or a digital edition magazine is an incredibly population option for entrepreneurs who want to start a business that involves distributing useful, interesting, and entertaining content. Starting a magazine can also be lucrative if you manage to keep overhead costs low and tailor your content to a growing reader segment.
Create a Concept
Decide what type of magazine you want to publish. And we're not talking about the subject matter (we're assuming that if you are eager to start a business that involves distributing content in the style of a magazine, it's the topic itself that you're excited about, not the publishing process). No, we're talking about how you'll distribute your magazine. Will it be a:
- Glossy newsstand print publication funded by advertisers and/or subscribers? Your publication doesn't have to be a major national magazine; this could include a small regional business publication or a local lifestyle magazine.
- Magazine that is produced and distributed for the web or email? Online news websites are increasingly popular because of their relatively low cost to maintain and ability to reach larger audiences than print publications.
- Digital edition? This term refers to a magazine that is delivered electronically but is formatted much like the print version of a magazine. For example, Lonny Magazine or Gadgets Magazine.
Your magazine may even be a combination of all three, but the key is to know how your target audience wants to receive and read your magazine, and tailor the medium to them.
You might make inroads by reaching out to people who are currently in the publishing industry. You'll have better luck reaching out to the editors and publishers of smaller, niche magazines or magazines that you aspire to be like. Do a little research, or find out directly from the publisher how they got their start. Many magazines are self-funded "labors of love" at first that slowly turn into profitable exposure for advertisers; some others might require investment backing from private companies or get their start through a small business line of credit.
Once you've built a relationship with advertisers (if that's your business model) or are making money in some other way, you'll be able to bring additional products into the mix to sell to customers. Some publishers make most of their money from special events, reports, books, and other add-ons.
Layout and Design
In addition to the editorial content and theme of your magazine, the magazine's layout is the next most important thing. You'll likely require the help of a professional designer who has experience working for print and has the software and knowledge necessary to put together a professional-looking publication. If your magazine will be online only, you'll want to work with a graphic designer who has experience bringing your editorial copy to life creatively.
If you plan to tackle the layout on your own, whether for print or an online magazine, look for magazine inspiration from those publications you admire or from graphic and design sites like Smashing Magazine.
The other sub-title of this section was going to be, "Hiring Staff." Like any business, hiring experienced employees will help you learn quickly; and the quicker you learn the ins and outs of magazine publishing, the sooner you can expect to succeed. As publisher of a magazine, you'll be forced to wear many hats that involve carrying on relationships with printers, distributors, advertisers, customers, and others. Hiring contract or full time employees will help you plow through the To Do list and all of the necessary tasks to get your magazine ready for distribution.
But while all employees are important, the key to a successful magazine is its content. Spend time to find quality, available writers and contributors for your magazine. You may be an experienced and prolific writer, but the best magazines bring in thoughts and insights from a number of authors and experts. Start by seeking out contributed pieces from professionals who are experts in your magazine's topic. Some may love the exposure and will require no additional payment other than to see their name in print (or on the web). Others, including freelance writers who do research specifically for the article, will expect to get paid per article or per word.
When you're ready to go to the presses with your magazine, you should seek quotes from a number of printing shops, both locally and online. Remember that, as with any vendor, you may not necessarily want to go with someone that gives you the lowest price. Print quality, customer service, turn-around time, and paper and binding options are all important elements to consider.
Distributing Your Magazine
To distribute your magazine, you must first give your key audience a little taste of what they might get if they were a paid subscriber. Allot a budget to distribute sample publications and free magazines to those people that represent your dream subscribers, and be sure to give them all the information necessary on how they can become a full subscriber. You can find these people at conferences or events that tailor to their needs, or you can partner with advertisers to distribute free editions through their marketing channels as well.
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