What To Consider When Starting a Magazine

Starting a magazine, in theory, sounds easy enough– just have a good idea and an audience who will read your material, and voila you can be a magazine publisher. Additionally, online commercial printing companies make it easy and more affordable to print magazines, so the time and money investment required is far less today than it was 10 or 20 years ago when having to deal with major printing firms or publishing houses.  With it being relatively easy and affordable to start a magazine it is no wonder that in 2007, over 350 national magazines were launched in the United States, and when you consider the “specials” or one-time that number grows to nearly 700. While there is low friction in starting a magazine, according to Dr. Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi, and one of the nation's leading magazine experts, “60% of new magazines fail in the first year, 80% by year four and 90% by year ten.” These statistics are from 2001, so one can’t help but think that with the growth of the Internet over the past 10 years, those numbers might actually be a little higher.

The two primary reasons that most magazines don’t survive past their first year is due to lack of original content, and the logistics of delivery. These both lead to a lack of subscribers and readership.  While the percentage of long-term success for magazines is small, there are a few crucial elements to consider, before sending the first edition to press, which will help ensure you are in that small group that experiences success.  First, consider your audience. A primary mistake that many individuals or companies make when wanting to launch a magazine is that the topic of the magazine is something that interests them or a very small group of people. If the magazine has difficulty in finding readership, then chances are it will have difficulty in finding sponsors and advertisers, which is the main source of revenue for any magazine. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, so if the topic of your magazine reaches a niche group that is highly sought after by advertisers, then your magazine might have a good chance of survival.
Second, consider the content you will provide. It should go without saying, but content is king! If you are taking on the design, publishing and distribution of the magazine as a one-man operation, then it will be very difficult to come up with original content for each and every edition. It is crucial to find writers that are interested in the topic(s) your magazine covers and employee them to create dynamic and fresh content that your audience will want to read.  Third, carefully select a printing company that specializes in custom magazine printing and publishing. It can be tempting to want to go as cheaply as possible with printing your magazine, especially the first few editions, but doing so can be an automatic killer to success. While not all magazines require a high-end look, most will require the printing to come in at or under budget and to be produced by a certain date. Those printing companies that specialize in magazines can work with you to determine the best options to ensure your magazine is produced within your budget and time requirements. Also, a printing company that is truly experienced in magazine printing will be able to help you plan and schedule artwork deadlines and distribution dates.  Fourth, don’t print more than what is absolutely necessary. While the price per piece might be better at 5000 units, if you only need 4000, then you should only print 4000. The reason this is important is because of the additional costs associated with the transportation of the additional units and the cost/time factors in collecting the unsold or unused units. Again, selecting a reputable printing company will greatly increase your chances in getting exactly what you need. Fly-by-night printers or those that have little experience in magazine production will often try to sell on the price per piece so as to maximize their earnings. However, those that are experienced know that as your magazine succeeds and gains readership your loyalty will pay off in the long run. As a side note, for those that are in a start-up situation with their magazines, consider digital magazine printing. Digital magazine printing allows you to print lower quantities than traditional printing.  Finally, put out an initial issue before approaching advertisers. Often, new magazines will create a mock-up of their magazine concept that contains a few pages, pictures and articles, and leaves space for advertisers. While this seems like the perfect way to present your idea, it actually gives little confidence to advertisers. It says to them that they are being asked to invest in something that is unknown and unfinished. If your magazine will be a thirty-two-page magazine, then produce the entire magazine with blank spots for ads. Then use the digital printing as mentioned above to produce a dozen copies that you can present and leave with potential advertisers.  While these are just a few things to consider, they are often the most crucial. Other items to consider are:  • How you will distribute the magazine? Will you mail it directly to the reader, or will you place it for sell in a bookstore? • Will you provide an online/digital version? If so how will you ensure they interact well with one another? • How many times per year will you produce a new issue– monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, etc…?  Doing some careful examination of the things involved in publishing, producing and printing a magazine before actually making the time and dollar investment will give you a major advantage and help you become one those magazines that still exist past the first, fourth and tenth year.  PrintingHQ is your headquarters for high-quality and affordable magazine printing. PrintingHQ offers vinyl banner printing for your every business need. PrintingHQ uses a heavy-duty banner material for vinyl custom magazine printing in large format.


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