Monday, April 14, 2014

So You Want To Start A Magazine...

English: Logo of the ' magazine.

There are a lot of universal business ideas out there that people kick around from time to time. "I want to start a restaurant!" Yes, we've seen enough episodes of the Food Network's Restaurant Impossible to see how that turns out. After musclebound host Robert Irvine tears into the owners for their lack of cleanliness, vision, knowledge of food, etc. he inevitably asks the question, "Do you have any experience in the restaurant industry?" The answer more often than not to that question is no.

But just because you're jumping into a new entrepreneurial venture doesn't mean you're going to fail. You just need to know what you're getting yourself into and have a plan. Today we'll look at the basics of starting up a magazine. You don't need to produce Rolling Stone to make some money on a magazine, but you can also lose your tail if you don't do it right. So here's a basic model for starting up and running a magazine.

1. Have a winning concept

You love cooking so why not start a cooking magazine, right? Many magazines fail because they don't accurately define and target a niche market. There are a sea of established cooking magazines, so how do you stick out? Perhaps you pick a certain type of cuisine, or you go after appetizers, or desserts. How can you be excellent AND unique? Who are your target readers? Are you going to go after the younger generation? Grandmas? Men? Women? Define who you are and how you're unique before you do anything else and make certain there's a business case for it (if people don't have a reason to keep reading/buying your magazine, why make it?)

2. Make industry friends

If you're going to travel overseas, it makes sense to talk to someone who has already traveled to the same place. Starting a business is no different. Seek out people that have launched successful magazines (it's easier if they're not competitors) to see what struggles they had and what advice they have to offer. Talk to other industry partners you'll need - potential advertisers, printers (do they specialize in magazine printing like a company such as Modern Litho?), contributors, and determine your costs and what other dangers and opportunities you may not have thought of.

3. It might be your passion but this is a business

You're going to have costs so you better have a very clear plan of how you're going to cover those costs. How much will you make in subscriptions and advertising? How many advertisers will you have? How much will printing and shipping cost? How much will you have to pay writers? Editors? Photographers? Support staff? How will you market to your target audience? Will you have additional staff to work on sales and marketing? Will you need office space? Equipment? Office furniture? How much will your utilities cost? Leave no stone unturned in laying out your finances. Many great concepts die with poor business plans.

Having a defined team with clear responsibilities is a huge issue in the magazine world as well. You'll need someone responsible for managing writer deadlines, someone responsible for the overall layout, you'll need editors for photography and copy. If these responsibilities aren't clearly defined for your staff you'll have duplicated work, deadlines will be missed and quality will suffer.

4. One eye on the future

Another issue that plagues many new magazines is getting past the first issue. So much time and effort is put into getting the first issue out there that when it comes time for issue two, no one is prepared. This leads to delays and in some instances an early death. Lining up advertisers and article concepts weeks or months down the road keeps things running smoothly and is a vital component to any successful magazine.