Publishing For Profit

Launching a magazine is a risky venture. Navigating the pitfalls requires sufficient advertising, circulation, content -- and a bit of luck.

a major wholesaler.

The publishing process has been rewarding for Powell and Bonner, who expect the magazine to generate some $250,000 this year. But they aren’t the only ones who have successfully launched a magazine. More than 6,000 consumer magazines are produced each year in the U.S., over 700 of which are audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. ABC-audited magazines generated more than $16 billion in advertising sales and more than $10 billion in circulation revenue in 2002, according to Magazine Publishers of America. ABC is the leading third party auditing organization in the U.S. Being audited by ABC is crucial to measuring circulation, and therefore to determining how much a magazine can charge for advertising space. Powell, who says the circulation of Brides Noir is roughly 50,000, intends to become ABC-audited by the end of the year.

But with the financial perks of publishing come many pitfalls that publishers must navigate if they are to not only get their magazines off the ground, but also sustain them for years while remaining competitive. It’s a difficult task to master in a market where 60% of magazines fail their first year in business, only two out of 10 new magazines remain in business after four years, and just one out of 10 makes it past its 10-year anniversary.

It’s even more arduous in an industry where longevity is predicated on obtaining a successful balance among circulation, advertising, and editorial, but which offers no foolproof system for helping you achieve that balance. “Magazine publishing is not a science,” says Samir A. Husni, professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi and author of Launch Your Own Magazine: A Guide for Succeeding in Today’s Marketplace (Hamblett House Inc.; $26.95). “There is no formula. It is a know-how,” he says.

That know-how starts with securing sufficient financing. Powell and Bonner launched Brides Noir with less than $100,000, but it can cost a lot more to get a magazine off the ground. To avoid a cash crunch, Husni suggests that independent publishers operate on a budget of four times their estimated startup costs — that generally ranges from $1 million to $4 million a year.

Down the Revenue Stream

In most businesses, identifying multiple revenue streams is essential. In magazine publishing, there are two such streams: advertising and circulation. When soliciting advertisers, publishers typically produce a rate card that details the cost of advertising in their magazine. Rates vary and are typically based on the publication’s circulation and on what the competition charges.

When Powell and Bonner began their search for advertisers, they encountered their share of obstacles. The vice president of marketing at one national bridal gown retailer they were trying to woo told them that their company didn’t cater to such specialty groups as African Americans, even though a year prior to their meeting Powell and Bonner had participated in three African American weddings where the bridal party purchased gowns from that same retailer.

Powell and Bonner were able to win advertisers in a variety of wedding and post-wedding categories

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5