Publishing For Profit

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

including catering, photography, bridal registries, gown designers, and jewelry. Word of mouth played a great part in attracting advertisers, but they were also able to lock in advertisements because they presented a professional product and, through their research, showed that African Americans spend billions on weddings.

To convince advertisers to purchase space in your publication, determine your magazine’s rate base. Rate base represents the guaranteed circulation advertisers expect the magazine to maintain. The higher your magazine’s rate base, the more attractive your magazine will be to potential advertisers. An established magazine is considered successful if it reaches 10% of its total universe, which is the number of people who fit the magazine’s target audience.

To maintain your rate base and guarantee advertisers that the magazine will continue to sustain its audience, nurture renewed subscriptions and establish new ones. One way that you can do this is through a direct mail marketing campaign to members of your magazine’s total universe. Powell and Bonner used their Website to attract new subscribers. In fact, they averaged about 20,000 hits a month on the Website before they launched the test issue. After its release, they got over 50,000 hits in one week’s time. To date, Brides Noir has more than 3,000 subscribers.

“[Our Website] was the most powerful tool we had in terms of getting subscribers,” says Bonner, who expects 12% of Brides Noir’s sales to come from subscriptions.

Circulation revenue comes from subscriptions, newsstand sales, a
nd other venues in which a publication is sold. Generally, subscriptions account for about 83% of an established magazine’s sales and newsstand sales make up 17%. With startups, the opposite is true: New magazines depend more on newsstand sales.

When considering potential readership, keep in mind that total circulation is the number of magazine copies printed multiplied by that magazine’s pass-along rate. The pass-along rate is the number of times one copy of a magazine is read and then passed to a new reader.

Bridal magazines have high pass-along rates, so Powell and Bonner are confident that Brides Noir will fare well, creating opportunities for them to expand into other offerings. “I want to truly maintain our position as being experts in the bridal market for brides of color, [but] our goal is to own our market in more ways than one,” Powell says. “We want to expand further beyond the magazine and build an enterprise.”

Magazine Handbook (Magazine Publishers of America, is a comprehensive guide for advertisers, advertising agencies, and consumer magazine marketers.

Folio magazine ( publishes 16 times a year for $96, and Circulation Management magazine ( costs $39 for a one-year subscription. Folio features news and advice about the magazine marketing and management industries and CM covers trends for circulation professionals.

Starting & Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine, 3rd ed., by Cheryl Woodard (Nolo Press; $29.99) gives strategic advice to the would-be publisher about every aspect of building a thriving publishing business, from raising startup capital to managing staff. Woodard is co-founder of PC Magazine, PC World,

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