There are hundreds of well-known magazines in circulation that have been known and loved for years, if not decades. You still see them overflowing at newsstands and in department stores and bookstores, and you might even have magazine subscriptions that bring issues straight to your door.
If you’re a content creator, or if you’re passionate about a certain topic, you might be tempted to start a magazine of your own. But is this really possible? And if so, how can you be successful?
Why a Magazine?
These days, it’s ridiculously easy to start a blog, or design your own website. So why would you start a magazine instead?
There are several inherent advantages and purposes that magazines offer, which online publications still can’t quite match, including:
- Audience. More than two-thirds of Americans still read print magazines, and many of them rarely or never read their preferred materials online. In some cases, printed magazines are the only way to reach your target audience. In others, it’s an easy way to distinguish yourself from your competitors.
- Distribution. Magazine distribution also gives you more autonomy than online publication. Rather than relying on social sharing or digital advertising, you can manually deliver your printed magazines to organizations and locations where you want them distributed.
- Reputation. Depending on what you’re writing and publishing, a printed magazine may improve your reputation. It’s much more work to put together a magazine than it is to create a blog, so people may take you more seriously.
- Aesthetics. Reading a magazine is a different experience than reading articles online. If these are your preferred aesthetics, or if the layout style is preferable for your subject matter, this could be a massive advantage.
- Niche functions. You could also pursue printed magazines for certain niche functions, like if you want to circulate an internal company newsletter.
The Costs of Printing
One of your biggest limitations will be cost, since you’ll need to pay for the printing of your magazines. However, there are many inexpensive magazine printing options that make it more approachable than ever before. Printing larger volumes will give you a lower per-unit price, which is ideal if your intention is profitability, but it will also be more capital-intensive upfront. Consider attracting capital with fundraising efforts—especially if you have noteworthy people backing your purpose.
Choosing a Subject
You probably already have a subject in mind for your magazine, but it may require refinement. With so many magazines already in circulation and so many sources of news and information, you’ll need some way to stand out if you’re going to succeed. For example, if you want to write about something like “music,” you’ll need to distinguish yourself to capture new interest. Focusing on a specific genre, or a specific era, or even a specific geographic area could be enough.
Writing, Design, and Layout
After choosing the general topic for your magazine, you’ll need to start working on the writing, design, and layout of the magazine. Depending on how much time you have and how personal this project is, you may be able to do this work yourself for the first issue; oftentimes, this is not a sustainable approach, but it could get you started.
Instead, it may be better to get the help of volunteers and professionals; each person can contribute a column or a piece of work within their specialty, and you can serve as an editor to put it all together. Your priority should be making it look professional; many people will choose whether to read this based on how it looks.
After that, you’ll work on distribution. If you’re trying to sell your magazine, you’ll need to enter a partnership or cosigning agreement with various businesses; in many cases, it’s better to distribute the first few issues for free to get exposure. Contact local businesses relevant to the subject of your magazine (like record stores if you’re writing about music), and see if they’d be willing to give out or sell your work.
After you start to generate visibility and attract a readership, your final responsibility is scaling. In some ways, this is the hardest phase, because even with amazing content, there’s no guarantee of success. You’ll need to work hard to keep your current readers, attract new readers, get featured in more businesses, and eventually, generate more revenue through sales or advertising.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that it’s challenging, but certainly possible to start your own printed magazine, whatever your goals are. You’ll need a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and a team of people willing to make that vision a reality, but once in place, there will be little stopping you from creating the publication you want.
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