Starting a Magazine
August 8, 2007 1:01 AM   Subscribe

How do I start a magazine?

I've got a concept for a magazine that I find promising. I just thought of the concept yesterday, so I haven't really gone too indepth into it, but I do have some ideas of content, distribution, publication, and associated activities and media.

How do I go about making this magazine a reality? I understand that a large part of this is country-specific (licenses and so on), but what do you need to consider if you want to make the magazine international? Where do you find your team? What do you put in your business plan and budget? Where do you get the money?

Where do you start?
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Unless you can write a business plan and an editorial map, this is going to be stuck in the mud forever. You need to write the business plan ASAP with as much of your original idea as possible. Anchor advertisers won't give you much cred without it unless you have a good trust fund to pay for the printing. Find a page-layout genius and make a dummy. You need to shop it to advertisers in your field and make plenty of friends. The copy is not as important as your ability to sell. For the moment, keep it simple. Focus on an audience and keep it there, you are not Tyler Brule, although we all strive for that, I like to think.
posted by parmanparman at 1:08 AM on August 8, 2007

People. This isn't something you can do on your own. As parmanparman said, get yourself a design and page-layout genius who will work for beer. Try to find at least one other person with solid journalistic experience who shares your enthusiasm, has editorial ideas, and has a better contacts book than you (regardless of how good your contacts book is already). You will need to mine this contacts book for people who will work, again, for beer. Find someone with business, and ideally ad-sales, acumen - advertising will be where you stand or fall.

Where do you find these people? It would be nice if there was a central clearinghouse of useful people, but I don't know of any - I don't think there's any substitute for just networking as hard as you possibly can. Tap up people you know, people who people you know know, people who people who people you know know know. Be shameless about adopting the approach of "I want help, and have nothing to offer you in return except for a dream (and beer)."

Once you have them, then you can knock out an editorial plan, a dummy, and a business plan to show to investors. You may not need to produce a full dummy initially, but a decent number of representative pages will be essential. You should focus on who your audience is, why there's a gap in the market, why your magazine will be able to target that audience, and why that audience is desirable to advertisers. This will take a fair bit of research, especially into comparable publications (what the competition is, how do they work, what their ad rates are, etc...); it will probably take a lot longer than you expected.
posted by flashboy at 3:10 AM on August 8, 2007

I asked this question once to a publisher. I wanted to launch a weekly newspaper. He answered with another question: "What do you need most?". "Money!" I said. "Wrong. The only thing you need is readers. Once you know who you readers are, you'll find everything else."
posted by bru at 4:14 AM on August 8, 2007

Start online first, which has lower barriers for entry in terms of money.

But first, a business plan and roadmap
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:23 AM on August 8, 2007

You've mentioned that you're at university in your previous posts - that would probably be an ideal place to start a small circulation, especially if you're involved in any sort of club and/or society on campus (and if you're not, you should join one regardless of whether you start the magazine! /derail) To build a base for circulation, it could be worth talking to the committee of a club with similar interests to those you'll put in your magazine - if you can get an edition up online, they may just let you spam their mailing list to let their members know that you exist.

I'm rather heavily involved in one society at my uni, and the spreading of information and such is so much easier when you do it through them. The society newsletter that I edit/write/make is always full of whatever pops into my head the night before it has to go out has a circulation of 200 without us even trying. It is supposed to be about science, but mostly it is about everything but science - but because they hear about it through the society, people seem to be inclined to just pick it up.
posted by cholly at 4:50 AM on August 8, 2007

Agreed to all of the above. Find some smaller magazines you admire for their content, production, editorial voice, position in your niche, &c. and get in touch with the publisher. Ask all of these questions, ask what questions you should have asked, ask what questions they wish they had asked.

I have done this myself several times and I have put others in touch with people in the business and no one has ever been too busy to answer a few questions. Some of these meetings or phone calls even turned into lengthy conversations. The one thing I heard from everyone: It's tough. Good luck!
posted by sonofslim at 6:18 AM on August 8, 2007

Maybe you'd want to start with a simple zine first? Some of them have generated some notoriety.
posted by DarkForest at 6:49 AM on August 8, 2007

You need lots of money. A rich oilman in Texas (my ex-boss) started a magazine a few years ago, thinking advertisers would beg to get into the publication, thus allowing him to cut drastically his largesse. Didn't happen. Initial staff of 8 (editor, managing editor, ad salesman, designer, writers, etc.) recently got cut to 4. And may be cut more, mainly because Big Daddy is tired of pumping dough into the endeavor, even though it's a dynamite product. So, you need an almost endless supply of money -- or a Sugar Dad.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 8:43 AM on August 8, 2007

This book might have some helpful information for you.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:47 AM on August 8, 2007

All of the above are great. An online presence is key, even if it just has the pdf to the magazine. Also, if you're at a college/university, you may be able to get subsidized or discounted printing, through whatever printing press that
most clubs will use.

If you're starting small:

Get a layout genius -- this is key. Even the most basic typographic/design/layout choices can make or break the image of a magazine, regardless of content. A design lacking basic professionality will drive readers away. If you can't find someone to lay the content out, then you don't have a magazine. Figure out if you're going to pay him/her, or not.

Figure out how many issues you want to print, what size, how many pages, color or not, weight (thickness) of pages, and the type of cover. In the US, $1000 will get you, very very roughly, 1500 issues of 6x8 inch pages, b/w offset printing, 60 pound paper, and self cover (the cover is the same paper as the inner pages). Ask the printing press, get a quote.

Figure out where your content is coming from. Who's writing it? Do you have to pay them? Do you need someone to edit the content? Do you have to pay the editors?

How are you going to pay for all of this? Are you going to sell these issues? Are you going to run ads that will subsidize the cost of the magazine? Who's going to read the magazine? Are you going to mail it out? Distribute it by hand?
posted by suedehead at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2007

Where do you start?

You start with the assumption that it is probably going to fail. That you are not going to make any money out of it, and that your first issue will very likely never make it to print. That it is going to be a ton of work-not just for you, but for all the people that you bring in on it that you can't pay. If you are OK with this, and you still have enthusiasm despite it all, then you have the right attitude.

You should definitely be finanically stable before you try this--if you're not independently wealthy and expect it to be your lone source of income, you'll be bankrupt before your first issue even goes to print.

The first person on your team should be a lawyer. They can help with the business plan.

As far as the rest of your team goes-don't worry about content until you have a handful of sales reps. Advertise in the paper or online for part-time commission-based ad sales. That way you don't pay them until they make a sale. Content and design can be created for free/cheap by college students looking to bulk up their portfolios. And by yourself, of course.

The money can come from a couple of different sources after you have created a business plan and a mock-up sample issue. (Which cost money too, so be prepared to go into debt.) After creating the above, you should know who your target audience is, so your sales reps should be visiting companies that share the same target, and hopefully sell ads. Otherwise, you'll need to find some investors.

The goal is to generate enough money to actually send the first issue to press, and do it quickly enough that the content isn't horribly out of date. Then it's simply a matter of doing it all over again for every issue after that!
posted by tjvis at 9:30 AM on August 8, 2007

Readers and advertising, in that order. Everything else is easy.
posted by rhizome at 9:30 AM on August 8, 2007

« Older Are antibiotics the only cure for an UTI?   |   Apple Panic Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.