{ How To Make Money With Magazines: A Dreamer’s Guide }

September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Coverage Area-01Whaddup, readers. If I’ve been a wee bit absent, it’s because, this time, I’m actually moving forward with making a magazine instead of just blogging about magazine-making.

Cue the trumpets: We’re calling it The New Territory, and it’s going to feature the south-central U.S. in full color: a general scope of genres and topics, with a proudly regional focus. Of course I’ll discuss my process here, but The Gasconader will remain first and foremost a cheering/advice section for all kinds of magazines and Midwest art projects. To follow progress on The New Territory (TNT) specifically, subscribe to my new newsletter, The Roar of Discovery.

So. The last newsletter’s subject was getting “Down to Business,” and I highlighted some ideas for generating revenue for this title. After several years working in and around nonprofits as well as small businesses, establishing TNT as a self-sustaining for-profit company is important to me. Going for-profit is a rare approach for magazine focused on meaningful storytelling (rather than lifestyle, say), especially in our region. The only one that comes to mind is This Land Press in Oklahoma. Columbia Journalism Review did a great story about them back in 2012.

While I try to keep a close eye on both editorial and business ends of magazine-making, there’s still a ton to learn. I’m taking a moment today, using The New Territory as an example, to discuss different approaches to revenue and profit. If you want a primer on why it’s a good idea to diversify funding strategies, start with this Nieman Labs article, “The newsonomics of small things.”

Here’s how I weighed each idea, and keep in mind, I have raised precisely -$300 for the project so far. So maybe you should be schooling me.

{ Startup Funds }

This is where I’ve learned the most, and I’m still not sure I can summarize it for you well. So here are some links!

Of course, there’s also crowdfunding. Certainly a great option for the one-two punch of marketing and fundraising, but I think of it as a bonus, not a strategy.

{ Traditional Magazine Funding }

  • Print Advertising: a good start
    Even though print advertising remains on a steady decline since television, Internet and social media have emerged, it’s still not a lost cause. Recent research shows magazine ads yield the largest return on investment of any advertising (here’s why), which should still make it attractive to advertising clients.Now, what kind of advertisers will seek a multi-state title with highly general content? The best kind, of course! Institutions looking to reach to an invested, regional audience will be key: festivals, galleries, outfitters, tourism boards.

    Now, will those potential clients provide all the cash necessary to run a respectable magazine? Absolutely not; I want to pay contributors what they’re worth, and that will cost a lot. Among magazines in this class, a full-page ad runs about $3,000, and that’s probably the pay for one TNT feature, not to mention art talent and other costs. And I don’t expect that many full page ads, especially at first. So diversification is vital.

  • Advertising Online: Not for TNT
    Old school, sure: I want to see TNT valued as a beautiful print product, the manifestation of hard work by numerous, talented people from across The Territory. Articles important for public policy will go online for free, but most content will remain locked inside the book itself. That makes subscriptions and newsstand sales more valuable and attractive. And online advertising, less attractive. (Not to say we can’t try. But it’s not a place I’d invest much effort until a digital team materializes to make meaningful digital content. Advertising through email or social media might be a better bet.)
  • Single-copy Sales: Expect 7%
    From the Pew Research Center news magazine fact sheet:

While newsstand sales are a small percentage of most magazines’ print circulation (roughly 7% of the total), they are considered an important barometer of a magazine’s editorial appeal, since they are not influenced by discount programs and promotions the way subscription circulation is.

  • Subscriptions: Helllll Yeah!
    Everyone who knows about TNT will subscribe because it’s just going to be that good. Moving on.

Here’s where it gets fun:

{ Alternative Revenue Sourcing }

FERN is an independent, non-profit news organization that produces in-depth and investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health. And they have a good taste in color scheme.

  • Individual membership: In addition to a subscription, annual membership gets members discounts on products and events offered by The New Territory and its sponsors, previews to key projects and editorial developments, and special receptions hosted by The New Territory.
  • Sponsored events: We will offer corporate, foundation and educational sponsors opportunities to headline events coordinated by TNT. Conferences, tours, concerts, festivals, and galleries will promote science, art and innovation throughout the Territory region (I’m also jazzed about recreating something like the Rural-Urban Exchange sponsored by Art of the Rural in Kentucky). This has been a successful venture for publications such as Belt Magazine and Texas Tribune, which runs panels, trivia nights, music festivals and conferences. We will also seek in-kind donations or discounts to offset event expenses.
  • Summer art and outdoor camps for students, teachers and the public: We invest in new Territory storytellers and explorers through special camps throughout the region. Sponsors underwrite camp expenses, and any profit from registration goes toward funding The New Territory. Not sure how this would work, but it sounds fun, right?

  • Traveling art galleries, shows, cafes and special events: We can make dreams happen for entrepreneurs by connecting them to regional hosts and sponsors. While I originally imagined this as a popup endeavor, I realized the strength of a regional magazine is that we’re spreading ideas across a large area. Why not do that with our in-person endeavors? The New Territory would benefit through fee arrangements with artists.
  • Anthologies: Anthologies specific to cities, states, regions and topics will be of interest many different readers, especially educators. This has been a profitable venture for Belt, which is most similar to TNT in regional scope. Using writing from our own collection and curating from elsewhere, we can sell copies online and in bookstores. I’d like to include a teacher’s guide written by local education experts. That would add appeal and ease of incorporation into curriculum, and sales in classroom sets of 20 would not be bad at all.
  • An Okie throw pillow from This Land Press, “made in collaboration with Tulsa-based designer Val Esparza and inspired by one of our cover designs.” Super cute, and why the heck not. You know you could always use another throw pillow.

    Merchandise: Postcards, totebags, stickers and other ephemera sporting The New Territory insignia and art from the region, sold online to promote the brand. We may also explore online sales of high-quality, short-run items through an online shop. That could be stuff made by regional people, art prints by our illustrators, whatever makes business sense. And if our brand can become as cool as This Land Press, imagine all the t-shirts, coffee mugs and other doodads you could buy with The New Territory insignia!

  • B2B, or Custom Publishing
    Jeff Israely asked, “To B2B or not to B2B?” referencing the media category of a journalism business that provides content directly to other businesses or on behalf of their client (business-to-business), rather than directly to the general public (B2C, or “business-so-consumer”). For his company, WorldCrunch, the answer is, “Both!This business model would work well for a publication specializing in a fairly specific niche. Think PoliticoPro or Howler Magazine’s content for soccer companies.
  • What am I missing?
    Know a strategy I ought to discuss? Leave a comment, and let’s keep the conversation going!
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