{ 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. « Read the rest of this entry »


{ Lesson: Here’s why you should pay writers. Assignment: Go pay writers. }

July 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’ve been living under the roof of a car for two months and didn’t realize Belt Magazine is running a Kickstarter until I checked their website today. Belt is one of the Midwest’s finest publications, both in terms of journalistic integrity and literary quality. And they’re raising money to keep that going! Just 22 hour left! So go fund them, PLEASE (I know they’ve reached their goal, but more money = more quality writing)!

On the Kickstarter page, they shared what writers say about working with Belt. Here are a few of my favorites:

Belt is essential reading for anyone interested in compelling essays and reportage about one of the country’s most fascinating regions. For writers, it’s a venue that offers thoughtful editing and dependable payment, both of which are rare among online publishers. –Jeremy Lybarger

Thanks to Belt Magazine I was able to find a home for a fascinating story about Midwestern history, a story that’s still relevant today but has been largely forgotten. The editors were great to work with, did a great job with the story’s layout and they paid me promptly. Can’t say enough good things about them. –Debbie Carlson

“Because Belt paid me, I was able to make time to interview authors of special interest to the region, and hopefully the coverage helped them get paid, too.” –Zoe Zolbrod

“Writing for Belt is a great experience from pitch to payment. The process is smooth, the feedback is helpful, and the editorial staff is all-around quite pleasant.” –Ryan Schnurr

When I read articles by other Belt authors, I find myself marveling at the writing and wishing I could have turned a phrase like they did. The words are chosen aptly and they convey moods so nicely. We need good writing in this world, and for all the technological changes — print, web, tweets — writing still communicates feelings, the complexity of the human journey, and entanglements of our lives in ways that nothing else can. Belt keeps the spirit of writing vibrant, and for those of us who adore the written word, this counts for quite a lot. –Rick Perloff

“Belt paid me to research and write a story about the state of colleges in the midwest, which have a huge effect on the economy and culture in our region. This is work that other publications pass on, because they are focused on the coasts.” –Ann Logue

“Belt is an undeniably special place. The fact that a magazine exists where quality, experimental journalism can have a home, be paid, and go home with its dignity, is a testament to the amazing staff that Belt employs. At Belt, an important, well-told story has real monetary value. Their unwillingness to succumb to cheaper quality work is what keeps their readers loyal and their writers ambitious. When click-bait grows up, it wants to be Belt Magazine.”Zoe Gould

And finally, if you feel like you really need to get something out of this deal, the perks for the campaign are quite reasonably rated. I’m getting a copy of The Cincinnati Anthology for just $15! Although given my environmental interest, you’d think I’d go for Redhorse, their nature magazine, but nope. I’m really really interested in their treatment of an entire community. Bring it on, Belt!

You can read a conversation I had with Belt founder, Anne Trubek, here.

{ Online publishing platforms: is diversity worth it? }

April 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

The internet has so many publishing platforms and concepts. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t think I want to play that game.

Ok, here’s one that sounds cool: Deca. Its (experienced and acclaimed) journalists formed a cooperative to create and sell longform stories for tablets, phones, etc. with subscriptions that cost $3 per story or $15 per year. They’re hosted on Tugboat, a “storefront” website (publisher? platform?), which reminds me a little bit of Beacon, without the crowdfunding emphasis.

Deca’s inspiration, so the story goes, comes from Magnum, a member-owned photo agency formed in the 1950s as photo technology became more accessible. It’s a great inspiration to cite, though Deca is certainly not the first group of writers to strike out together on the internet (see Climate Confidential, for instance). And they almost always sound cool, really.

It would be great if the independent online publishers could make it. It would be great if they find an audience that pays. But there are so many projects out there that are going to start and fail. One acclaimed platform, Byliner, sort of crumbled in September 2014 last year after its launch in 2011. Here’s an obituary for the website, with a subhead that reads, “Longform journalism just isn’t a huge moneymaker.”
“What originally excited me about Byliner was that it wanted to let writers chase those long investigative stories and would pay them to do so,” the author says. “It didn’t work out. That doesn’t necessarily mean such a model can’t work — it just means the expectations have to be different. And by ‘different,’ I primarily mean ‘lower.'”

(Another online publisher, Vook, bought Byliner. Vook appears to market to individual authors and claims Byliner as its “first digital imprint,” though the difference between Byliner stories and other Vook titles seems unclear.)

Ay yi yi, maybe I’m a geezer. But if longform journalism just isn’t a huge money maker, it seems like journalists are working too hard to diversity their platforms for publishing (how to write, edit, get published, get paid), when really we should be working harder to diversity how we’re funded. Some are doing it right, like Texas Tribune with its sponsored events (and angel investors), Rocky Mountain I-News with its journalism training workshops (and foundation sponsors), Belt Magazine with its books and Atavist with its publishing technology that it licenses to other publishers. These multi-pronged approaches combine bold business ventures with quality journalism. That’s true creativity. And that’s a game I think I’d be down to play.

What do you think? Am I being a downer? What platforms/publishers do you think are doing it right? Leave me a comment, I want to talk about it! « Read the rest of this entry »

{ Alt fashion mag publisher talked to The Riveter. And thus meets my yearly quota of fashion news. }

September 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Aren’t Sunday mornings great? After recovering from a busy river cleanup and music festival in Boonville, I woke up to a crescent moon! In my window! And the wealth of the internet! At my fingertips! Thank God it’s 2014.

So while shaking off sleep, I checked in on websites I love and admire and stopped at The Riveter, a year-old publication founded by two Mizzou J-School women dedicated to women in longform journalism. They’re rad, the magazine’s rad, and you should probably go like them now before they’re famous.

Anyway, The Riveter’s most recent Q&A introduced me to Haley Mlotek, publisher of 10-year-old fashion mag WORN Fashion Journal and new editor of The Hairpin. She talked about the publisher-editor relationship, whether anyone at Worn gets paid, and what she thinks of Vogue.

“There’s a lack of urgency to a lot of their pieces,” she says in the interview and later, “As the publisher of WORN, I’m always thinking about why my magazine needs to exist, why people need to read it, because there’s a huge newsstand out there, and if you can’t tell your reader why they need to read the magazine you’ve made, then it’ll get lost.”

That’s great in itself, but the interview also links to Mlotek’s fascinating dissection of Vogue and fashion writing. It’s a worthy article for anyone interested in magazine identity and voice and—bonus—it forced me to Google “normcore.” Because hi, sorry, I live in mid-Missouri, and ironic fashion takes a while to settle in here.

WORN looks beautiful and meaningful and energetic, like a zine with more time on its hands. And I mean that as a high compliment, especially because I just watched this really good Kathleen Hanna documentary on Netflix last night.

Anyway, go click those linksss. But then come back and give me more links to read! I became the caretaker of an iPad yesterday and I hear I’m supposed to be doing something on it all the time. « Read the rest of this entry »

{ Magazines are still printing. On paper! They’re finding creativity out of limitations. And they’re finally featuring graphic novelists. }

September 18, 2014 § 1 Comment

As mentioned before, I was gone a lot this summer. Camping, traveling, phone off, laptop closed. Magazines stacked up like stalagmites underneath my coffee table, and a digital digest of boutique pubs pooled up on my Feedly. Finally, after drinking coffee in the afternoon and thus staying awake late late late, I binged on all the indie mag news from the past couple months til now. I wanted to share the highlights with you and flesh out the most stand-out ideas. I have to hand it to Stack magazines, magCulture and Magpile for doing the real work of documenting these ventures. I’m just rehashing stuff that made me say, “oooh.”

{ Slow Journalism, a.k.a. Longform, a.k.a. This is all I want out of life and print magazines }

beltwayThe Intentional Quarterly is “dedicated to building creative communities and showcasing emerging artists.” They rock a print magazine, a clean website, and even host events. I love events.

Here’s a sample of writing: “So, My Roommates are My Parents” is a funny, well-edited piece on privilege (by this founder of cool-looking project Be You Be Sure); there’s a phenomenal story/essay/f**king great piece of writing from MISSOURI, nay THE OZARKS (!) featuring, among other great observations, a racist conservationist neighbor named Bud; and the editor gives a passionate declaration of faith in the print medium that nearly made me cry tears of joy:

The Intentional is long-form because it is, because I had a magazine baby, and it was born that way. Because that is what was conceived when the world asked me how I wanted to interact with it.

Sooo, that’s inspiring. There’s also Delayed Gratification, “the world’s first slow journalism magazine” (the qualifier being a little ironic since they decry “today’s ultra-fast news cycle” that “rates being first above being right”). At any rate, their newest issue is out now, with art from Ai WeiWei on the cover.

And then, I really enjoyed magCulture’s “At Work With” interview with Weapons of Reason founder Danny Miller. When asked about the mag’s “rabble rousing name,” Miller said:

Honestly we’re not fighters or activists at all. The mag looks at some very challenging topics, but at the same time we’re not trying to be political, or even draw conclusions. We realised when researching our first cover topic – The Arctic – it was such a vast area that the best we could do was to identify the best questions to be asking. From there we could commission the right stories, and ultimately look to present the key facts that inform the debate to readers in a way that would allow them to connect the dots themselves.

Hey look, straight journalism with objective reporting. Walter Williams is shedding a tear in journalism heaven. I also like how Weapons of Reason is taking on a single, serious topic and exploring it through “past, present, and future” lenses, similar to what The Outpost does by looking at “What’s Happening, What’s Not Happening, and What Could Happen” in its magazine about the Arab world. Again, creativity from limitation. Again, awesome.

{ Creative Approaches }

The WoR interview also alluded to a limitation of eight issues. Is this a trend? Because Dirty Furniture talks of doing the same thing (one piece of furniture explored per issue…neat…weird, but neat). I can see advantages to that “finite printing” concept. Experiment, make people want it now because they can’t always get it later, achieve a specific goal and be done with it. If that’s your goal, that’s cool. Something to think about…

A few more: Stand & Deliver magazine uses core subjects (in this case, standup comedy) to spin off in other directions. Like, profile one man, reprint a children’s comic he made, publish pages from his notebooks, and write an overview of other comedians from his home country. Or, more generally, include researched articles along with photography and other cool stuff. It lets creativity flow from limitations, and that can be a very good thing.

And finally, The Guardian magazine redesign is running a weekly graphic novel series. Also, at the SEJ conference, we learned that OnEarth magazine’s next packaged publication will feature a graphic novel. I’m personally thrilled.

{ New Takes on Travel }

A genre all its own! But worthy of critique and a new way forward. First, Compass Cultura is a new digital magazine that publishes three quality pieces of travel writing for $2 each issue. Here’s what they have to say for themselves:

We don’t publish puff-pieces, round-ups or sponsored articles. We take pride in storytelling and readability.

Compass Cultura is for people who like to travel and discover. It’s for people who are sick and tired of the bubble-gum travel section of their local newspaper. It’s for people who are fed up with airy 500-word travel-and-leisure blurbs published by major media outlets.

Compass Cultura is your new alternative travel publication. Let us tell you some stories.


Steve Watson at Stack did a long interview with the magazine’s creative director. It shows a magazine reveling in digital and keeping alight the torch of quality longform storytelling. I also appreciate their business model that shirks short-term startup money in favor of sustainable funding, or “revenue-backed growth.”

And hey! Its second issue came out this week. That’s exciting. Once I get a minute I might just lay down $2 to see what it’s all about.

Finally, Unmapped offers “hidden stories from around the world, about ideas, events, places and people that have been left off the map.”

The paywall’s strict: two articles and you’re bumped out. The few articles I did read (thanks, multiple browsers) feel about as broad as the mission statement: unpolished first-person pieces, some narrative, others just descriptive. Often with good photography. A nice project, but lacking a strong identity. I think that’s hard to do when you’re featuring places from all over, but not impossible. Maybe they just need more limitations.

{ 8 Lessons Learned From New Journalism Business Models }

March 29, 2014 § 4 Comments

Media entrepreneurs shared their experiences with “New Journalism Business Models” yesterday at the Association of Healthcare Journalists conference. It was one of those wonderful, enlightening situations where I realized how much I don’t know. The panelists were driven, sophisticated and compassionate. My new heroes. Here you go:

All of these newsrooms began in the mid-2000s or later. Since then, one has merged with a university, and a couple more have shuffled under the umbrella of existing news organizations (à la the St. Louis Beacon). After first hitting “publish” in 2009, the Texas Tribune now has a staff of 50, including 18 full-time reporters and other support in tech, finance, sponsorship sales and others. You can learn a lot more from them and others at news-biz.org.

{ Fill a niche. }

Don’t do anything that duplicates what others are doing.

{ Set priorities.}

For instance, the Texas Tribune has always been about state politics and public policy. Even if there’s a big shooting near their office (or some other big event), they won’t cover it unless there’s a policy focus. Similarly, Rose Hoban’s motto is, “If it didn’t happen in North Carolina, it didn’t happen.”

{ Stand on a four-legged stool. }

This is how I-News made enough to support themselves:

  1. grants and donations
  2. earned revenue, including an investigative journalism camp for high school students
  3. underwriting
  4. pay for content, where I-News does a major investigation and shares with other media

{ Better yet, get an eight-leg stool. }

And Texas Tribune doubled down:

  1. startup funding from a huge venture capitalist
  2. corporate sponsorships (underwriting)
  3. events sponsored by companies (60 in a year, including an annual three-day festival)
  4. small membership (less than $1,000 per year)
  5. major gifts ($1,000+ per year)
  6. subscriptions to a few of their paid products
  7. paid syndication
  8. crowdfunding

For details, see their “Who Funds Us?” page.

{ Marry well? }

Rose Hoban showed us the budget for North Carolina Health News. The “Editor” line read $0. “That’s me,” she said. “I haven’t earned a salary in two years. My husband is awesome, and he respects fact that I’ve been hustling and working my ass off to make this happen.”

{ Find revenue that doesn’t need a crystal ball. }

It’s not so much about donated revenue vs. earned revenue. The issue is predictable revenue vs. nonpredictable. Foundations and major donors aren’t predictable. Earned revenue strategies, products and small donors tend to be the strongest income you can predict.

{ Evolve, but carefully. }

The panelists predicted what they’re next steps are for their organizations. Afterward, Tim Griggs told me how Texas Tribune developed their entrepreneurial reporting really well before they were ready to move into investigative projects. Now, they’re seeking understanding of 1) who their audience is, 2) what they want audience to be and 3) how to evaluate the publication’s impact. “The challenge is not just for nonprofit news organizations, but for everyone: How do you, in a way that makes sense and is not anecdotal, convince sponsors that it matters?”

{ Give us five years. }

Roger that. While they get their funding ducks in a row, us young’ns can build capital and hop in after the wheel gets invented. Good luck to everyone!


{ 25 years of Missouri Stream Team }

March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Folks, I’m a polyblogger. It’s a lot like a pollywog, in that my baby writings are floating around the Internet, and only one or two will survive to print-publication adulthood.

The water-themed reference is apt, because my latest venture is the Missouri Stream Team 25th Anniversary Blog. We’re commemorating a quarter-century of one of the state’s biggest volunteer environmental efforts. With only one year to celebrate, there’s no holding back on content. Not only will this be a clearinghouse of information for the 25+ celebratory events happening across the state, we’re also posting cool archival finds, current advocacy alerts, and stream-related news nationwide.


Because it’s run by the Missouri Stream Team Watershed Coalition, we’ll have access to leaders with lots of collective stewardship wisdom. Our goal is to create a culture around the blog, Stream Team, and Missouri environment through storytelling and conversation. If you love clean water, you should follow the blog and come along for the ride! I’ll see you there.

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