Many people think that they would like to start their own magazine, yet the fact is that the majority of new magazines launched onto the market fail within the first year and many don’t even make it past the first issue. Despite this, if you have a good idea and choose the right niche then starting a magazine can be both potentially lucrative and enjoyable.
Why start a magazine?
It is estimated by Keynote that the UK consumer magazine market was worth around £2.72bn in 2010 – so magazines are big business. Thanks to technology, there is also now the opportunity to publish a digital magazine – and many sources believe that the popularity of e-magazines will rise significantly in the coming years, due to the increasing popularity of e-readers and magazine apps for smart-phones. If you are a creative person and enjoy new challenges, a magazine could be the business for you. It is, however, a very competitive market – so you’ll need to target a very specific niche and work hard to get your magazine distributed and to attract advertisers.
What are the keys to success with this business?
Magazines generate revenue from two main sources – the cover or download price of each issue (if there is one – many are free) and advertising. The latter is probably the most important, so you’ll need to work hard to attract the right sort of advertisers and keep them spending money on a regular basis. In order to do this your magazine needs to have a good circulation level among a very specific readership base.
Magazines also rely on loyal readers – you not only have to persuade people to buy your magazine in the first place but then keep them buying it every week or every month (or however often you plan to publish new issues). Keeping your readership engaged means that you must always keep your finger on the pulse and be aware of what your readers want to know or are interested in. You need to constantly come up with fresh content that is relevant to your readership at that moment in time.
Getting a magazine off the ground can be very costly. To start with, there’s the cost of designing and producing the content to go into each issue. It’s not just a case of throwing a few articles together and calling it a magazine. Each issue will need extensive research and lots of both written and visual content – all of which can be expensive to produce or source. Printing costs can also be high, especially so if you want a professional finish and/or your magazine contains lots of pages and high-resolution photography or graphics. You'll also need a commercial property to base your work from, where you can bring together ideas for the magazine each day.
Once everything is ready, you’ll also need to budget for distribution costs. Don’t forget marketing either – to get a new magazine noticed is no easy task and you will need to spend money on marketing to raise awareness and to establish a strong brand. You will need to spend money on marketing to potential advertisers too because it is often difficult to persuade companies to spend money on advertising in a brand new, unknown magazine. If your magazine is going to be digital only, then your costs will obviously be lower – but even then you cannot underestimate the costs involved in making people aware of your magazine and getting them to actually download it.
Your next steps
The first thing to do is to conduct some market research. Visit a newsstand and have a look at the different types of magazines that are available and the subjects they cover. You will need to decide on whom your magazine is going to target and whom its readership will be. If you can, try to get hold of accurate readership and circulation data for rival publications. Is there room for another magazine covering this subject? Should it be free or paid? Who will my advertisers be and how much will I charge?
You might want to find out how much rival magazines charge for advertising space and which companies advertise in those magazines. Bear in mind however that it is standard practice in many magazines to provide advertisers with a discount on the prices published in the rate card, so dig a little deeper and find out what you can realistically charge for advertising space.