How to Start a Magazine

Everything you need to know about starting and running your own magazine business

Often thought of as a labor of love, starting a magazine isn’t the first thing people think of when it comes to making money. After all, it’s a competitive market with some big players at the top. But there is room for newcomers, and if you’re willing to put in the hard work and effort, you’ll find plenty of ways to make money.

Creativity is key in an endeavor like this, but before that can even begin, you have to know your audience. Many magazines fail simply because they haven’t completed this step, or because they try to please too many people. So to be in with a chance of creating a lasting, loyal following, make sure you pinpoint your target market early on.

Researching and Planning

The very first step is to have an idea for your magazine. What do you want it to be about, and who do you want your readership to be? Will it be in print, online, or both? The possibilities are endless, but don’t be fooled into writing about a subject just because you like it, or because it’s popular. Think about your prior knowledge – both of the subject matter and of the audience.

After this, you’re ready to plan. Think of topics related to your subject and narrow it down to answering questions your readers might need help with. Websites like Cracked or Reddit can be a big help with this. Finally, consider the ways you can sell around each article. After all, you need to be able to monetize your content.

Niche

It’s important to find your niche when starting any business, but exactly how much should you narrow it down? Naturally, you need to keep to your chosen subject, but if you get too specific you’ll quickly run out of material, as well as cheating yourself out of potential advertisers and readers. There are some types of magazines that allow you to stick to a certain subject while targeting multiple audiences, a good example being those related to food. A food magazine may interest everyone from those looking for inspiration to those looking to lose weight, regardless of their age or gender. However, remember that there is plenty of competition out there, so you’ll need to make sure you have a unique selling point.

After deciding the niche you want to work on, here are a few other factors that you should consider researching on to have a clear vision of your magazine:

  • Title: After the cover design, the magazine title is the second most important thing that attracts an audience. You’ll need a name that is relevant, catchy and easy to remember, so we suggest that you use the Magazine Name Generator to help you get some ideas.
  • Designing the logo: An attractive-looking logo is essential for a good cover design, and will also help you create great advertisements and business cards.
  • Style: Establishing a house style for fonts, types and colors early on will help you keep to your target market. You can always do a redesign later to keep things fresh, but in the initial stages you’ll want to make sure the fonts are attractive yet easy to read.

Considerations

Essentially, your magazine is your brand, so having a plan for it is just as essential as it is for any other type of business. A few key considerations must be taken into account before you start:

  • What is your start-up budget?
  • Is this a print or an online magazine?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Is it a niche or mainstream magazine?
  • What is the subject matter?
  • What format will you write in (factual, informative, opinionated)?
  • What types of advertisers are you targeting, and how will you ensure that they don’t affect the articles’ quality and integrity?
  • What is your vision for this project, and how will it fit into a more significant media/publishing network over time?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • How much time are you willing to dedicate to the project?
  • Why are you starting a magazine in the first place?

Knowing your audience is an essential part of any business. Who is your target market? Do they have a specific interest or hobby in common, or is it a wider interest targeted at a more specific sector? People like consistency, so if you get your content right and stay on top of the latest development and trends, you’ll be much more likely to keep your audience. Again, competitor analysis will come in handy, allowing you to learn more about how things work.

Planning for the First Issue

This is the most exciting part of the journey for most first-time magazine editors. Subject matter is key, as this will completely determine how your business will be run, and what type of people you’ll be dealing with on a daily basis. For instance, a sports mag will attract a totally different selection of people than a magazine about beauty or astronomy.

Once you’ve decided on this, do some keyword research to find out what people want to know about your subject. Starting off with some strong coverlines is vital, as this is what will determine whether the brand new magazine people are seeing on the shelf is of interest or more or the same. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Format of Articles

In the beginning, keep it simple so you don’t get bogged down in the details. If your magazine is only headed for the internet rather than the shelves, your journey will be a lot simpler. Having an online magazine greatly increases the amount of flexibility you have, as you won’t have to deal with printers or stockists, or even the volume of content each week or month. However, even with an online publication, some consistency will help you keep your viewers. Start small, and don’t try to fill more space than you realistically can.

In Print

Creating a print magazine is vastly more complicated and costly than creating an online version, but there is still some flexibility. If your magazine is free to pick up, start with a low page count to lessen the pressure to write and sell. If your magazine has a set price, make sure you sell well in advance and have some backup articles so you can fill any empty space.

Writing the Articles

Before writing an article, make sure you do your research – and that it comes from reputable sources. Conduct interviews with experts where you can, and be careful to avoid plagiarism. Make sure any opinions are stated as such, and that you don’t make any false claims, or you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. After this, make sure you tailor the tone to your audience – if they are children, make sure the language is simple and the subject matter is appropriate, and so on.

Cover

As stated earlier, your cover is what will attract your audience, especially if the magazine is on the shelf. However, this is also important if the mag is online, so a great graphic designer will come in handy either way. Remember that cover lines are key – too many and they will affect the look of your cover, too few and you’ll lose the interest of your audience.

Finances

There is a huge range of costs when it comes to starting a magazine, as this is dependent on so many factors. A print magazine will undoubtedly cost more to produce, although it may make you some money on purchases. However, it is a great way to stand head and shoulders above the competition, as so many choose to stay online. Regardless of what you choose, two of the best software programs to help you in this area are FreeAgent Online Accounting Software and the Rhino Accounting Free Google Accounting App.

Hiring

Hiring employees is a fine balance between what the benefits are for them, and what they are for you. As a business owner, your staff are there to help the company succeed and that is what you’re paying them for, but to get and keep good staff, you need to set some guidelines.

  • What do you expect them to do?
  • How will you be able to help them develop their skills?
  • What opportunities are available for promotion as the company grows and expands?
  • How long might it take for changes in policy or product lines to take effect, and how long should the employee wait before expecting significant changes and growth?

Once you have hired your staff, it is necessary to train them in their duties, whatever they may be.

The number and type of staff you need will vary according to the type of magazine, the size of the magazine, whether or not it’s in print, and of course, the role you play in its production yourself. However, an example for a print magazine is as follows:

  • Editor-in-Chief: To overlook all editing processes
  • Editor: Assign writers and oversee editing
  • Copy Editor(s): Proofread all copy
  • Illustrator(s): Draw or create original illustrations for the magazine.
  • Designers: Create layout ideas, including the title page and advertising space.
  • Photographer: Photograph the products being sold in your magazine print ads.

Tools You Will Need

Regardless of where your magazine is going, you’ll have good software to help you put it together. A few of these are below:

1. InDesign

This tool is mainly for graphic designers, and will allow them to create the layout of each page. This includes everything from the theme to image and text placement.

2. Microsoft Publisher

This is a great tool for writers, as it’s easy to use and will pick up on a lot of potential errors in the text.

3. Squarespace

This will help you build an online presence for your magazine to reach more people worldwide! Moreover, it’s easy to share with friends on social media and portfolio websites.

4. WordPress

This is a great place to host a website, and it powers over 30% of the web. You can create a blog with custom themes, widgets and features.

Marketing

Getting a magazine off the ground requires some savvy marketing decisions, as well as publishing it in the right place, at the right time. Using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will also help get the word out. You’ll need to convince your audience that your product has something the competition lacks, and you can do it through:

  • Online presence.
  • Print catalogs, flyers, and brochures.
  • The internet.
  • Building relationships with retailers, newspapers, and magazines.
  • Sending reporters out into the world to cover your story.
  • Creating events(exhibitions) that relate to the company’s mission to draw attention from potential buyers.
  • Expanding beyond the expected or projecting a positive vibe in the industry.

Entrepreneurship

Starting your own business is totally different to working for someone else, and you’ll need to make sure your mindset matches your goals. Do your research to make sure you have the tools for the job. Some of the books we recommend that will allow you to enhance your entrepreneurship skills are:

Moreover, you can go through these magazines as well to get inspirations:

Creating Your Business Website

Even if your magazine is in print, it is vital to have a website. This way, you’ll be able to expand on any subject areas you didn’t have room for in print, interact with your customers, build a community and even attract some additional advertising.

For a website of this kind, you’ll likely need a web developer, who will design and code your website for you or provide content management services to maintain it. Alternatively, you can also use website hosts such as BlueHost, which offers 60% off along with a free domain name!

If you need help with extra content but don’t want to hire any more staff, some companies will provide you with content services—from ghostwriters to bloggers—who can help you create the content for your website. These companies also offer graphic design work to ensure that your image is presented the way you want it to be. When deciding on a name for your website, a name generator can also help with the process.

Finally, you’ll need to make sure the domain for your magazine is available – this is a good thing to check before you think of a name for it, but there are usually ways around it if it’s taken. Many web developers and Online Marketing Consultants (OMCs) recommend using an extension that includes your niche or product type in the domain name.

Conclusion

Starting your own magazine is a challenge, but it can be done. To be successful, you’ll need to find your niche, flesh out some ideas and figure out what kind of magazine it is that people are going to be interested in. From there, it’s a matter of putting the work into getting the word out about your magazine. This way, you’re able to get off on the right foot when the business launches.

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