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  • Writer's pictureShawn "The Magazine Guy!"

4 Tips for Launching a Successful Print Magazine in the Digital Age

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

In an age when digital content is omnipresent, there’s actually tremendous value in print publications. Not only does print cut through the noise, but it also commands a certain level of value that its online counterparts cannot. If you’re interested in launching a print magazine, read on to discover what it looks like to be successful in the midst of the digital age

If the year were 1988, the idea of starting a print magazine would seem totally sane and normal. But it’s 2020, and you’d be crazy to even think about launching a print magazine venture…right? Well, maybe not.

There’s no question that print magazines have taken a huge nosedive over the last decade and a half. While the staples of the industry—publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, and People magazine—are still doing quite well, the smaller ones have dropped like flies. It’s for this reason that the notion of launching a new magazine with no history or existing reputation seems so crazy. But perhaps it’s just crazy enough to work.

Half of this business is about attracting eyeballs, and the other half is about moving people to action. In a world where thousands of new blogs and online publishing platforms are launched on a weekly basis, trying to make it in traditional digital circles is extremely challenging. You have to publish so much content and invest in so much marketing and promotion that you have very little time to actually focus on the quality and message of the content you’re creating. As you can guess, this is highly problematic.

Print magazines are different. They offer something tangible in a digitized marketplace that’s predicated on virtual experiences. They stand out—and for all the right reasons.

By no means is it easy to start a successful magazine, but the opportunity exists for those who are willing to put in the energy and effort. If you think you’re that person, here are some tips for success:

1. Determine Your Timeline

“Magazines are typically released monthly, quarterly or annually,” the Issuu blog explains. “How much time will each issue need for content to come together? How frequently should this content be shared? In the strive for quality and quantity, it is important to ensure that one does not sacrifice the other.” You want to give yourself enough time to produce quality content, but you don’t want to spend so much time between issues that your audience forgets about you. Monthly or bi-quarterly is a good starting point.

2. Understand How the Supply Chain Works

Most people enter the magazine industry with an improper understanding of how the supply chain works. You don’t print copies and sell them to distributors, who in turn sell them to your readers. It’s not quite that easy. “The first hard truth is that nearly all retailers stock your title on commission, meaning they only pay the distributor when they sell a copy, meaning the distributor only pays you at that time, meaning you take on 100% of the risk of printing,” industry insider Steve Daniels writes.

You’re also going to have trouble getting space in most major stores. This is prime real estate, and those stores are going to reserve that space for publications with high circulation. Keeping both of these issues in mind, strategic partnerships become very important. You need inside access. Otherwise, you’ll suffer through anonymity.

3. Find a Reliable Print Partner

There’s no sense in going to a massive magazine printing company right off the bat. Your circulation numbers will be low on the front end. And there are really only a few things you’re looking for: good prices, reliability, and hands-on customer service.

Smaller companies can offer magazine printing services that the bigger guys don’t. For instance, they offer one-stop printing, quick proof approvals, and fast turnarounds.

4. Accept Criticism with an Open Mind

You’ll never last in this industry if you aren’t willing to accept criticism. In fact, it’ll take a while before you consistently receive positive feedback. Until then, it’s imperative that you buckle down and apply the criticisms you receive. This is the best way to optimize and improve.

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