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How to Start an Online Magazine and Publish it Profitably

Do you want to start an online magazine and publish it profitably? If YES, here is a guide on how to start a magazine company with no money or experience plus a sample online magazine business plan template. 

If you live in the united states of America, Canada, United Kingdom, or in any part of the world; furthermore, if you are old enough to read, then you just may have come across several magazines. Magazines periodic publication which contains articles, pictures, and stories of interest to those who purchase it or subscribe to it; they are printed or electronically published. If it is electronically published, then it is called online magazines.

There are several niches and loads of well – known magazines that are sold all over the world. Magazines are generally published on a regular schedule; it can be weekly or monthly or even quarterly and they usually contain a variety of content based on the market the magazine is designed for.

How Do Magazines Make Money?

When it comes to generating incomes, magazine companies exploit the sale of their magazines in newsstands, from advertisement from stakeholders and of course from those who sign – on to prepaid subscriptions and when it comes to distributing magazines, most magazines publisher make use of the mailing system, bookshops, strategic news – stands, through registered vendors and selected pick – up locations et al.

There are no restrictions to the numbers of publications house that can engage in magazine publications, sales and distribution. As a matter of fact, students can start their own magazines publications right from their campuses and distribute it within the campus community.

On the average, only one out of ten new magazine publication companies will ever become successful. The truth is that it may take longer time than you may have envisaged, before you are able to begin to make profits from your magazine publication business. It is for this reason that you have got to be financially ready to undertake the task. Experts consider the magazine publishing industry to be both speculative and risky business venture.

23 Steps to Starting an Online Magazine and Publish it Profitably

1. Understand the Industry

In the United States of America, a total number of 152 magazines closed shop In 2011 and also a total number of 82 magazines ceased operations in 2012 due to inability to make profits and of course generate enough money to continue publications.

Interesting Statistics About the Industry

In 2013, statistics has it that subscription levels for 22 out of the top 25 magazines in the United States of America dropped from 2012 to 2013. As a matter of fact, the only few magazines that experienced increase within the said period are Time magazine, Glamour magazine and ESPN magazine.

The United States’ magazine industry generates a combined revenue of over 27.29 Billion U.S. dollars with magazine advertising alone generating over 15.2 Billion U.S. dollars The concept of magazine publications started as early as 1663 in German; Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen. Whose niche is literary and philosophy was the first magazine publication.

History has it that a U.K. publication; The Gentleman’s Magazine which was first published in 1731, in London was the first ever general interest magazine to be published. It is on record that the oldest consumer magazine which was first published in 1739; The Scots Magazine is still in print till this days.

Is Starting a Print Magazine Company Profitable in this Modern Time?

The print industry is currently experiencing some challenges; investment in magazines is experiencing decline. Why is this so, you might ask? Well, it is on record that there is a steady decline in total numbers of magazines that are sold in the United States daily. Statistics has it that in 1985, there were about 1,676 dailies in the United States but in 2011, the number dropped to 1,382 and of course it is still dropping.

It has been projected by market experts that the magazine industry will generate a combined revenue of 16.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, which is over 4 billion U.S. dollars less than the combined revenue generated in 2011. It is also projected that corporate organizations who advertise in magazines will also cut their magazine advertising spending much less than their newspaper advertising spending.

The magazine industry is truly struggling to survive in the United States of America and in other countries of the world. A survey that was conducted revealed that in 2012, only about 3 percent of Americans stated that they regularly read magazines; and 9 percent stated that they read magazines sometimes.

It is good enough that the magazine industry is extremely well-organized in its data collection and presentation; which is why new publication firms who are interested in coming into the industry choose niche groups that attracts a wide range of readership.

Despite the fact that the magazine industry appears to be saturated in the United States, there is still a positive outlook for the industry especially when it comes to leveraging on the internet. People are encouraged to go into magazine publications because it is now easier to gain wider readership with the aid of the internet and couple with the fact that it will cost little or nothing to launch an online magazine publications.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The niche of your magazine will determine the base of your readership. If you choose to publish business and investment related news and articles, then the demographic composition of your clients will be entrepreneurs, investors and those interested in business.

If you choose to publish family related articles and news, then the demographic composition of your clients will be family men and family women et al. You don’t expect a teenager or a single boy or girl to pick up subscriptions in your family based magazine.

But on the average if you are into magazine publication, then you should look towards targeting between 18 years and above. It is believed that people who fall within this age brackets are independent and potentially, they earn incomes and can afford to buy or subscribe to magazines.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

There are virtually a wide range of niches for magazine publications; if you are interested in starting a magazine publication you can carve a niche for yourself. Whatever niche you choose to go into, just ensure that you have done your market research and survey and you are certain that you will be able to generate enough readership.

You may not want to just be static with a particular niche. This is because of the need to be versatile as a publisher. Here are some of the niches you can specialize in if you want to start a magazine publication;

  • Fashion
  • Christian
  • School / Students
  • Literary
  • Local / Web / Digital
  • News and Entertainment
  • Entertainment
  • Business and Investment
  • Family and Relationship
  • Sports
  • Football
  • Art and Culture
  • Religion
  • Health
  • Science and Technology (ICT, inventions, auto et al)
  • Food and Drinks
  • Real Estate
The Level of Competition in the Industry

If as a normal scenario for a business owner, to face competition. If you do not face a competition, then know that something might go bad soon. This is because the monopoly of a business can cause even greater harm than good.

Beyond every reasonable doubt, the competition in the magazine industry is high but one thing is certain, if you are able to set a standard in the industry, you are sure going to get committed and faithful readers who would not mind paying annual subscription fee upfront.

Although you can experience less competitions if you chose to carve a niche for yourself and also exploit the internet and perhaps a book / reader’s club.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

There are an avalanche of magazines in the United States of America, as well as other parts of the world that have gained wide coverage. This is so that those who read it have become addicted to it. There are several magazines that are not only sold in the United States but also in most parts of the world. Here are some of the popular magazine publications that you can find in the United States of America;

  • Game Informer
  • Better Homes and Gardens (Magazine)
  • Reader’s Digest
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Family Circle
  • National Geographic
  • People Magazine
  • Woman’s Day
  • Time Magazine
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Southern Living Magazine
  • O, the Oprah Magazine
  • Glamour
  • American Legion
  • Redbook Magazine
  • ESPN Magazine
  • Parents Magazine
  • Seventeen Magazine
  • TV Guide
  • US Weekly Magazine
  • Men’s Health
  • Cooking Light Magazine
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Guideposts
Economic Analysis

If you are considering starting a magazine publication company, then your concern should not be limited to the cost of setting up the business and gaining readership but also on your distribution network. The truth is that most magazines companies run into loss simply because they spend more in distributing their magazines to various newsstands across the country.

It will pay you if you encourage your clients to subscribe to your magazines as against buying from the newsstands. It is easier to get huge discount from post office services as against transporting your magazines to newsstands that are scattered all around the United States.

Another key factors that you can leverage on is to create a strong online presence and also to push your electronic magazine far and wide within the online community. If you can successfully gain appreciable numbers of online subscription and adverts, then you are likely not going to struggle to manage and finance your magazine publication company.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

Every one want an easy way out of stress- this is exactly what buying a franchise of an existing and highly successful company does to one’s business. The question is; are there magazine franchises available to budding publishers? Well, unfortunately the answer would be a resounding ‘no’, this is because you can hardly find a franchise of a magazine to purchase, meaning that if you want to own a magazine publication business, then you must be ready to start from the scratch.

The truth is that it will pay you to start your magazine publication company from the scratch. Starting from the scratch will afford you the opportunity to conduct thorough market survey and feasibility studies before choosing a niche to major on.

For example, after conducting your market survey and feasibility studies and you realize that the market / readership base for wedding related articles, news and pictures is large, you can consider starting a magazine publication company that majors on weddings and events et al.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

Every business has its own fair share of threats that they are facing. The possible threat and challenges that you are likely going to face when you start your own magazine publication business are the ability to consistently attract adverts from corporate organizations.

The truth is that there are several options when it comes to choosing advertising platforms, hence most corporate organizations would rather go with trusted and tested platforms as against trying out new magazine which they aren’t sure can break into the market and gain prominence. If you can attract adverts as at when due, you are likely going to run at a loss after a period of time.

Another threat and challenges that you are likely going to be confronted with if you start a magazine publication business is to be able to effectively find a cheaper distribution option. Most magazine publications companies spend more when it comes to transporting their magazines to different newsstands scattered within the locations they intend selling their magazines.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

When considering starting a magazine publication company, the legal entity you choose will go a long way to determine how big you want the business to grow; some magazines are distributed regionally; some are distributed nationally while others are distributed internationally.

No doubt choosing a legal entity for a business such as magazine publication company can be a bit challenging. When it comes to choosing a legal entity for your magazine publication business you have the option of choosing from a general partnership, a limited partnership, an LLC, a “C” corporation, or a “S” corporation.

It is important to clearly state that these different forms of legal structure for business has its own advantages and disadvantages; which is why you must weigh your options properly before making your choice on the legal structure to build your business on.

These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your magazine publication company; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners and investors’ expectation and tax issues.

If you take your time to critically study the various legal entity to use for this type of business, then you will agree that Limited Liability Company; an LLC is most suitable. You can start your magazine publication company as limited liability company (LLC) and in future you can convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or a ‘S’ corporations especially when you have the plans of going public.

Upgrading to a ‘C’ corporation or ‘S’ corporation will give you the opportunity to grow your magazine publication business so as to compete with major players in the industry; you will be able to generate capital from venture capital firms, you will enjoy separate tax structure, and you can easily transfer ownership of the company; you will enjoy flexibility in ownership and in your management structures as well.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

It is true that for one to have a widely accepted magazine, one of the things that has to be looked into is the issue of its mane. This means that you have to choose a very catchy name that will stand out and compete favorably with others. As such, here are some names that you can gladly use to make your magazine well known.

  • Sweet Sixteen Relationship Magazine (Magazine that will be about love and dating)
  • All Network Magazine (This will be about telecommunication service providers magazine)
  • Playback® Sports Magazine (Sports Magazine)
  • Auto Guide® (All about cars)
  • The Wedding Planner (Magazine that talks about every ting wedding)
  • News Periscope (All round news magazine)
  • Ideal Home Real Estate Magazine (Interior décor magazine)
  • Doctor’s Report (All-round health magazine)
  • Las Vegas Weekly (News report about the happenings in Las Vegas)
  • Weekly Mirror (Magazine that captures everything about what has happened in the past week)
  • Anchor Magazine (Maritime news magazine)
  • Vintage Magazine (Lifestyle magazine)
  • Gamers Magazine (For those who love to bet and play lottery)

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the magazine trade, insurance must not be treated with levity. As a point of view, it remains expedient that you know that the type of insurance decision you make could either make or mar your success rate. In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance that is required by the industry you want to operate from.

Besides, the nature of magazine publication industry requires that you have the proper insurance cover in place or else you will be forced out of business if you are sued for libel et al.

So it is important to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best insurance policies for your magazine publication business. Here are some of the basic insurance covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own a magazine publication company in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Workers Compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If at all there is any business that requires intellectual property protection, then magazine publication business should be one of them. The truth is that most of your articles and pictures will need to be protected if you want to be used for commercial purpose by your competitors.

The truth is that, if your magazines are not protected by the law, then a printer can successfully print and sell your magazine with little or no stress. Pirates will make money of your business easily. If you want to protect your intellectual property, you can visit The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to fill a patent application form. The process is not in any way cumbersome.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

You might not necessarily need a professional certification before you go into magazine publications, but it will be to your advantage to pursue any relevant journalism certification. There are several journalism certifications that you obtain in the United States but you can start with Certificate in Journalism.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

These are some of the basic legal document that you are expected to have in place if you want to start a magazine publication company in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Business Plan
  • Non – disclosure Agreement
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Document
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy

13. Write a Business Plan

If you have ever heard the saying that goes thus; ‘if you fail to [plan, then you plan to fail’, then you will realize that it does pay to have a Business model on ground to refer to and follow per time. Starting a magazine publication business especially if you have plans of going international requires detailed business plan.

There are loads of major players in the industry and for you to be able to compete in the magazine industry you should be able to come up with good and workable business plan. A Business plan is the blue print of your business; it is a business document that can aid you to successfully set up a business and also administer / manage the business.

It is not enough to just write a business plan for the sake of writing one, your business plan should be able to pass reality check; you must put relevant facts, figures and statistics into consideration when writing your business plan.

The truth is that, the main aim of writing a business plan is not just for the sake of having a business document in place; but to have a detail guide on how to effectively set – up, run and manage your business. Your business plan should outline and cover strategies on how you intend to operate your magazine publication business.

When writing your business plan, ensure that you are moderate when it comes to setting projections on income generation et al. It is better to be on the safer side which is why when you are calculating your future income you should make use of the lower range figures as against the upper range.

These are some key factors that you should also consider when drafting a business plan for your magazine publication company;

  • Executive summary and Company’s descriptions: you are expected to write about the concept of your business – the niche of publications you want to major in, descriptions of your company, your company’s vision statement, and mission statement, where your company will be located, your management team, your mode of distribution and perhaps why people should purchase your and read your magazine.
  • Other key components that should not be missing in your magazine publication business plan are your service offering (adverts rates, subscription rates et al), SWOT analysis, marketing and sales analysis / strategies, pricing, costing and financial projection, management techniques, expansion strategies, publicity and advertising strategy, budget and start – up capital generation et al.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Magazine Online?

If you are considering starting a magazine publication company, then you should look towards raising capital to cover both the production and distribution of the magazines. The truth is that it could cost several thousands of dollars to set – up a small scale magazine publication.

Small scale magazine publication company could be limited to a campus or a region. When it comes to starting a small scale magazine publication company, the following expenditure should guide you;

  • The Total Fee for incorporating the Business: $750.
  • The budget for Liability insurance, permits and license – $3,500
  • The Amount needed to acquire a suitable Office facility in a business district 6 months (Re – Construction of the facility inclusive) – $40,000.
  • The Cost for equipping the office (computers, printers, fax machines, furniture, telephones, filing cabins, safety gadgets and electronics et al) – $2,000
  • The Cost of Launching your official Website – $600
  • Budget for paying at least 10 full – time employees for 3 months and utility bills – $90,000
  • Additional Expenditure (Business cards, Signage, Adverts and Promotions et al) – $2,500
  • The cost of printing the first set of your magazines – $50,000
  • The cost for distributing the magazines – $10,000
  • Miscellaneous: $5,000

Going by the report from the research and feasibility studies, you will need about $250,000 to set up a small scale magazine publication business in the United States of America You will need well over one million U.S. dollars to successfully set – up a medium scale magazine publication company in the United States (you should be able to set – up your own printing press with this amount)

If you are considering starting a large scale international magazine publication company with standard printing press and wide range of distribution network, then you should look towards budgeting from two million United States dollars and above.

14. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

No doubt when it comes to financing a business, one of the first thing and perhaps the major factors that you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for start – up capital for your magazine publication business;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Sell shares to interested investors
  • Applying for Loan from your Bank / banks
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and angel investors
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends.

15. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

When it comes to choosing a location for your magazine publication business, you should be guided by the easy of distributing the magazines. Of course if you are able to secure a central location for your magazine publication business, it will enable you cut the cost of transporting your magazine from the printing press to the various newsstands and pick up points.

If you are interested in operating a small – scale magazine publication business, it means that you will contract the printing of the magazine to a printing press. With that, you will not need a big facility; a small office facility can effectively serve in this regard.

But if you want to be in charge of printing your magazines, then you should look for a facility big enough to contain a standard printing press, large storage and packing et al.

16. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

In setting up a magazine publication company, you have two options; you either run a full magazine publication company with a printing press or you can contract the printing of your magazines to a standard and reliable printing press.

If you choose to choose to run the whole publication process within the same facility, it means that you would have to set – up a printing press with standard printing machines, binders, cutting machines et al. If you don’t have enough cash, you can start with fairly used printing machines, but if you are financially buoyant, then you should go for brand new heavy duty printing machines.

When it comes to hiring employees, you should make plans to hire a competent editor, office administrator, accountant, content writers / journalists, photographers, graphic artists, printing machine operators, and dispatch riders. These are some of the key employees that you can work with. On the average, you will need a minimum of 10 key staff members to run a magazine publication business.

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

  • Firstly, what you need to do to get the process of magazine publication started, is to choose a niche that you are comfortable with and one that you are sure you can get enough market for.
  • Once you have a niche, you can meet with your team to conduct research, planned your cost, generate content, determine the number of pages that you want in the magazine and the design and layout of Magazine et al.
  • Your team would have to choose and screen the content, stories, photographs, features, Ads, the style of the magazine, the numbers of magazines you want to print and of course the mode of distribution. Aside from generating content for the magazine, the design and layout is one area that you need to get right.
  • The next process is to take the ready to print files to the printing press. If you don’t have you own printing press, it is important that you screen several printing presses in order to get the best. If the output of the magazine doesn’t come out nice, you may likely go back to the press. Ensure that you select a standard and well – structured printing press that is into core publication printing or a magazine specialist. Usually such printing press run web presses that are specifically designed for the optimal costs and quality in magazine printing. Normally a publication printer will have standard magazine sizes, standard page counts, and of course enough paper supply.

17. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

One of the major sources of income for magazine publication companies is money generated from adverts. The truth is that for you to attract adverts from high paying clients, you would have to prove that you magazine has huge readership.

Your marketing ideas and strategies as a new magazine publication company must be worth it; you just have to go out of your way to at least get the first set of adverts even if it means giving some companies free trials or at a heavily discounted advert rate. That is perhaps one of the strategies that can help you gain ground in the industry.

Aside from sourcing for adverts, you would need to sell your magazines. The truth is that if you choose to operate a small scale magazine publication business, the least magazine you can produce per episode is 5,000 copies. It means that you should look for ways to sell the whole 5,000 copies.

Part of what you need to do is to encourage people to subscribe to your magazine. You can start with your family members, friends and friends of friends. If you are just starting out, you should make enough provision for complimentary copies to be strategically distributed to targeted clients.

Places like libraries, public buildings, offices and schools et al within you target market location should get free copies of your magazines regularly; that is one of the key ways to get readers to start buying or subscribe to your magazines.

18. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products

The factors that will help you get the right pricing for magazine publication is to get enough quality adverts per episodes and also to print as much copies as possible. One good thing about printing job is that the more copies you print, the lesser the cost of printing. Your headache would now be how to sell and distribute all the copies that was printed.

19. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

The quality of the contents, pictures and articles of your magazine is part of what you need to stay competitive in the industry. If your readers are always looking forward to the next edition of your magazine simply because of one, two or all the contents in your magazine, then you will be able to survive the magazine publication industry.

20. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

In order to increase customer retention for your magazine publication, you must consistently bring quality content and pictures and you should ensure that your magazines are always in newsstands and you do not miss any editions. Consistency is the watch – word if you want to increase your customer retention for your magazine publication business.

21. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If you are in business and are deliberate about boosting your brand and communicating your corporate identity, then you must be ready to take on whatever the society portray your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations is that they are willing to spend fortunes year in and year out to boost their brand awareness and to continue to communicate their corporate identity.

If your intention of starting a magazine publication business is to grow the business beyond the city where you are operating from to become a national or international magazine, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.

  • In promoting your brand and corporate identity, you should leverage on print and electronic media. As a matter of fact, it is cost effective to use the internet and social media platforms to promote your brands, besides it is pretty much effective and wide reaching.
  • Another strategy is to sponsor relevant TV and radio programs, and also to sponsor events both locally and internationally.

If your niche is in sports, sponsoring internationally recognized sports events will help you boost your brand awareness and if your niche is in finance covering financially related conferences and events help your brand. Just ensure that your first choice when it comes to choosing a platform to promote your brand is related to your magazine niche.

22. Create a Suppliers/Distribution Network 

The truth is the whole process of producing a quality magazine title and distributing them can be cumbersome and if you publish a weekly magazine, then you must always be on your toes week in week out. Please note that timely distribution is a key factor in this industry.

When it comes to distribution, you have the options of mailing your magazines to subscribers both domestically and internationally. It will save you cost and time if you work with the printing press responsible for printing the magazines to help you use their distribution channels to distribute your magazines.

You can also engage dispatch riders to help you take your magazines to newsstands and pick up locations within the cities you want to sell your magazines. This can be a difficult task if you chose to operate nationally or internationally. It means that you must work with airline companies and also post offices et al.

23. Tips for Running a Magazine Publishing Company Successfully

No matter the kind of business you choose to run, your ability to get all the members of your team on the same page at all times is one of the keys you would need to successfully run the organization. As the chief executive officer or chief editor of your magazine publication company, it is your responsibility to assembly the right team and give direction to the business.

Part of what you need to do is to ensure that you create time for office meetings; a time where challenges, feedbacks, projections and relevant issues are discussed. The meetings could be daily, once in a week or once in a month. The bottom line is that there should be consistent meeting between you and members of your team.

Carrying out appraisals on a regular basis and training your employees will help you run your organization effectively. Encourage your employees to pursue certifications in their various area of specializations; it will help your organization’s profile and of course it will help the individuals. You can choose to sponsor some of the certifications.

In addition, you can make provisions for freelance and contributors for your magazine and you should also ensure that keep your doors open for suggestions from members of your team and you should make provision for rewarding excellent performance as at when due.

Finally, it is vital that you take note that starting a magazine business isn’t really much about the production of the products- magazine. As a matter of fact, a lot lies on the marketing system that you have chosen to adopt per time.

Marketing is one of the areas that most magazines battle with. It is for this reason that you may want to hire a marketing expert, who will be available on ground to help in fine tuning the marketing plans you may have.