Why would you want to think about reasons your new magazine might fail? Well, you’re making a significant investment of time and money in getting your magazine off the ground and you want it to succeed. In the United States 60 percent of magazines fail within the first year. I don’t know what the statistic are for other countries, but my observation is that the same is probably true in many other places. In the U.S., by the fourth year 80 percent of new magazines have failed and by the 10th year, only 10 percent are left.
So, how can you make sure that your magazine is one of the 10 percent that make it long term? Industry expert Samir A. Husni (www.mrmagazine.com) suggests there are 13 traps to avoid. I’ll list six of them here and briefly comment on each.
• Insufficient planning and research: You’re excited about your idea for a new magazine and you want to start right away. Why take the time to plan for the long term and to do research to find out whether your magazine is really wanted and needed and whether anyone will be willing to place advertisements in it? Many years ago, I was on the staff of a national Christian bi-weekly newspaper that started with great excitement and an investment of millions of dollars. The publishers were so sure their vision for the publication was on target that they didn’t bother to do research. Five years later, with diminishing renewals and skyrocketing debt, the publishers concluded a publication like theirs was not wanted.
• Insufficient budget and funds to cover magazine costs: It’s not surprising that a brand new publisher has no idea how much a magazine will cost. The assumption may be that you sell the copies and it will cover the cost of the issue. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. It may take years of careful planning before your magazine even gets into the black. That means you have to have investors or donors who share your vision and who are willing to cover the losses until the magazine is able to get on its feet.
• No clearly defined audience or target market: Who exactly is this magazine for and what are their interests? Publishers and editors know what they want to say, but if you don’t know what your potential readers want to read, your magazine will have an audience of one. The more you know about your potential reader, the more you can shape the content, design and language to appeal to the reader. Okay, this does mean research. Don’t take it for granted that you know who they really are.
• Unfocused mission and editorial philosophy: Can you say in one sentence what the purpose of your magazine is and how it should affect the reader? If not, go back to the drawing board. The more focused your mission and editorial philosophy, the more likely you are to appeal to the target audience.
• An ineffective [or nonexistent] marketing plan: Many magazines in the Developing World are started by editors. This is the person with the vision and the ability to communicate. However, often this is also a person who is NOT a marketer. I personally know of many magazines with enormous potential started by editors who knew the audience, were good writers and editors, but who were not able to get the magazine to the audience. A carefully thought out and researched marketing plan is crucial.
• Unable to acquire significant distribution: How will you distribute the magazine? Distribution is a significant hurdle and new publishers have to have a plan to overcome the obstacles in the way of new, small, untested magazines. In many countries, subscribing to magazines is practically unknown. Everyone buys their magazines and newspapers at the local kiosk. But will the kiosk take your magazine? And if they do, will they display it or will it end up stuffed behind the more popular publications? If it’s not possible to get single subscriptions and if you can’t use the kiosks, how will you distribute your magazine? This is an important issue and should be seriously considered before you even think of printing the first issue.
In my next post I’ll list some reasons why your new magazine may succeed.