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The Key to Launching a Successful Magazine

by Scott Cullins

For many, starting a magazine can be the most exciting thing they've ever done and, at the same time, the scariest thing they could possibly imagine.

It starts with a great idea—a kernel—a concept that will surely make the world take notice because the concept is new and different and because the world has been waiting for something like this. This is the exciting part. It's the vision. Prospective publishers can see in their minds how the world will, with open arms, flock to this new magazine.

Once the real work begins, however, the realization sets in. There's a lot of work involved and it can take a momentous effort to launch the title. While some may get discourage, a true entrepreneur will forge ahead and educate themselves on the business as best they can.

Websites like magazinelaunch.com provide some guidance
. There are books, too, that can help. Visit amazon.com or Barnes & Noble and you will find many books on the subject. But in my experience, there are so many variables involved that these sources fall short in providing the knowledge you may need. In addition, they fail to honestly disclose the one aspect of the business that will make or break your new magazine...

Advertising Sales!

Advertising sales
is the life-blood of magazines and new publishers must commit 100% to getting this job done. Without the proper commitment to advertising sales, startup magazines are destined to fail. Every year, hundreds of new magazines, with great design and relevant content, never survive.

It is easy to create a great-looking magazine with relevant content. With the right resources, I can almost create an award-winning magazines in my sleep. But awards don't pay the bills and most design firms and web sites, who offer their help at a price, are not interested in helping clients plan for long-term success.

Having financial success is definitely within reach, but it takes planning and, in most cases, adequate resources. New publishers must create a realistic business plan that, among other things, places advertising sales as one of the top priorities in terms of human and/or financial resources.


A common mistake for startups is to identify only design and print production as the primary outsourced tasks. Many new publishers believe they can
personally handle editorial and sales. In most cases, the client needs to manage the editorial process — they are the ones with the vision and passion for the subject. But dividing their time, between two very time consuming and important tasks, ultimately takes away from sales. This either leads to lackluster sales or outright failure.

Selling is hands down the hardest and most important task in launching a magazine. A experienced and motivated advertising sales person—preferably one with industry contacts—is a definite requirement. This could be you, a partner or a hired gun (e.g., National Association of Publishers' Representatives).

Obviously there are many challenges to launching a magazine. However, with a good plan, relevant content, solid design support and a commitment to advertising sales, you can be successful in the magazine business.

* * * * *
Scott Cullins has been in the publishing business for more than 17 years. He is the founder and principal of Canyon Media, a company that provides magazine design, production and consulting for startups, publishers and corporate clients. Email Scott now.

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