Our Research on Creating a 21st Century Magazine Business Model

I’m working on putting out a magazine called HustleSpace this year and decided to do some heavy research. I went to the Atlanta Public Library downtown and looked at the reference section for magazines and magazines going all the way back to the 1950s to look at patterns and practices. To be honest, I never found a book that said exactly how to create a magazine the most efficient way. This article will share my notes with brothas and sistas on what I discovered. The Research Goal Publishing a magazine is not about technology such as putting Dream and Hustle on Google Currents or using some other software that takes a PDF file and make it look like a magazine. That isn’t what I was after in my initial research. My goal was to figure out how to make a magazine series people will read and also make sure it can make money as this going to be a business, not a hobby. I wanted to see how the magazine articles were formatted, how long is the content, how the magazine content overall flow from front to end and look at the essence of what makes a magazine. It’s not going to be about pushing out random articles, that would make the magazine look chaotic the way Dream and Hustle is jumping all over the place on topics. The thing about print magazines is they are an object that you hold and sometimes place on a coffee table or magazine rack for others to hold. What they were holding was a physical representation of a media brand. With digital media on tablets and other mobile devices, your magazine becomes nothing more than a digital file on someone device. In that case, content matters and you will need content that can engage the reader better than any blog or other magazine out there to stand out. My goal and what I wanted to share with you guys is how to create the formula for HustleSpace to be a good magazine. I’m not finish with the research but there is an approach I’m thinking about. Theme-Based Volumes, Not Date-Based Volumes The first thing I decided in terms of direction was to avoid the monthly trap of feeding the monster every month. That is what many bloggers and other magazines do and they get burnt out where they always trying to find something new to write about or something witty. What I’m considering instead is focus on creating a 12 month themed focus magazine on a topic for HustleSpace. For example, we focus on 12 editions such as one edition focused on mobile technology, another on retailing, another on international trade and business, another on media, another on startups and so on. In each of those editions, we present articles on that focus such as articles on mobile technology from m-commerce to NFC and QR Codes to geo-location and case studies on mobile trends and patterns for the hood. Then what happens is next year, we improve on that mobile technology edition with updated information. Here is the thing – we remove the whole “that was last month” problem with magazines where they cannot sell their older editions at full price. We just rotate the same theme and this is what will happen – someone will visit HustleSpace collection and buy the mobile technology edition, buy the international business edition and checkout at the counter. They are not looking at October 2012 edition and that’s how we will maximize HustleSpace revenue and resell potential. Seriously think about what I said and the business – the magazine racks are going to throw out last month copy right and replace with this month, right? Do you know that kills the publishing industry long term profits being date-based? If you look online at the digital magazine, you ain’t caring about the edition that says August 2012 – you want the edition that says this month. But who says August 2012 wasn’t more relevant than this month? Now someone come to HustleSpace for the first time and see our magazine list and instead of seeing a list of months, they going to see a list of themes. That will encourage them to buy more than one edition like the media edition and the security edition and not wait for the next month, like the current date-based magazine fools are engaged in. Elements of a Magazine Again, I don’t see this stuff written out anywhere on what makes up the content of a magazine. I only see content on how to publish a magazine to a software platform. I just had to look at a bunch of existing magazines and reverse engineer them. This is my notes on what I saw: Magazine Cover. I saw almost the same format of having a title masthead, tag line, volume edition info, captions and appear to leave a space for mailing labels in lower right section. Table of Contents. This was a graphical page that talked about the articles briefly and what page the articles were on. Editor Letter. In my opinion, this is some ego crap where the editor supposed to blab like they presenting the article content. I’m not feeling this ego editor crap and will change it to be an introduction section to discuss the theme. Commentary. This is an opinion piece where we talk about an issue and provide a fair and balanced opinion or push an agenda. Special Coverage. This is supposed to be our lead article the one that is on the cover page. This one will probably have the most content and visual aids and be centered in the magazine. Articles. These are small columnist articles that cover various related subject matters. I counted about 10-15 of these articles but I’m going to stick with 10 articles but definitely not 15, that’s too much. Product Reviews. This is the part where someone reviews a book, a music album, a movie, a product or some gear or gadget. End Note. From what I read, this is supposed to be some anecdotal type stuff or something witty or whimsical where the reader gets a chuckle or laugh. Here is a hint - I can use Freemind mind mapping software to map out how a magazine edition will look with all of these context and just fill in the blank branches. Create a mind map for every edition and work it while on the road and everywhere I go thinking of the new content to write. The Take Away One of the things I talked about in terms of the music industry is artists need to move away from spending 8 months in a studio creating albums then spend the next 12 months promoting it. That is a big financial risk and most music artists fail overall. What is better is to focus on putting out singles after singles and going to concerts and road shows and performing all those singles until a stream of hits keep coming – then record those hits. That same science applies to magazine. It is foolish to go about the old way of magazine publishing doing the month/year volume knowing that content will go outdated. A better way is to focus on publishing theme-based volumes and that allow greater profitability in the digital age. See, I can go on tours and speaking engagements and tell people to buy the HustleSpace mobile edition that covers all of the technology and business models over and over…not tell them to get the November 2012 edition, you know what I’m saying?

8 thoughts on “Our Research on Creating a 21st Century Magazine Business Model

  1. Ed, I like the idea however what do you suggest doing when major developments arise to an edition after Hustle Space publishes that magazine edition. Would we still create demand from consumers by making them wait an entire year? How do we ensure the best timing for releasing editions while maximizing profit?

    1. By moving away from the periodicals format (may 2012 edition), this allow me to not only keep the magazine updated and available, but promote it year round.

      The biggest mistake the magazine industry like Black Enterprise and others are doing is they are “expiring” their content with that edition. This is why their articles are lame and dry. Their weakness that we identified is they spend money creating this content but it has a short shelf life.

      By extending our content shelf life by focusing on themes instead of date-based periodicals, we operate at a lower cost and provide high quality content to our target audience and continue to generate revenue off the same content year round.

  2. This is a great idea Ed. One thing I have realized as an entrepreneur: a business model is just that, a model. It is not a law so the magazine model, for instance, may have worked previously but now it needs to be turned on its head. The theme structure is a great idea.

    The question that young Rick asked about developments arising after you have published the issue is a good one..I used to publish a newspaper and most people in that industry would publish a page that would feature ‘corrections’ or something that needs to be clarified from the previous edition. You could do the same with your publication. If you put out an issue focused on retailing and right after you publish it some grand development happens in that industry, then in the next issue which could be on manufacturing, for instance, you could have a section just providing the new developments on retailing.

  3. Clinton that is a brilliant suggestion. The ‘corrections’ addition would also tie the issues together while not taking away from the overall theme of the specific edition.

  4. Updates and corrections are used for physical print magazines that already distributed their content. In the digital age, we can update the “edition” of that volume. For example, Volume 1, 2nd Edition and this is how books are written with improved content year after year.

    If a mistake is made or new content is added, we just update that magazine digitally or when we release the print, note it as the second edition and list what we added since the first edition.

  5. On point. Another consideration is the potential for hyperlocal advertising(set up like a city circulau paper…I’ve been researching that potential and plan to incorporate it) as many start ups would love to be in a publication but don’t have the funds for a national run or for out of home advertising. This will take work coordinating it but it is doable. Also the type of paper can be a step up from newspaper and still be chic. Already been working on this type of set up Ed…I think you got some kind of “inception” team or sumthin!!!
    G

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