Elements of a Magazine Business Plan
By Cheryl Woodard, Posted March 2000
Magazine business plans usually include a text description of
the magazine idea, some sample pages (possible a mock cover,
table of contents, and a few feature articles), and three years
of financial projections, plus detailed analysis of competitive
magazines. I offer a simple planning kit that includes a text
outline of the text and a financial workbook. Go to: http://www.publishingbiz.com/html/bizplankit.html
to order our kit for immediate delivery by email.
Magazines and newsletters are significantly different from other manufacturing
or service businesses. Many prospective investors or lenders may not
understand how the business works. The ones who do understand publishing
will expect to see that you understand it too. Here are the essential
elements to include in your plan for a new magazine or newsletter.
Describe what your publication will do for its readers by listing
the kind of stories you plan to publis. Include graphics if you
have them. in fact, some people create dummy pages to show a sample
table of contents, one or two different covers, some departments,
and a feature article or two. Make sure a reader will understand
how your publication is going to be different from all others in
the same niche. In addition, explain who will write for you and
how your staff will put the magazine together.This is the place
to list editorial contacts that you might have, as well as your
editorial advisory board (if you have one).
Circulation Marketing Strategy
Explain who your target readers are and why they need your publication.
Describe your pricing and competitive strategies. In particular,
explain what your publication does for its readers that no competitor
is currently doing for them. Outline your circulation marketing
plans -- how you plan to sell subscriptions and distribute single
copies. Be as specific as possible. That is, if you already know
a distributor willing to help you, say so. If you have no contact
with any distributors, then explain how you will go about finding
Potential Ancillary Products
People who are not familiar with the publishing business often
overlook the great potential for ancillary revenues that periodicals
enjoy. You will be smart to talk about potential books, conferences
or trade shows, spin-off publications and other ancillary product
opportunities in your plan.
Advertising Sales Strategies
Assuming you will sell ads, explain who the advertisers
will be and why they will be excited about your publication.
Note where these prospective advertisers are currently
advertising, how much they are already spending on advertising,
and why they might switch to your publication or increase
their marketing budgets appropriately. Also detail how
you plan to sell ads: who will make the calls, how you
will set up selling territories, and how much you will
spend on marketing and sales support services
The Stages of Your Business
Prospective investors need to know how much time it takes
for publications to build a foothold and achieve profitability.
Most new publications reach profitability only after they
have created trusting relationships with a healthy number
of readers and advertisers -- a process that can take several
years. Explain your strategies for dealing with each developmental
stage. In particular, explain how you will support the
publication during the years before it reaches profitability.
Experts Who Will Help You
Luckily, there are many people with sound publishing
expertise that you can add to your team as advisors,
consultants and part-time contributors without having
to hire them as full-time employees. Investors will be
reassured to know that you have publishing experts on
board, even on a part-time or consulting basis.
As you look at potential sources of money, you should begin to make up
a list of prospects and decide which sources look best for your business.
Fundraising may be your first chance to practice being an efficient businessperson:
Try to concentrate on the people who are most likely to help you. If
you aren't careful, you can waste lots of time chasing the wrong people.
This article is excerpted from Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter
or Magazine by Cheryl Woodard, published by Nolo Press, 5th Edition $29.95.
If you are working on a publication business plan and you
need specific advice, feel free to contact me. I've seen
hundreds of publication business plans, and I can offer
quick, low-cost advice about yours.
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