Essential Elements of a Magazine Business Plan

By Cheryl Woodard, Posted March 2000
www.publishingbiz.com

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.

Editorial Vision

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 one.

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.

Questions?

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.

Business Plan Links

Magazine business plan kit: (http://www.publishingbiz.com/html/bizplankit.html) I created this simple toolkit to help you develop your own magazine business plan. It includes my advice about how to manage your startup operation. And it's on sale now for just $97.

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