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Essential Elements of a Newsletter or Magazine Business Plan

By Cheryl Woodard, Updated October 2008 [PRINT VERSION]

Magazine and newsletter business plans usually include a text description of the editorial 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 publications. I offer a simple planning kit that includes a text outline of the text and a financial workbook. Click HERE to order my business plan kit for immediate delivery by email.

Publishing magazines and newsletters is significantly different from other manufacturing or service businesses. Many prospective investors or lenders may not understand how the publishing 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, content-based website, or newsletter.

Editorial Vision

Describe what your publication will do for its readers by listing the kind of stories you plan to publish. 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 prominent people in your field who might write for you or serve on your editorial advisory board (if you have one).

Audience Marketing Strategy

Describe your target readers 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 audience marketing plans -- how you plan to sell subscriptions, build traffic, and distribute single copies. Be as specific as possible. That is, if you already know a distributor willing to put the magazine into retail stores, say so. If you have no contact with any distributors, then explain how you will go about finding one.

Potential Spin-Off Products

People who are not familiar with the publishing business often overlook the great potential for ancillary revenues from spin-off products 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, describe the prospective advertisers and why they will be excited to advertise in your publication. Note where these companies 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. Read my article, The Advertising Sales Process in a Nutshell for help with this.

The Stages of Your Business

Prospective investors need to know that publications generally need 3 to 5 years to build a foothold and achieve profitability, after they have created trusting relationships with a healthy number of readers and advertisers. Explain your strategies for supporting the publication during the years before it reaches profitability.

Experts Who Will Help You

Luckily, you can add people with sound publishing expertise 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. Read the chapter in my startups book for details about raising money. Also read my article Who Funds Startups.

Sample Business Plans

I create and edit publishing business plans every month, but cannot share them publicly because of my confidentiality agreements with clients. There is a sample publishing business plan at the website My publishing buiness plan kit includes tips for writing your own plan and analyzing the market for a new magazine.

This article is excerpted from Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine by Cheryl Woodard, published by Nolo Press, $29.95. Buy it now from or download the digital version from


If you are working on a publication business plan and you need specific advice, feel free to email me. I've seen hundreds of publication business plans, and I can offer quick, low-cost advice about yours. My services for startups are described here.

Business Plan Tools

Magazine business plan kit: 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. You can also simplify the process of setting your advertising rates by using our Rate Card Kit (just $30). Find the most useful how-to books in our online publishing bookstore.
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