Niche publications for dummies

A step-by-step guide to starting a magazine

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Frequent niche publications (published at least three times a year), offer the single biggest opportunity for revenue growth, says Publisher Brad Shurett of The Daily Sentinel in Scottsboro, Ala.

During a recent revenue summit held for newspapers published by Southern Newspapers, Inc., Shurett told fellow publishers that they are missing out on a significant revenue stream if they are not publishing frequent niche publications and doing it correctly.


Shared in response to SNPA President Tom Silvestri's Take 10 challenge!

What will you share during 10 minutes with SNPA today?

"Like every successful project you undertake," Shurett says, "niche publications require significant upfront planning – probably even more so than anything else you're accustomed to doing."

"If you fail to plan properly, in any phase," he said, "you will not be successful."

Shurett identified 10 steps for starting a successful magazine:

1. Identify the niche.  This may sound obvious, but many people begin this type of project without clearly identifying who, or what, it is they're trying to serve. When examining potential niches, ask yourself two questions: Is this niche underserved and do I have the resources to serve it? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, proceed.  If not, move on to something else.

Examples of good topics:

  • Lifestyle.
  • Women.
  • Seniors.
  • Healthcare/Fitness.
  • Outdoors.

2. Determine if the niche has the potential to be profitable. How large is the segment? Is the segment attractive to advertisers? Are there enough advertisers to support it? If you determine it has the potential to be profitable, proceed.  If not, move on to something else.

3. Determine distribution model. This is important. The cost between different options will vary greatly and will impact your rates. 

  • Mail?
  • Newspaper?
  • Carrier delivered?
  • Racked locations/Countertops?
  • Combo?

4. Determine who will lead, and clearly define and communicate expectations. At most Southern Newspapers properties, this is the publisher. Shurett told those publishers: "Hear me clearly.  If you don't get excited about this, it will fail!" He also told them not to set goals too low, to recognize that their staffs can do more than they're currently doing, and that clients can spend more than they're currently spending.  Advertisers will spend more in these type of products, he said.

5. Determine frequency.  Start slow.  Later, your staff can increase frequency, but it is difficult to decrease it without giving the impression of failure.  Determine what the market will support.

6. Get a print quote. Shop around. Glossy printing is a competitive business.  However, like most things, you get what you pay for.  Ask to see samples. If you are going the mail route, ask printers about mailing lists.  Find out if they can handle labeling/postage for you.

7. Set rates.  Don't be cowardly.  Set rates based on cost and, as importantly, what the market will support.

8. Build a media kit.  Assign this to your best composer.  The look and quality should mirror the magazine.  Make sure the media kit clearly conveys your message.  Spend some money on the printing.

9. Go sell it. In most cases, the publisher is the best salesperson in the building, Shurett said.  In almost every case, the publisher can open doors other people can't.  Leveraging both of those things will go a long way toward determining your success.

10. Repeat.

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