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How to Create a Local Magazine


Local magazines are sprouting up in every small town and large city. If you have a group of talented people to design your magazine and the business sense to keep ads sale high, you could make a successful business venture with a local magazine.

Check your local government guidelines for exactly which business licenses you need. Evenly freely distributed magazines charge money for ads and are businesses. You cannot operate a business without a license.

Outline every possible detail of your magazine. Write down your title, subtitle, theme, tone and names or ideas for each section. Write a list of words that describes your target audience. Be sure you have a good idea of what kinds of articles you do and not want to include. All these things make sure you stay on track for the magazine your start and do not confuse your audience. Post these where you and your staff can always see them to stay on track.

Decide how often your magazine will come out and how many people you need to help write and edit. Establish your staff so each person knows exactly which articles and sections they are responsible for each week, month, or season.

Find your printer. Check prices with all local printers. Many large newspapers offer outside printing services. Decide whether you want a glossy cover or plain newsprint, glossy pages or lightweight pages, and how large your magazine will be. Check prices and availability for all paper types and decide what you can afford.

When you choose your printer, get a print schedule from them. They have set projects which print every month. They will tell you what days your project will print on and which days your material is due to them. This schedule is not flexible.

The printer will also give you printing specs. These are guidelines for exactly how wide and tall each page of the magazine can be and where the margins fall. If you place material outside these measurements it will be cut in printing.

Set your publication schedule. Your final deadlines to have material finished should be at least two days before the print deadline. Set a deadline for each portion of the magazine to be completed before your final deadlines.

Research your ad market. Without advertising you cannot publish your magazine at a profit. Pull as many local publications as are available and find out how much each ad size costs.

Develop your ad rates. Decide how much you need to charge for each size ad. Also consider ad placement. Inside covers, the back cover and color ads should all cost more than regular ads inside the magazine.

Make mock magazine pages showing different ad sizes and rates. Include all your business information. Use these when selling ads.

Sell ads. Aim for 60 percent ads to 40 percent magazine material. This sounds high, but is the best ratio to keep your budget in the green each month.

Assign each story, article, photo and graphic to your staff. Use digital voice recorders when interviewing for audio files. Keep transcripts of all interviews.

Proofread very single piece of copy before it goes into the layout. Keep every article text, photograph, graphic and ad in well-organized folders on your main computer. Purchase a back-up system for your computer which automatically saves copies of all your work.

Use Quark, InDesign or a similar publishing software to layout the magazine. Make a template for each page using the publication specs your printer gave you.

Save all your files as specified by your printed and submit them. If you are continually late on deadlines you risk not getting printed that month and being dropped by your printer completely.

Distribute your magazine in local businesses, churches, medical offices, school and community centers. The more your magazine is seen around town, the more ads your will be able to sell.

If you want to charge money for your magazine, you will be limited to distributing at businesses that agree to accept money on your behalf. The other option is to purchase newspaper vending machines and place them in high traffic locations around town.

Tip
  • Use ad contracts with each client who purchases an ad. Specify exactly how the ad will look, where it will appear and how often. Usually you invoice ads so the ad will publish before you are paid. If a client ever refuses to pay consider legal action.
Warnings
  • It usually takes a magazine 6 months to start making enough ad revenue to support printing costs and have profit left. Be sure you have enough seed money to support 6 months of publishing.
  • When you publish information you put yourself at risk for lawsuits. Always double and triple check your copy, facts, and quotes. never release information you are unsure.
  • Educate yourself with communication laws. For example, truth is not a defense in libel cases. Saying something harmful to someone's reputation will get you sued, even if you can prove it's true.
  • Advertisers may refuse to pay for misprints, even just a single letter. Always proofread and double-check all ad copy.
Items you will need
Business licenses required by your state and city
At least one reliable, fast computer
Design software
Photo and graphic editing software
Text editing software
At least one digital camera
Digital voice recorders
About the Author

Amanda Herron is a photojournalist and writer whose credits include: "Georgia Realtor Magazine," "Jackson Parent Magazine," "Christian Guitarist and Bassist" and the Associated Press. Herron has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in Education from Union University. She is a member of the NPPA and has awards from the Tennessee Press Association and Baptist Press.