The magazine industry today is more open than ever before to small, specialty publications launched on a shoestring by clever, energetic entrepreneurs who see a niche left uncovered by the media giants that churn out dozens of slick general consumer publications.
"We are seeing more young people starting their own magazines," confirms Mary McGeachy, vice president of communications for the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), a trade association. The trend is driven by a good economy and an ever-growing number of market niches, which make it easier for would-be publishers to enter with limited capital.
One key to success is finding a topic no one is writing about or covering a region or market that's overlooked. One would think a major city like Atlanta would be home to at least one magazine devoted to business there. But when Gina Wright discovered, to her amazement, that there was none, she knew opportunity was ringing her cell phone.
The former advertising sales executive, who had helped a publishing company launch numerous magazines, was ready to take the helm as publisher of her own magazine. In 1997, using $25,000 in personal savings, she launched Business to BusinessMagazine, a 50,000 circulation monthly geared to high-ranking business professionals and executives in Atlanta who run companies with sales of $1 million or more.
Working from home initially, Wright, now 30, got out those first issues with the help of an editor and writers who worked on a contract basis. She sold $153,000 in ads to pay for the first run of 50,000 issues. Forty thousand were sent by direct mail to key businesspeople in the region; 10,000 were sold on newsstands. This year, the magazine, with an annual subscription rate of $18, is expected to earn $3 million.
Last month, Wright launched her second title: CatalystMagazine, a publication designed for young entrepreneurs and business professionals in the city. Her company, The Leader Publishing Group, which employs 18 full-time employees, also does custom publishing.
Mike Blackstone, 26-year-old owner of The Gen-X Press in Towson, Maryland, saw his publishing niche open up while working as an intern at Fortune 500 financial companies.
"The managers just didn't know how to work with [younger] employees," he says. "They totally missed the boat when it came to Generation X. Then they wondered why they couldn't keep their employees."
In 1997, Blackstone used $5,000 of his own money to buy a targeted mailing list of companies he thought might be interested in dealing with Generation X issues. He sent a letter to human resource directors explaining his idea for a quarterly newsletter about Generation X. Based on the positive response, he and his business partner, Daniel Greene, 27, created a sample newsletter and mailed it to select executives in January 1999.
TheGen-X Press discusses everything from how to advertise to a Gen X audience to how younger employees can make the most of a 401(k) plan. Blackstone expects $35,000 in 1999 sales from the newsletter, which he sells for $35 per year and promotes on his Web site (http://www.genxpress.com). He hopes eventually to also offer consulting services to businesses.