Vice realized it was its expertise and started a creative agency to help clients target millennials. We have 400 professional journalists, videographers, and researchers across more than 80 countries. For our first few issues, nearly all content was assigned based on ideas from the editorial team; now, nearly all content is assigned through inbound pitches.As a result, we recently launched Makeshift Studios, an agency that produces content for clients in collaboration with the contributors and creatives we’ve worked with and vetted over the years.Last winter, Makeshift led an effort to create a Little Magazine Gift Guide, inviting 19 fellow publishers to list their titles on our microsite and offer readers a holiday discount. One of the titles invited us to distribute together in a new geography under an agreement that flipped the above supply chain on its head by redistributing the risk more fairly.
This is not a guide to the nuts and bolts of finding a printer and selling subscriptions but a contemplation of the major elements that will set you up for success.
By the end of this piece, you’ll understand that “How do I start a magazine? If you happen to be afflicted with the same mental delusion that struck me four years ago when I decided to revive the art of print, the reality you must accept is that you’re going to be dealt a difficult hand.
This is especially true for large distributors, some of which charge by the pound for taking on your title and are, therefore, incentivized to ask you for many times more copies than they will actually sell.
And then there’s the large retailers who charge fees for reasonable shelf placement.
The two magazines I’ve seen do this best are Offscreen and Hello Mr., who focused on software designers and gay men, respectively, and filled a gap in media serving those audiences.
In both cases, their readers also write for the magazines — often for free — and are active advocates for those publications on social media. Make them a core part of your strategy, and cultivate them as a community.
(The organizers of these groups have asked me to kindly inform you that they’re open only to publishers of existing print magazines.
Please do not request to join unless you meet this criterion.)Partnerships with other magazines have paid off for Makeshift.
You will become a B2B company as much as a B2C company.
The challenge will be to keep things simple, integrating the B2B and B2C components as tightly as possible so you can stay focused. Consider what differentiates you from other publications for a particular set of business customers.