Essential Elements of a Newsletter or Magazine Business Plan
By Cheryl Woodard, Updated October 2008 [PRINT
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,
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
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 BPlans.com.
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 Amazon.com or download the digital version from Nolo.com
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
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