Meanwhile, your print magazine has kept chugging along, probably not as profitable as it used to be but still bringing in most of your revenue. If you’re like many publishers these days, that faithful old jalopy needs some attention—maybe a tune-up to meet the needs of a changed audience, maybe a complete overhaul of its business model. It’s time to ask some tough questions about your magazine that could result in that old engine running more profitably.
Be sure to read the companion piece to this article, “10 Questions To Ask Your Printer,” which raises some strategic questions that you can address in consultation with your printer, such as what kind of special advertising packages you should pitch to your advertisers and whether to change the paper you use. But first, here are 10 important questions about your magazine that you’ll need to answer mostly on your own.
1. Should you decrease (or maybe even increase) your circulation?
Try this revealing exercise: Calculate how much money you are losing on your most unprofitable circulation, including the cost of producing the copies and the value of the circulation to advertisers. If the numbers are ugly, you may be chasing too many eyeballs when what your advertisers really want is a premium vehicle for an engaged, niche audience. And if all of your circulation is profitable, maybe you should invest in growing your audience.
2. Are big decisions made rationally, or do the various departments just duke it out based on their own interests?
In case you hadn’t noticed, our industry has a well-deserved reputation for “siloization.” If someone points out that the magazine would be more profitable if it jettisoned those negative-remit subscriptions, Ad Sales is sure to object; it is in the nature of sales organizations to ask for whatever they can get without looking at the cost of what someone else will pay. But it’s in the nature of profitable publishers to say: “Wait a minute, why do we have to have 120,000 subscribers? We’re losing our shirts on 10,000 of those and could be a lot more profitable at 110,000, even if we have to cut ad rates.” Magazines need a strong leader who asks tough “what if” questions and makes decisions based on what’s best for the entire publication, not on which silo whines the loudest.
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