How One Publisher Went Glossy When Everyone Else Was Going Digital

Bethesda-MagazineDigital media was just beginning its disruption of the print industry in 2003 when Steve Hull risked it all and launched Bethesda Magazine.

“…I always had this entrepreneurial bug,” he told Thomas Heath of the Washington Times. “I finally decided at age 49 that this was my last chance.”

Hull had an advantage of course; he’d spent his career in the media industry including several years as a top exec at Atlantic Media. So he knew what makes a good magazine.

According to Heath, the gamble paid off. His publishing efforts now include both Bethesda and sister magazine Arlington and they are profitable and thriving businesses.

“Located above a Starbucks in (Where else?) downtown Bethesda, the two magazines earned a six-figure profit on $5.2 million in revenue last year, allowing an agreeable life for editor and publisher Hull and for his wife, Susan, who is vice president of publishing,” notes Heath, who adds that Bethesda has been running in the black since its second year in operation.

What made his titles a success while others were calling the idea crazy?

“[Hull] spent several years working on the Atlantic’s business side, trying to find new audiences, expanding advertising and figuring out a role for the magazine on the Web,” explains Heath.

“During those years, Hull learned an important lesson about the magazine business: General interest magazines are a slog. But if you can find narrow subjects that people are passionate about, you have a shot at making money.”

It’s a great lesson for any business, and a solid demonstration of the continued value of printed communications.