“Your Magazine is NOT Your Product”

[responsive]MKSHFT10_COVER-336x430[/responsive]Four years ago, Makeshift magazine started as a Kickstarter-backed project, and has morphed into a successful, self-described “functioning media company.”

Now founder Steve Daniels has some sage advice in “How to start a magazine: Lessons from four years in print.”

First and foremost, Daniels advocates an intimate knowledge of your proposed audience.

“One of the biggest mistakes I made off the bat was to place too much emphasis on the stories I wanted to tell over the stories a particular audience wanted to hear. I didn’t even know who my audience was,” Daniels explains.

“No matter how much craft we put into our product, it was grounded in a completely inside-out vision. Over time, Makeshift has refined its target audience — globally conscious creatives — and listened to their needs.”

This understanding then forms the basis of your reason for existing in print.

“Print magazines are no longer about information; the ones that are have become a commodity easily replicated online,” he notes.

“Today’s print magazines are lifestyle products,” Daniels continues. “The question is not ‘What does my audience want to read?’ but ‘What does my audience want to buy?’”

And perhaps counter-intuitively, Daniels is adamant on one point: The magazine is not your product. You have to understand that there must be some business model deeper than simply subscriptions and ad sales.

“The reality is no independent magazines survive on the traditional model of magazine and ad sales,” he explains. “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.”

Whether that focus lies in developing a contributor network, leverage your creative content services for external clients or running events, the magazine serves as the catalyst for all of this.

If you dream of putting ink to paper for your own title, it would be well worth your time to read this one.