This is the most recent post in a series about surviving as an independent magazine publisher. If you want to start at the beginning, check out the Introduction to The Ball Bearing and the Beach Ball.
It's been a while since the ball bearing publisher (that would be me) checked in and wrote a column.
Why the hiatus?
Well, as they say, life has a way of getting in the way of your plans. I had truly thought I could deliver a number of solid columns each month. Fat chance. The internet is a monster that feeds on content. It never rests and it most certainly does not go on a diet. I even added to my family and launched a second magazine. I've been busy…but I am grateful this ball bearing manifesto has helped – thanks to all who send me emails.
Hard to believe that it's been over 3 years since I first started this publishing manifesto. I'd like to give you all an update.
First things first – I took my own damn advice!
FOCUS – NO HOKUS POKUS!
I know have demanded that all ball bearing publishers focus and yes, in the same tradition of "doctor, heal thyself" I have turned the attention to focusing more of my efforts on FOCUS! Yep, it's true. I decided that the magazine could not be everything to every skater. While the idea of variety was good…it didn't really gel the way I wanted it to. My, what a surprise!
I know that a number of my readers do skate all types of terrain, including street and vert (ie pools and parks) but I realized that the vast majority were mostly interested in longboarding. Then I took a very hard look at what our advertisers were doing: the vast majority were trying to sell longboards. It quickly became apparent as to what to do next: move from trying to create the world's greatest VARIETY-filled skateboard magazine to creating the world's greatest LONGBOARD magazine.
And folks, that is exactly what I did in November 2010. What happened? We lost a few readers (and made some pretty angry that we'd changed from variety to focus) but we picked up way more.
The business grew – we picked up more advertisers who appreciate the focus.
And me? I am less stressed because I am not trying to be everything to everyone.
Newsstand remains a vexing issue. I decided to take the magazine off the newsstand about a year ago – but kept the buyer's guide on there. Sell-through was good on the buyer's guide. After a year of hand-wringing, I decided to go back on the newsstand. We're keeping the numbers low…and pushing people via facebook to head down to Barnes and Noble. Not sure if it's going to work…but I realize that some folks do in fact rely on buying the magazine and they aren't interested in subscribing. Ok…we'll see what develops.
I took the plunge in June of 2011 and created an iPad edition. It's working out well. We've got several thousand folks on board and I am pleased with the results so far. I can definitely recommend Disticor if you are looking at iPad migration. Contat Mark Lafranier - email@example.com. And just in case you're wondering, they don't give me any referral fee…I just dig their service.
We've come up with some pretty unique marketing concepts that are LOW cost and HIGH impact. I'd like to share one with you: Our magazine has a lot of unique photos and imagery. We're working with a company called Strategic Concepts to develop posters create by a number of artists. Part of the proceeds of these posters will go towards helping skateboard charities (many of whom are featured in the magazine).
Michael Brooke is the publisher of Concrete Wave Magazine.