This is the seventh article 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.

The Ball Bearing and the Beach Ball

Ok, so I admit it, I lied. I lied when I told you at the end of the last chapter (that would be Chapter 6, if you are following) that I would tell you how to get readers for your remarkable magazine. The truth is that before I disclose how to get readers, it makes more sense to figure out who are the readers you’d like.

The key thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter what your subject is, there will be different levels of interest. Your goal, as a ball bearing publisher, is to match your magazine’s intensity to the intensity of interest of your readership. As I have explained, Concrete Wave is about the act of skateboarding. We are 100% skateboarding. We cover all types of skateboarding and we want to get more people skateboarding…and have less people leave. This is not just an editorial directive or position –it flows through EVERY FACET of the entire business. Again, the magazine is not just a magazine, it is my destiny – it is what I was put on this world to do. That is the essence of a ball bearing publisher.

So, publishing a magazine for folks who embrace your philosophy goes way beyond just preaching to the choir. Your goal is not just to preach, but to have the choir start creating their own music, and singing it all over the world. This is called “Flipping the Funnel.” You can find out more about that if you download this amazing pdf created by Seth Godin. Hey, why not do that right now?

Don’t feel like doing that? Ok, here’s Seth’s 4 second version:

  • Turn strangers into friends.
  • Turn friends into customers.
  • And then... do the most important job:
  • Turn your customers into salespeople.

Here’s how it breaks down for Concrete Wave readership – ranking from 1 (least important) to 5 (most important)

LEVEL 1 - very casual skateboarders

  • may skate a few times a year (20 times or less)
  • own one skateboard
  • generally do not visit skate websites
  • have a basic understanding of street skateboarding (note: street is rails, ledges and comprises of about 85% of all skateboarding – the boards are uniformly the same shape, wheels are generally hard and trucks tend to be ridden tight)
  • might have friends who are more heavily into skateboarding
  • have no real interest in learning more about skateboarding
  • spend less than $100 per year on skateboard products –might wear skate shoes
  • most likely would not be that interested in the ideas presented in the magazine
  • we reach out to these readers very infrequently (this is a nice way of saying that these folks might one day understand what Concrete Wave is about, but we’re not going to try and convince them to even try it)

LEVEL 2 - Somewhat casual skateboarders

  • skate between 20 to 50 times per year
  • own at least one deck
  • may spend a few minutes per month on skate websites
  • will generally mostly be street skateboarders
  • the age range is from 8 to 18
  • they might have a passing interest in other types of skateboarding
  • probably spend around $100 per year on skateboard products
  • we would not actively pursue these readers
  • we might reach out at an event by giving them a complimentary copy
  • they may get heavily into skateboarding and try other types of skateboards

LEVEL 3 – Moderately into skateboarding

  • skate between 50 to 100 times per year
  • own between 1 to 5 decks – mostly street decks…perhaps a Longboard or vert deck
  • spend between 10 to 25 hours per month online at skate websites
  • definitely interested in other types of skateboarding, but they mainly focus on street
  • have a desire for more info
  • we want readers are open to new ideas that are presented in the magazine
  • we do not try and bring in street skateboarders who have a closed mind to anything else.
  • might have skated in the past – could be re-entering skateboarding
  • generally younger skaters who read the established street skating magazines
  • spend anywhere from $100 to $500 per year on gear
  • they might turn into subscribers
  • they will enjoy spending time with the magazine – but generally under 45 minutes
  • will probably read the other skate magazines and may enjoy them more
  • we would definitely try and cultivate them as readers and we know that eventually one day they will move up a level!

LEVEL 4 –Heavy into skateboarding

  • skate between 100 and 200 times per year
  • spend 30 to 60 hours per month at skate websites
  • may post fairly frequently
  • own anywhere from 6 to 20 skateboards – of different variety
  • spend $500 to $1000 per year on gear
  • have either skated in the past (as a youngster or adolescent) or finds themselves getting heavily into it as an adolescent or young adult
  • definitely interested in all types of skateboarding – but have a clear preference and will argue to see more of that coverage in the magazine
  • will help spread the message of Concrete Wave to fellow skaters, skate shops etc.
  • believe the magazine’s content resonates with them
  • will subscribe or purchase the magazine
  • feels the other skate magazines “just don’t get it”
  • will spend 1 to 2 hours with the magazine
  • we will go out of our way to reach these people

LEVEL 5 – Super Heavy Into Skateboarding

  • skate over 200 times a year
  • Spend 60+ hours a month at skate websites
  • Account for 80 to 90% of a forums posts (ie: they will have thousands of posts on a skate forum)
  • Own 25 to 100+ boards
  • skateboarding in their blood
  • Spend over $1000 per year on skate gear
  • Either skated in the past or have progressively gotten into it as a youngster into young adult
  • will be actively involved in skateboarding by holding competitions, advising and advocating for skateparks
  • not just a lifestyle, skateboarding is their life!
  • the magazine deeply resonates with them
  • will spend over 2 hours with the magazine and re-read it countless times
  • will actively contact advertisers inquiring about new products
  • influence purchases at the local level and on-line
  • will go out to shops and tell them “what’s new and great”
  • will support Concrete Wave in a multitude of ways
  • these are most valued readers and we always make sure that we are stoking the hell out of them with every issue and every interaction

So now you know the 5 levels of readers, let’s do some math: These are very rough numbers, but it gives you an idea of how things work:

    There are about 20 million skateboarders world wide.
    30% are very casual skaters
    35% are somewhat casual skaters
    20% are moderately into skateboarding
    10% are heavily into skateboarding
    5% are super heavy into skateboarding

Even if my percentages are off, it really doesn’t impact the overall mission of the magazine. Yes, you read this correctly. Why? For the simple fact that the 10% or 15% or even 20% of skaters (or whatever the damn percentage really is!) who are out there skating their brains out and embrace the philosophy of what the magazine stands for, well that is either 200,000, 300,000 or 400,000 skaters. And since I am ONLY producing 20,000 copies, even 200,000 people is enough of a market to try and satisfy. Curiously enough, I estimate that when you add up:

    the people who read their own copy of the magazine
    the people who read a friends copy
    the people who read it online
    the people who read it in libraries
    the people who read it at skate shops
    the people who read it at the newsstand (but never purchase it)

You probably wind up with about 250,000 people per issue! This is a significant number – but we are no way near to reaching all the heavy and super heavy users.

There are a number of different reasons WHY someone will want to read your magazine. There are also a number of different reasons WHY someone will want to buy your magazine. And finally, there are a number of reasons WHY someone will want to keep your magazine. We’ll talk about this in another chapter.

Suffice to say, now that you have a better understanding of who it is you should be reaching and you’ve patiently read this far, I promise to share with you HOW I actually go about acquiring these readers.

Michael Brooke is the publisher of Concrete Wave Magazine.