This is the sixth 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

"A laser-like focus - that's what you need to be a ball bearing publisher!" — Michael Brooke

"Mini-Me, stop humping the laser!" — Dr. Evil

You might be wondering why I am spending an inordinate amount of time talking about focus when it comes to magazine publishing. The fact is that your magazine CAN be successful ONLY if it has focus. Sure, you are free to invest a huge amount of money to start up your business... IF you have that. Me? I didn't have a huge amount of money and frankly, I would NEVER invest more than $3000 on any new business.

Why $3000? It is a number I feel comfortable with.

Your number might be $300 or it might be $30,000 or $300,000.

I sense that $300 is a pretty tough road and $30,000 can be a huge part of someone's life savings, inheritance or in some cases severance. These are sources that I wouldn't feel comfortable in tapping. $3,000? It's a big enough amount to get something to happen... but not big enough to crush you financially for a lifetime. As for $300,000. Well, if you have $300,000 at your disposal and want to be a part of the magazine business, please call me immediately. I am sure we can make something happen.

In part 5 I discussed some of the things that I did and didn't do when it comes to sales. If you see that your magazine really is more than just dead trees and truly believe it is your destiny, you will start to realize the following: Advertisers who come on board believe in what you are doing. Those who don't come on board are missing out. You are not building a magazine -- you are building a movement

But how? How do you build a movement? You start small with an intense amount of focus. Remember the Pareto Principal. 20% of skaters account for 80% of the high end skateboard goods sold. We focus on these people and our advertisers want to communicate and influence these people because they are the heavy users and trendsetters. When it comes to being focused, nothing succeeds like excess. You seriously cannot be too focused. Your ads should mesh seamlessly with your editorial.

This is not to say that there is no place for trying to land that full page ad from Lexus. Go ahead, if that's your wish. For me however, a Lexus car ad in a skateboard magazine would be too jarring to my readership and it would weaken my message. Sure, it puts money in the bank, but it's a short term strategy. Unless of course Lexus wants to sponsor a skate contest. Now we're talking! Again, this is what I mean by focus. Focus it back on your readers and you will have success.

Focus doesn't cost money. Quite the opposite. A lot of people worry about their circulation. I worry about my page count. Remember, it's a lot cheaper to print extra 16 pages than it is to print another 1600 copies or 16,000 copies.

I didn't always have this philosophy. I felt that I had to have a BIG number when it came to circulation. Kinda like a computer, I thought it was all about the size of your hard drive. Or how many megapixels your digital camera possesses. Or how many horsepower your lawn mower has.

Remember, as a ball bearing publisher, you are not concerned with size. You are concerned with stature. I know I keep drilling this into your head. But there really is no getting around it. Consider the following:

  1. The power of magazines is that they demand your focus. Bigtime! Since the content inside DIRECTLY relates to your interest, you are FORCED to pay attention. Think of it this way: You can drive and listen to the radio. You can watch tv and talk with your friends (well, sometimes!) you can even thumb through a newspaper pretty quickly ? avoiding the bits (like sports or horoscopes) that don't interest you. But you will be hard pressed to drive and read a magazine, or talk on the phone. In fact, the more interesting your publication and more indispensable it is to your readers, the more they will feel like it is a pain killer as opposed to a vitamin. It's not something they would's something they absolutely need.

  2. If readers are concentrating intently on your magazine, it stands to reason they are absorbing the messages that are inside. The impact of the editorial and advertising is that much higher because they are predisposed to receiving this info. It's welcomed. How much is it welcomed? Well, a number of readers of Concrete Wave don't see the ads as ads - they view them as they would editorial. That is a huge deal and big reason while you will get advertisers on board. In short, their messages will be read, understood, enjoyed and hopefully acted upon!

  3. Remember, you are creating a concentrated cocktail and you must be very careful not mess with the formula. You cannot take your audience for granted. You must treat with respect and advocate for them. They will notice EVERYTHING.

For me, it all boils down to the following sentence: I'd rather have 10,000 maniacal skateboard freaks who are ready to die on their sword for the magazine (well, not literally, but you get the metaphor) than 100,000 somewhat amused skaters who might have a passing interest in the magazine.

Now you know the types of people we are focusing on, the harder question becomes how do we acquire them as readers. We'll discuss that in the next chapter.

NEXT » Getting Readers for your Magazine
Michael Brooke is the publisher of Concrete Wave Magazine.