This is the second 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

Before I start my manifesto as to why successful independent publishers must be more like a ball bearing as opposed to a beach ball, let’s start with the very first question: WHY are you doing this? Or in the case of those folks who are thinking about dipping their toes into the publishing waters, WHY do you WANT to do this?

At this point, I’d like to borrow a page from one of my favorite marketing/advertising blogs “The Ad Contrarian”

Nobody gives a sh*t that...

  • you believe one person can make a difference.
  • you think the world needs to be more connected.

If I might be allowed to summarize... they've heard it all before and they don't give a sh*t.

Here's what they care about:

  • What are you doing, bub? Show me. Be specific. Convince me it's not a gimmick or pr ploy.
  • What have you got for me? How much is it? Why do I need it? Why is it good?

If you have an idea, concept, belief or just an urge to communicate, you can do this for free on the web. So, for most you who feel this deep-seeded urge to write/publish, you can pretty much save a ton of money and heartache and go publish for free on the web. Good bye, have a nice day and thanks for coming out.

Wait a minute.

You’re still here. Look, do I really need to explain this further?

Magazines can be a ghastly business – most don’t make it past the first issue. The truth is that we have TOO much information right now and I think it’s a fair assessment to say that the newsstands don’t look particularly lean, despite the number of magazine failures. So, do yourself a favor and turn back now. Think of all the trees you’ll save by not starting up (or continuing) your magazine. I hear there are ton of opportunities in the health care profession. Have you looked into finance?

What’s that?

You are still committed? You STILL want to know how to make this work for you?

Ok. If you’ve hung in this far, I will begin.

The conventional wisdom states that you need to assess the overall feasibility of the idea. You need to assess your audience, potential advertisers and have a peek at your competition. Obviously, these are all great ideas. Publishing sites say you need to create a business plan. But a “ball bearing” minded publisher looks at things in a different way.

Full disclosure – my business plan consists of four lines:

  1. One rider at a time
  2. One reader at a time
  3. One subscriber at a time
  4. A magazine so good you’ll want to put it in your will
So the question is why? Why on earth do I do this? The answer, if you are a ball bearing publisher is simple: I am doing this because this is absolutely what I was put on this world to do.

Sound a bit over the top? Do you think I’ve been drinking too much of the Tony Robbins Kool-Aide? Frankly, I don’t care. My magazine is my destiny. The readers, advertisers and contributors are all part of this destiny.

A ball-bearing publisher knows that he or she is not just in the information business. If it’s information you want, that’s free mostly on the web. It goes way beyond mere information for a ball bearing publisher. It’s about building a community and doing everything you possibly can to make that community thrive.

The lesson I can give you: take a page from the book Good To Great and utilize the hedgehog principle:

  1. what am I deeply passionate about? – what was I put on this world to do?
  2. what can I be the best in the world at?
  3. what will drive this economic engine?
For me the answers are as follows:

  1. I am a skateboarder first and foremost and I want to give back to skateboarding. I want to help change the face of skateboarding and spread the joy of skateboarding to as many people as I can. I want to help skateboard companies grow and become successful. I want to advocate for skateboarders who feel marginalized or ignored by the rest of skateboard media.
  2. I will create the world’s greatest NICHE skateboarding magazine. We will cover ALL types of skateboarding better than any other publication on the planet.
  3. I will publish Concrete Wave magazine to drive this economic engine. My advertisers will see this as investment in both the magazine and their FUTURE.
Successfully answering these questions will establish the RIGHT foundation. In the subsequent chapters, we’ll look at this hedgehog more closely.

For the next chapter…just what does it cost to start up?

NEXT » Let's Get Small
Michael Brooke is the publisher of Concrete Wave Magazine.