By Fred Parry, Publisher of Inside Columbia
After returning from a roundtable meeting for publishers of city and regional magazines I was pleased to discover custom publishing opportunities were generating significant new revenues for publishing companies still feeling the pinch from our challenging economy. I can tell you from personal experience as a publisher that creating a custom publishing division was the saving grace for my company in 2011.
Publishing a magazine, annual report or catalog for an outside organization allows you to lend the resources of your talented staff to companies that likely could never afford the level of expertise you provide. The good news is that most publishers can achieve a 35 to 40 percent margin on custom publishing projects while offering customers a significant savings from what they’d pay handling it in-house or jobbing it out to an advertising agency or design firm.
Making It Work For You
When you think about it, offering these services makes perfect sense for a publisher. First and foremost, it allows a more robust utilization of your existing resources. On average, I know that I’m publishing more than 100 fewer pages every month that I was three years ago. Rather than laying off experienced designers, writers and editors, we’ve been able to keep them busy creating magazines for other customers.
You can provide one-stop, turnkey services that include concept development, writing, design, printing and distribution, using your existing staff and vendor relationships. You’ll discover that your incremental costs in providing these services are rather minimal, making larger margins possible. In some cases, the additional volume can help you gain increased efficiencies for your core products.
As publishers are looking at vertical integration strategies and finding new channels to distribute repurposed content, custom publishing is one more opportunity to broaden your base of business and expand beyond your core competencies. A custom publishing project might just introduce you to an underserved industry or niche where a wider scope of your services may be needed.
Your best potential for cultivating custom publishing projects are with local hospitals and surgery centers, educational institutions, ad agencies, large car dealerships, mega churches and any company that offers complex business solutions or product lines that need significant explanation. You should also explore relationships with any companies celebrating milestone events such as a grand opening, anniversary or expansion.
Before You Get Started
You should expect a 50 percent down-payment before beginning work on any custom publishing project. Because the publishing process is unfamiliar to many marketers, it’s important to begin your relationship with new clients with a very candid discussion of their expectations and goals. Be sure you have identified key stakeholders within the organization that have the potential of slowing down (or expediting) the approval process. Setting clear boundaries, timelines and responsibilities before commencing work will make your new venture into custom publishing a more rewarding experience.
Fred Parry is the publisher of Inside Columbia magazine in Columbia, Mo. He currently serves on the board of directors for the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA) and serves as president of the Missouri Association of Publications (MAP). A former faculty member at the Missouri School of Journalism, Parry was named to Folio magazine’s list of 40 distinguished magazine and media professionals in 2010.
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