How to Start a Magazine in 10 Steps

Even though the magazine industry has been in a steady freefall for the past decade, there is still room for newcomers to establish a foothold in their niche of the publishing world. While traditional magazines will always have a stronghold the internet has expanded outlets and opportunities for new publishers to make headway. 

This article will explore the best way to start your own magazine. It will cover everything from developing a unique voice and hiring the right people to get the job done to reaching an audience that doesn’t know it needs you yet. Starting your magazine is no easy feat, but we’re here to help get you on your way.

1. Develop a Unique and Compelling Magazine Concept

Establishing a unique concept to set your magazine apart is the most important part of creating your magazine. This concept will set you apart from your competitors while also establishing a tone and theme for your magazine, which will help you acquire and retain readers. Once you’ve decided on the concept, tone and themes of your magazine, it’s time to clarify your audience. 

2. Research Your Target Audience

Every magazine has a demographic it wants to reach, but the niche of your specific publication will help you focus on what target market your magazine is specifically suited for. Demographic factors to take into consideration when finding your audience include age, location, occupation, gender expression, income and education. Narrowing your audience to your most likely readership will help you find the marketing strategies and voices you need. When researching your target audience use tools like Google Trends, Facebook Audience Insights and other search engine marketing and social listening tools to see where your audience is and what they’re talking about.

3. Put Together a Content Team

Put together a content team with a collection of voices that fit your magazine’s brand while keeping the content and tone consistent with your overall messaging. Your content team not only needs to be able to write well, but also to come up with fresh concepts that are relevant to your readers and stand out from your competition. 

In the beginning, it might make more sense to hire freelancers as you find your voice. Having an editor-in-chief can help you find rising authors who work well for your audience. Having an editor-in-chief already on staff can help you hire from within your growing team to keep the best writers on your roster. A winning content team will understand your target demographic while being in line with your magazine’s mission statement. 

Writing will be a large part of many magazines, but you can never let the look and feel of any publication be an afterthought. Knowing how your content should flow can be instrumental in choosing the types of photographers you use, the fonts and sizing of your headlines and the color story of your issues. Having a design bible written out can be helpful to set a visual tone and cohesion for whatever path your magazine takes.

After your creative team is in place, get your back office in order to make sure everything runs smoothly. Your editor-in-chief can keep your creatives in line and on time, depending on the scale of your production, but you may also want to bring a production manager on board. 

When all of these things are in place, gather your advertising and marketing teams. For most magazines, advertisers will be what keeps the lights on and your bills paid, which means your content and audience need to be airtight to keep them coming back. The right team will pitch your magazine to the appropriate businesses for your audience, which will result in ad buys that aren’t a waste of money or your magazine’s real estate. 

4. Brainstorm Content Ideas

Though magazines generally have an overall theme, each issue can have its own unique perspective on a specific part of your niche. Keeping your readers engaged with enticing covers and insightful articles is key to the success of any magazine. There are nearly 4,000 magazines in print in the U.S. alone, so if you want your magazine to stand out you need to do more than regurgitate the talking points every other publication has. 

Though it pays to be first, being wrong can tank the credibility of your magazine and take your readers with it. Taking cues from successful magazines in your sector is a great place to start, but putting your spin and voice on the things that are important to your readers is the reason your audience will keep coming back. Whether it be a unique visualization of data or lauded guest columnists that fit your brand’s voice, there is always a new way to tell an old story or a better way to tell a new one.

5. Choose a Platform for Your Magazine

Print may not be the best first stop for every magazine. If you’re trying to reach the upper echelons of local high society, there is nothing like a high-gloss portfolio-sized magazine that can live on a luxe coffee table, but if you’re trying to reach a digital-first market, a responsive digital zine could be the perfect place to start. The biggest part of choosing the platform for your magazine depends on the audiences you want to reach and where they are. 

Regardless of which route you take, printed magazines should always have a digital counterpart, and a digital publication with a great readership almost always makes hard copy runs of limited editions for special occasions.

6. Set Up Distribution Channels

Setting up distribution channels for new publications can be difficult. Most magazines in circulation have tight-knit distribution channels set up by major conglomerates. The easiest way for you to distribute a new print magazine is with your own website. Print Bind Ship has the bandwidth to print small-run, large-run and print-on-demand publications to solve your magazine printing needs. 

Another option to digitally or physically distribute your magazine on a subscription basis is with a community-based platform like Patreon. Although going this route won’t immediately have the reach of larger agencies, it will allow you to retain your audience in a unique and targetable way.

If you plan on going the route of a fully digital magazine, there are a host of options — both free and paid — like Issuu, WordPress, Medium, Apple News and Hoopla. Each route comes with its pros and cons, so research the best option for you and your readers. 

7. Identify Potential Advertisers

This is where your advertising team comes in, but if you’re bootstrapping this yourself you need to put yourself in your target market’s shoes. Think about what products, people or companies pair well with the content of your magazine. Though advertisements aren’t a full endorsement of an advertiser, make sure the brands that you target to advertise in your magazine match your editorial mission statement’s core values. For instance, if you’re running a vegan lifestyle magazine, you don’t want to advertise a meat company or highlight a carnivore diet. Align your advertisers with your audience in a mindful and meaningful way.

8. Choose a Printing Company to Print the Magazine

Finding a printing company can be as easy as a Google search, but getting the right company to print your magazine can be challenging. The good news is you’re already here. Print Bind Ship has been in the printing business for over 60 years. With printers ranging from some of the most sought-after offset presses to some of the most accurate digital printers available on the market, Print Bind Ship can print as many or as few of anything as you want. Outside of printing your magazine, Print Bind Ship can also print merchandise, targeted mailers and other items to help you promote your new or established brand. 

9. Market and Promote the Magazine

Use the full power of your web presence, social media, email lists, targeted advertisements, influencers and a targeted mail campaign for an information blitz paired. Even though this onslaught of media may seem like overkill, you only get one first impression, and you’ll want to make it count.

10. Analyze Your Magazine’s Performance

Now that you’ve done all you can, it’s time to look at the fruits of your labor. Not only should you look at the aggregate success of your efforts, but you should also look at the individual campaigns you launched to see how they performed. Ways that you can analyze the performance of your work include:

  • Tracking full sales of the magazine
  • Tracking website traffic
  • Sending email survey to reader viewership
  • Making sure all advertisements are connected to urchin tracking modules (UTMs), URLs, QR codes or pixels so you can also track advertiser conversions

Start Your Own Magazine

Now that you know how to start your own magazine, it’s time to put this information into practice, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re just starting your magazine’s brand, this probably isn’t your day job. If you’ve decided to go the printed route, that is ours.

Print Bind Ship not only has the tools to print the branded magazine of your dreams, we also have the expertise and team to help you design it, give you layout templates, create branding and everything else to make your magazine a success. Let us bring our 60 years of expertise to your new adventure.


How much does it cost to start a magazine?

Starting an independent magazine can cost as little as $2,800, but according to Magazine Manager, magazine startup costs range anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million depending on circulation.

Are magazines still profitable?

There are still 220 million magazine readers in the U.S., with magazine advertisers making an average of $3.94 per every dollar spent.

How do I publish a small magazine?

You can publish your magazine with print-on-demand services like offerings from Print Bind Ship.