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  • 标题:How to develop a magazine publishing plan
  • 作者:Marshall D. Siegel
  • 期刊名称:Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management
  • 印刷版ISSN:0046-4333
  • 出版年度:1988
  • 卷号:Sept 1988
  • 出版社:Red 7 Media, LLC

How to develop a magazine publishing plan

Marshall D. Siegel

How To develop a magazine publishing plan Imagine you are on a boat with eight other oarsmen and you are trying to get across the lake. You'd probably get there much quicker if everyone rowed in the same direction.

While this seems obvious, this simple concept often is not applied to publishing. Most of us in publishing tend to attack problems on a piecemeal basis--maybe treating circulation, then treating ad sales. A piecemeal approach tends to strengthen one area without recognizing that most problems are overlapping. Too much focus on certain areas and not enough overall strategizing may cause segments of our business to get out of sync.

Writing a publishing plan is a way to coordinate various elements of the business. The thought that goes into a publishing plan forces the publisher to look at the whole picture, and examine the market, his magazine and the context in which it operates.

T here are many reasons why some publishers currently do not write publishing plans: business is good so there's no perceived need; fear that writing such a plan will reveal shortcomings in past strategies or management ability; lack of time to spend strategizing, to name a few. The most common reason, and the one addressed in this article, is that many publishers simply do not know how to go about developing a plan.

As any trade magazine sales manager or publisher knows, it pays to think about strategy and tactics when a plan of action is being developed for the coming months. To succeed in this business, you need a comprehensive vision of where you are and where you are going for the next year (at least). After you think through and write this year's plan, you should review, rethink and rewrite it each year thereafter.

We believe that the key to successful implementation of plan is to have it in writing so it can be evaluated by those executing or approving various courses of action. Unfortunately, most publishers rely on a mental plan. This dangerous approach should be avoided--and can be by following the guidelines outlined in this article for writing an annual publishing plan.

This plan is divided into two sections: strategic and tactical planning.

1. Strategic planning

The strategic planning portion of the publishing plan is divided into six parts: The overview; market data and economic trends; position and perceptions; editorial; circulation; and sales. Let's take a look at each one separately.

* The overview: The overview is a one-page summary of the proposal. It should concisely state all major proposals so the reader understands the scope and direction of the total plan. The temptation is to "save the best for last," but it is important to remember that the publishing plan is a strategic document--not a novel.

Besides major proposals, the overview contains a statement of goals and directions for the magazine. The goals can be as specific as a page forecast for the next year, and the directions as sweeping as major shifts in the market and how the magazine will respond.

* Market data and economic trends: Environmental factors greatly affect publishing strategies. Shifting demand, new technologies and falling exchange rates are all examples of such influences. Management must be apprised of existing and potential changes in the market environment if they are to evaluate the strategic direction outlined in the publishing plan.

Although trend analysis is, by nature, highly subjective, use of statistics and documentation will enhance the arguments for various proposals. An overall description of market dynamics is appropriate.

* Position and perceptions: The core of the publishing plan is the position section, which delineates the overall role of the magazine in the market and outlines fundamental strategies.

The positioning statement is the driving force behind the magazine. It should define editorial parameters and target audiences, and highlight points of differentiation that can then be used to guide all other decisions.

To write a position statement, consider the following elements: market trends, reader values, advertiser values and competitive position.

The position section contains the broad proposal designed either to change or reinforce your magazine's existing position. Use research, trend/analysis and reports to support your positioning proposals. Outline a method of implementing those proposals, especially allocation of staff time. Evaluate competitive magazine positions and note any anticipated changes. Although the strategy and position of your magazine are not dictated by the competition, planning cannot be done in a vacuum. Your competition's strategies and positions allow you to differentiate your publication and to determine a comfortable niche.

* Editorial: The editorial portion of the plan is divided in two sections: content and design.

Magazine content is evaluated in terms of the publishing statement. Editorial position can be determined by examining a record of how many inches, if a tabloid, or pages, if an 8-1/2" x 11" format, are devoted to various topics. The space:topics ratio should correspond to the interest articles hold for the target audiences defined in the positioning statement.

The nature of your editorial content is balanced against the nature of competitive editorial stances. The content must not only interest a target reader, but must do so in a way that is different from other magazines in the field. Some examples of content differences are "what's happening" versus "how to"; "people" versus "product"; and "consensus" versus "controversy."

The magazine's design should complement the editorial content, in that one tends to define the other. Tastes and aesthetics change, and your magazine's look must not only embody the editorial philosophy, but also appeal to the target reader's visual sense. If the magazine is to be redesigned, this section contains ideas on the direction of the redesign, its goal and time frame.

The magazine's production cycle is considered and evaluated in the editorial section. Base your conclusions on the necessity of getting the magazine out earlier, or producing the book less expensively by cutting certain phases of the production cycle, or by reducing the time they take to perform.

* Circulation: Circulation strategy falls into three categories: size, subscriber profile and subscription methodology.

Most trade magazines have limited universes, and therefore limited circulations. The size of your circulation is often constrained by competitive considerations--it has to be large enough to be competitive, but at some point quality will be sacrificed. The size of your circulation should also be defined by the position statement, in that particular target readers may be of higher value to your competitive position.

Increases in circulation are an expensive proposition. With controlled circulation it costs about $15 per name to increase distribution. Even with paid circulation, the cost normally exceeds the revenue generated.

The positioning statement defines the subscriber profile that the circulation department should try to generate. The plan should therefore be specific in delineating groups by dollar volume, size of firm, square footage, number of employees, or by whatever criteria are applicable.

Once the target market is clearly defined, a methodology for finding reader names that fit the profile is outlined. Depending on the market, the difficulty of getting names can vary dramatically. Industry directories, yellow pages, direct mail, advertisers' list--all are methods of generating names of potential subscribers.

For a controlled circulation magazine, the subscription card must generate the information needed to produce a competitive BPA statement. Therefore, the questions on the card are vital in terms of developing a competitive statement. The answers to these questions should be analyzed and the information edited as needed.

* Sales: Break down quarterly market share by product and by state. Identify trends and problem areas. Set up and propose sales strategies using market share analysis and the position statement.

Some examples of strategies are presenting new ideas in a different format, stressing various points of difference between your magazine and a competitor and increasing road travel.

Note: Many strategies take time to implement, and it is vital to evaluate your staff's ability to add new responsibilities to their current jobs.

This section includes forecasts for next year's space totals and an evaluation of the market from a sales perspective. It should also review a minimum of three years of sales history. All these figures should reflect ad page counts, on a monthly basis.

2. Tactical planning

This is phase two of your publishing plan. Like phase one, it is divided into distinct parts. Let's examine each separately.

* Sales support--promotion and merchandising: Present an evaluation of the effectiveness of your last promotion campaign to advertisers, and determine the objectives for the current campaign. Review the promotion of other magazines in the industry. Consider alternative methods of promotion. Also, review current house ads. Determine how to "sell" your position to the reader.

You should also propose general guidelines for promotional efforts. Note: Take advantage of your own merchandising. Use house ads in postcard mailers, and so forth.

Re-evaluate the media file. It should have these pieces, at minimum:

1. Editorial position statement

2. Circulation information

3. list of advertisers

4. Merchandising information

5. Rates

6. Readership information

7. Testimonials

8. Market information

Review your media kit sheets to see if they efficiently communicate your basic sales message to those unfamiliar with your magazine.

Compare your current merchandising with your competition's. Rank your programs by frequency of customer use--then kill the least popular programs. Propose new services based on the needs of suppliers in the field, industry research, trends, requests from sales staff, and so on.

* Rates: Present a comparison of your current rate structure with rates of competitors. Analyze strategies on insert pricing, bleed and premium position charges, etc. Unless there is a radical circulation change, or the plan is for a start-up, restrict the rate proposals to the following: 1) amount of increase considering inflation, costs, historical rate data, and industry trends, and 2) rate strategies outlined above.

* Reader service: Review your current policy and competitive reader service cards. If possible, learn about and compare the level of inquiry in competitive books.

Evaluate your reader service card for the following:

1. Ease of use

2. Information obtained

3. Quality of leads generated

4. Timeliness of leads

Propose changes based on industry needs, your magazine's requirements, and competitive strategy. Evaluate the policy on assigning reader service numbers. Propose changes, if necessary.

Consider using alternative forms of reader service--such as 800-number services that process leads more quickly--or limiting the type of response you process (quality over quantity).

* Personnel: Based on sales forecasts and changes in strategies, determine size of sales staff. Evaluate existing staff based on market share, call report data, and sales manager's personal opinion regarding efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

Have the editor conduct a similar analysis of the editorial staff, and include his conclusions in the plan.

* Research: Research is available for both editorial and sales. Research can be conducted in various ways:

1. Readership studies

2. Studies of advertisers' attitudes

3. Studies designed to prove aspects of the market's dynamics

Determine what data you need, and then decide which method of research is best to obtain it.

* Competition: Competitive strategies should be noted throughout the plan. In this section, a more subjective analysis is appropriate. Forecasts of future strategies, problems and so on may also be dealth with here.

More than competition from other magazines should be analyzed here. Other forms of competition to be evaluated include the following:

1. Trade shows

2. Consumer magazines

3. Direct mail/point of purchase

4. Industry trends (e.g., suppliers increasing their sales staffs.)

* Ancillary activities: Ancillary activities include trade shows, hospitality suites and seminars, postcard mailers, regional editions, focus groups, database information sales, industry events, speeches and so forth.

Compare your magazine's current strategies with competitive magazines regarding trade show activities:

1. Exhibition schedules

2. Hospitality suites

3. Personnel attendance policies

Propose changes to your current strategy, analyze costs, and plan implementation. Make note of other events and opportunities to get exposure for the magazine through participation in industry/association events. Also, note possible speech-giving opportunities.

* Costs: Although it is easier to deal with costs in one section for this article, naturally the entire plan must be costed out so that management can make timely and informed decisions regarding individual items of the plan.

Each department head (or outside supplier) can provide costs for various proposals that affect his areas, and also help evaluate the economic soundness of your ideas. The cost for each item proposed should be given in the appropriate section of the plan, with the total cost for each section presented at the end of that segment.

If possible, conduct a spreadsheet analysis on your plan.

Pulling it together

Once the plan is complete, you should make a forecast for the coming year and make final subjective observations. The result for formulating and implementing a publishing plan such as the one described here will be a more integrated approach to the day-to-day problems of management and a more targeted and effective approach to long-range planning.

COPYRIGHT 1988 Copyright by Media Central Inc., A PRIMEDIA Company. All rights reserved.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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