The death of How's Business? magazine

November 11, 2017

 

 

For six glorious, A4, full-colour months Oxfordshire businesses had the opportunity to tell their stories, big up their staff, share their insights and appear in the newest B2B magazine in Oxfordshire. Unfortunately, after six months the magazine ceased to publish for several reasons.

 

In May 2017 we, Push Start Marketing, launched a monthly colour B2B magazine because we realised with The Oxford Times In-Business magazine moving from colour supplement to newspaper print in the property section, there was an opportunity for us.

 

The initial idea was simple. We would use the skills we had in PR, copywriting and marketing, our existing contacts for initial support and use The Oxford Paper for distribution.

 

  • 24pp magazine with a max advertising ratio of 4:1

  • A clearly recognisable brand

  • Inspirational, insightful or informative content

  • Added value through a dedicated website and social media channels to promote advertisers additional content

  • Regular emails to existing database – from which non-interested parties could easily unsubscribe

  • Affordable advertising prices ranging from £30 per month to £500 (with an element of scarcity)

  • An essentially not for profit business model, to benefit the Oxfordshire business community, with the additional effect of elevating Push Start Marketing’s profile

  • Distribution through The Oxford Paper on the same day as The Oxford Times in the hope if they buy one, they’ll buy both, serviced offices in Oxfordshire and networking events.

 

We have close relationships with freelancers and The Oxford Times and although they may have seen us as a threat we, perhaps naively, didn’t consider ourselves to be. In fact, the competition for this type of magazine was slim if not non-existent. A paid for magazine or paid for content was not what we were interested in. We weren’t necessarily interested in their advertisers, we were going to be much more feature led and include more insight into small business and the challenges facing the owner managed business, and busy business professionals.

 

I initially launched the idea at my BNI group and the whole team canvassed clients and suppliers on their willingness to support a new B2B magazine. Through networking and email campaigns we sold the majority of the advertising for the first three months including Jack FM, which I hoped would stand us in good stead moving forwards.

 

We went from idea to print in only six weeks.

 

Budgets were always going to be tight, but I wanted people to know I was taking this seriously. I created a free website to get us started and then commissioned a more professional WordPress site that would enable us to take advertising bookings and payment online. I had a small number of mugs, pencils and umbrellas made for my initial advertisers and supporters to get the brand out there. We even sponsored a Portaloo or two at the Witney Beer Festival.

 

Feedback for the magazine was amazing and so positive; at networking events and anyone we spoke to who’d seen it. One person even told me they’d taken it on holiday to read! We were confident there was an appetite for it, just not the support as it turned out.

 

We had meeting after meeting with those ‘interested’ in supporting the magazine only to have them send editorial but not support it financially with even a £30 directory entry.  Despite carefully planned budgets, what I hadn’t accounted for was the additional time and energy not only I would be spending on the magazine but the impact it would have on secondary costs such as my bookkeeper’s time to create and chase all the additional invoices and manage new accounts.

 

In the end the business, Push Start Marketing, was suffering, I wasn’t running it, I was still running the magazine. Although it was opening doors they all proved to be dead-ends in the short term. The plan had been to get it up and running and hand it on.

 

I had front and back page advertising commitments for six months and was determined that if I could get the rest of the advertising sold I could make it work, so I hired a contractor with publishing and sales experience to take over the bulk of the magazine work.

 

Unfortunately, this was a 100% cost to the business and she was no more successful than I had been at advertising sales. I couldn’t let it continue.

 

So that was the death of the magazine. In hindsight it was a combination of three things;

 

  1. Distribution. We didn’t have strong enough channels

  2. Budgets and margins

  3. Staffing. Perhaps I should have hired a professional sales person to sell three-month commitments on commission.

 

I still occasionally get calls from businesses and organisations that say ‘oh, it was one of the best ones’, which is nice, and I am of course grateful for the support that got it off the ground. I am now working with one of the larger companies featured in the magazine so that is also a bonus. But, the lessons it taught me about myself and more importantly about other business people; the stretch it put on the business and the opportunities it continues to bring (despite its death) made playing publisher for six months worthwhile.

 

I’ve just got to concentrate on making some money back now!

 

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