Challenge and Entrepreneurship: Starting a New National Magazine

[Editor's Note: Why does a lawyer and CPA decide to start a new magazine? I had the good fortune to sit next to Renee West, publisher of Blackberryspeak.com E-magazine, magazine format, going to print in January (biweekly). She's a thoroughly delightful person, and when-between jokes-she told me she was starting a magazine, I grabbed a few minutes before the seminar started and did a mini-interview.
—Shel Horowitz, Editor, Global Arts Review]

"I got tired of the media defining everybody's decisions; I thought there were still some viewpoints that needed to be put out there. Especially when it comes to the urban community. For instance, American Idol, they talked about the unwed mother and the honor student. I like to put out other pictures, beyond the stereotype. When was the last time we chose a presidential candidate? I watched the media decide Dean wasn't their man. It was about which one makes the most buck.

"I've worked in the magazine industry (as a circulation auditor) for 6-1/2 years. It's very hard to start a new magazine, but on the Web, you can get international readers. I wanted our magazine to represent urban America, with that representing a lot of different Americas. One of the sad things is everything is here, so we never have to travel. But travel broadens your understanding of why we have some of those issues, and possibly solutions."

She self-financed the start-up, with money saved from her day job. The magazine launched February 1, 20/04. her principal traffic-building tool is a weekly newsletter. "Most people are lucky to get 25% clickthrough; we get 35-56%. I had them double-check, I thought they were wrong. And they're reading [an average of] 5-7 pages every view. That means we've got content that's working for them. We have a news section, business, lifestyle, sports, entertainment. We bring news from other sites and give it to our readers."

As of early June, 2004, the magazine was still small with about 900 subscribers registered. But although their numbers are small, they're committed. "Our readers are very passionate. We have a lot in the Armed Forces, African Americans in Europe who can't read their local news. We're giving news from all across the US and they're very appreciative. We give the encapsulated headlines with the links to their sites. We are a marketing tool for African-American newspapers and magazines, so they love it. They send us a lot of traffic. I just had a conversation with the circulation manager at Black Enterprise. She was asking, who are these people that we're getting hits from?"

Shel Horowitz, Editor of Down to Business, is the author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World.


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