A solid mix of revenue sources is essential for publishers these days, and in a recent webinar This Magazine‘s publisher Lisa Whittington-Hill shared best practices for the different approaches they’ve taken over the years.
This Magazine, which is a not-for-profit publication, is approaching its fifty-third year of operations, and it’s seen all sorts of approaches to funding in that time.
And while the majority of their funding comes from federal and provincial grants such as Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, they’ve worked with several kinds of user-based funding as well.
Membership models are something lots of publishers are developing, and in her webinar Whittington-Hill looked at what Bitch Magazine and The Atlantic are doing on that front.
“Typically when magazines think about membership models they think about larger magazines. But they can work for magazines of any size and I actually think for small magazines they can work really well,” says Whittington-Hill. “Membership models provide an opportunity to really tap into readership and get them more involved and feeling like part of a community.”
Publishers often have products and perks that they are already distributing for free that could be bundled and presented as a members-only package, and create a new stream of income.
Whittington-Hill suggests taking stock of what is already on offer, from your print magazine to digital editions and websites, to merchandising and events.
“There’s already things we are doing because small magazines are so understaffed, and if you take 15 minutes to think about all the things you do, all the things you can offer your readers, there’s already a lot of great stuff there,” she says.
Asking for money
The pressures on the industry have led to a lot more openness around the costs of putting out a publication and all its alternate platforms and products. And publishers need to feel comfortable asking for readers to step up and fund their initiatives.
Whittington-Hill has gotten a lot more accustomed to plainly laying out publishing’s economic model to their supporters and explaining the challenges to that model in recent years. Once readers understand that, they can often be convinced to sign on for added support, if they see an added benefit to doing so.
“A lot more magazines are being honest with their readers that it costs money to do this, and if you want to see this kind of work, whether it be investigative reporting or fiction and poetry, it takes money to produce it,” says Whittington-Hill. “I think the thing is to have a really strong case for support and a really strong mission statement to really believe in all the great work that your magazine does, and that enthusiasm comes across when you are asking for money.”
For more, check out Lisa Whittington-Hill’s webinar (member login required).
AudioMag is produced by Tina Pittaway, an award-winning independent writer and broadcaster. Tina has been a contributor to CBC Radio and Television for more than 20 years. Her radio documentaries have been recognized with honours from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the New York Festivals, Amnesty International and the Gabriel Awards. Visit Tina online at tinapittaway.com to learn more about her work.
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