Part 7 in the publishing series.
7. Be a Pimp and Diversify.
For small mags, I think you gotta do this. At any given time, there are thousands of magazines running in the US. This includes industry only magazines. For example, there might be titles like: Sugar Beet magazine (not the one about whacking the stalk), Bowhunter (a mag about shooting down animals with a bow – this one is real and it’s subscription only, so you never see it), and stuff like AAA’s Sunset magazine which you get free as a member. With so many magazines out there, and let’s say “you” being a small entity, how can you survive?
The answer is, not everyone can. As many magazines that come up, that many have to close down. If you’re a newsstand magazine, then there’s only so much space you can occupy on a person’s newsstand shelf for the month, and a step after that, there’s only so much space on one’s bookshelf or coffee table at home. Someone’s gonna fall.
Hustle and Flow, the movie actually serves as a decent example. Terence Howard was a pimp with a car and only one ho. They’d sit in the car until a “john” rolled up looking for the menu of, $20 in the frontseat, $40 in the backseat. But even Terence knew that he needed to diversify. How did he do it? I’m sure he would have loved being like SF’s real super pimp, Fillmore Slim with a stable of 10 ladies. But instead, he got into the rap game. So now he has his ho, who doubled as a agent/manager, found some friends, and cut some songs onto a CD with no money! He also went to prison which ups his street value, while his song gets played on the radio. So now, he’s a pimp (revenue stream #1), and has a song on the radio which sells his single. (NEW revenue stream #2). It’s an example of diversity.
Giant Robot started making t-shirts in 1995 or 1996. We’d do iron-ons. Then we sold stuff like stiletto knives from Mexico, books, and toys. We did mail order, then it became webstore, then real store, then stores. (This is a long story that I’ll get to this another time) If you know GR, then you know that there’s a lot going on.
I wouldn’t dare say we’re like a pimp, but I think the idea is to be diverse. It’s the same reason why you’re supposed to invest across the board and not just in one company. It’s why there’s a Dow Jones Industrials list, so one can see that there’s a benchmark average of growth (or not), and it’s a list of many companies across the board. It’s also why retail stores sell more than one item. You most likely won’t get enough money to make it in publishing. So step two has to be, hedge your bets elsewhere to make yourselves “wider.” This is all easier said than done. Not every magazine will lend itself to a shirt title, retail store, or a restaurant, so it can be an uphill battle if you’re copying our model. But there are other things you can do for sure. You just have to be creative and find the need that your magazine creates.
This is probably the most important “tip” for a small magazine. Honestly, do you really think that making a magazine and getting ads is going to be easy? Is getting a distribution company going to solve your problems? Is printing going to become free? No to all. You’re competing against tons of titles, and one of those is ours.
Poketo asked this question:
With all of the things on your plate… mag, store, restaurant, and chilling out… daily stuff seems to consume. how do you make time and what is your approach to ‘thinking ahead’, taking GR where its been and where its going? Now, it’s late nite talk show time
-I’ll try and get to this one tomorrow! Thank you for the comments. I’m sure there’s a handful of you reading, and it’s nice to hear that what I write may actually inspire, help, or just entertain. I’ll be in NY starting tomorrow. Come to Souther’s show in nyc, or go to see BWANA in LA!