how to not start a magazine

Last fall, I participated in MTI’s online course “Introduction to Magazine Management.” Along with students from North America and Africa, some of whom were running existing magazines and others (like myself) who were considering starting one, we spent eight weeks learning from two excellent instructors: David Renard, an experienced fashion magazine distributor based in New York, and Francis Ayieko, the founder of a Christian newspaper in Nairobi nearly 20 years ago.

Many of us were coming from a ministry background and were hoping to start a magazine to serve idealistic goals: resourcing children’s ministry, or in my case, publishing global Christian voices. Week after week, many of us had some cold water thrown in our faces as we realized that, idealistic as we were, we had a LOT of work to do to build the foundation for a financially sustainable magazine that would actually meet the needs of our readers who are inundated with content and are more likely to expect it to be free.

Ironically, I started my career working at Nature magazine, a secular science journal, so I already knew that it takes a lot of editorial excellence, and a big production and fulfillment team, to run a successful magazine. However, after 15 years of working in ministry, I had forgotten that publishing is not nearly as entrepreneurial or grassroots as ministry itself. You need established systems and distribution networks, consistently doing their jobs week in and week out, to get books or magazines into the hands of thousands of people. But somehow, when our motivation is for God, we throw out our left brains and expect everything to happen without a business plan!

In the end, what I learned is that building a magazine, like any large project, requires a lot of work and investment. Do you actually know what people will read and find useful? How will you create something that is beautiful, functional, recognizable and reliable? Is your project valuable enough to recruit editors, writers, advertisers, and subscribers? Will this idea last beyond your personal efforts to push it forward? Find out by doing your research and by continually testing your ideas against reality. God has blessed each of us with different talents (Matt. 25). Let’s do our due diligence to build something that glorifies him!

by Clara Kim, The Center for House Church Theology

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Leave A Comment

Related posts

Magazine Training International’s mission is to encourage, strengthen, and provide training and resources to Christian magazine publishers as they seek to build the church and reach their societies for Christ.