Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine

Book: Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine
Writer(s): Cheryl Woodard

Excellent book. It delves more into the business side of publishing than in the production side (which is ideal for me since I know production but I'm weak in business). She gives tips on budgeting, estimating subscription sales, marketing, writing a business plan, wooing advertisers, creating an advertiser media kit, etc. The info varies from obvious to invaluable advice, and in general is well suited to just about anyone contemplating starting a publication.

Cheryl was involved in starting up a number of hugely successful magazines, like PC Magazine, MacWorld, and Publish. Unfortunately, she seems to assume that most of us are out to start empires of similar stature, and a lot of her ideas are out of reach of the ordinary person wanting to start a simple newsletter or Internet "ezine." For instance, she recommends a particular software package to manage your subscriptions, but when I went to that company's website, their package starts at $1500 plus $800/year mandatory support. It also runs only on Windows, something that just bites (and in my case would require a computer purchase). Yes, many medium-level magazines could afford such things, but there are many that can't. Cheryl talks about $50,000 direct marketing plans, again something most publishers can't afford. My feeling is that people with that kind of budget can afford to hire expert consultants like Cheryl to help them plan their business and they don't need to read a book. But there are thousands of smaller publishers who'd like to start a simple newsletter for their hobby or fanclub or whatever, and many of Cheryl's ideas are over their head. The book is still a valuable read: I just wish it focused on reality a little more.

Of course I'm reading this book because I'm launching my own magazine this summer. We'll see how Cheryl's advice works in the real world!


Sunday, February 24, 2002

The Patriot

Movie: The Patriot

Not as bad as I expected. Extremely predictable and routine, but well produced technically. Could have been more interesting with a plot that revealed something we hadn't seen before, but it was the pretty much the standard "hero" movie: reluctant hero spurred into action by evil villain destroying something he values and he eventually defeats villain. BTW, this was a very bloody movie: lots of gruesome shots like a cannonball taking a guy's head off. Wars back then were so much less humane than today (grin).