One publishing duo learns the hard way how the traditional magazine industry operates.
Eric Mirbach and his co-publisher and life partner Julia Vliakoch had an epiphany. The two vegan lifestyle proponents wanted to use their talents to move the vegan movement forward. So they abandoned their popular blog, saying: “Everybody has a blog. Let’s make a magazine.”
They did…and got a harsh introduction to traditional mass market magazine publishing.
“You don’t need to sell a lot of copies, just print a lot of copies,” Mirbach explains in Medium.
Advertisers, as we all know, want eyeballs. But what Mirbach didn’t understand is that it’s not just enough to print those magazines, you have to actually figure out how to distribute them.
It was tough going. While they were creating a beautiful publication called Vegan Good Life, they began to dread the process of selling ads for a magazine that sat in a warehouse.
Like so many publishers today, they came smack up against a business model that didn’t work for them. Printing free copies has worked great for some large publishers with the distribution muscle behind them. The problem was, Vegan Good Life isn’t just niche; it’s niche within niche. Giving out 100,000 copies at the metro station wasn’t the way to go.
“Turns out there would come the day where I had trouble getting out of bed,” Mirbach recalls. “Turns out there’s a lot of negativity involved when dealing with people who ask for a lot but are not interested in giving back that much. Turns out I couldn’t be creative and sell frigging ads at the same time. Turns out it’s the same for Julia.”
So they settled on a different idea.
“We will make two issues a year max and only when we actually have something to say that’s worth being put into print. Vegan Good Life is going to be thicker than it was before, we’ll switch up the format a bit and — here it comes — it’s going to be pricier. Like a lot. Because we sold it too cheap before,” Mirbach explains.
He understands that they may lose some audience when the price goes up, saying: “I’m 100% sure our audience will find us and we’ll find our audience. It might be a different one, though.”
Many niche publishers are discovering that their audience is happy to pay well for a gorgeous, thoughtful lifestyle magazine. That’s what’s so fascinating about this business; there is no one model that works, and publishers are constantly surprising us with their innovations and creativity.
We wish Eric and Julia much luck, and a very good life.