Producing a Magazine

Insights into how much work goes into publishing a periodical

Magazine page dummy sample layout courtesy of Adobe inDesign
A pencil-sketch dummy lets you think through the basic look of a magazine spread quickly and easily. This sample layout dummy is courtesy of Adobe inDesign, where you can learn more about how to get started with a design.

It's a lot of work and expensive, but anyone could produce a magazine. Envision a concept, determine its readership niche, decide how often it will appear in print, write some copy, shoot some photos, compose a graphic design for covers and pages, put it together in a page-layout program, send it off to a printer and you're in business.

Here are some of the decisions needed when starting up a new magazine:

Frequency: How frequently would the magazine appear? Weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually? Naturally, this relates directly to the overall cost of the project.

Design: How many pages would it be? What size would the pages be? To what extent would the articles be illustrated? Would you reproduce photos, drawings, paintings, graphs, charts, other artwork? Would they be all black-and-white or would some pages have color? These considerations impact the cost of the project.

Production: How would the pages be produced? By whom? What page layout software would you use? Would the final product be published as a printed magazine on paper or electronically as a PDF for circulation somehow via the Internet? If printed, where would you have it printed? These relate to cost.

Editing: One of the most important areas to attract and hold readers will be the gathering and packaging of news and information. News gathering means reporters, writers, photographers and artists. Packaging includes design and production staff. These jobs will require staff to assist you. These are cost considerations.

Distribution: How would you circulate the publication? How would you advertise it to let people know it exists? How would you build a circulation list? Would you charge for the magazine or would it be free? If printed, would you mail it or stack it around in public places? If electronic, would you email it or put it on a web page for downloading? These decisions impact costs.

Staff: The magazine needs to be written, illustrated, designed, produced and distributed. It would be very difficult for one person to handle the entire workload. You would need a staff of several people to do various aspects of the work. Would you pay people to work on it or would you ask them to volunteer? It's hard to get free labor outside of, say, a college course or a club.

Costs: It surely will be a very expensive project. You may need thousands of dollars to publish a magazine. It won't be easy to obtain the necessary funding, especially in times when money is tight for individuals and organizations. The strength of your motivation will be all important.

Here's some more information:

  • Making a Macworld Magazine Cover Start To Finish
       video by Peter Belanger, 3:18.

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    © 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke    email    home page