How to Start a Magazine in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: February 22, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The magazine industry in the U.S. brought in $163.70 billion in 2024. With over 22 million magazine readers in the United States each year, there is room in the market for new publications. Choosing the right niche with a targeted readership and defining your editorial mission are key first steps to attracting subscribers.


With careful planning and solid financial backing, launching a new paper or online magazine can be a fulfilling creative endeavor as well as a potentially lucrative business venture. Distinguishing your voice and speaking to an underserved audience are principles guided by successful publishers.

This guide will walk you through how to start a magazine. Topics include market research, competitive analysis, customer focus, marketing, obtaining business insurance, registering your EIN, and more. Here’s everything you need to start your own magazine.

1. Conduct Magazine Market Research

Market research is important for starting any business. At just the beginning of your magazine venture, you’ll want to get to know the industry, major players, major trends, and your target audience. All these details help you develop your business plan.


  • Magazines focusing on special interests such as sports, fashion, news, home improvement, and women’s lifestyle make up the majority of sales.
  • Ad sales are a great source of secondary income on top of magazine sales.
  • Niche publications can more effectively reach and monetize targeted audiences while facing less competition from mass-market titles.
  • Developing integrated business models with events, online communities, subscriptions, e-commerce, and branded products creates multiple revenue streams.
  • Despite declining print readership, almost 90 million Americans still read print magazines on topics aligned with their interests and lifestyles.
  • Food, family life, health, celebrities, home, fashion, and special interests resonate most strongly with print subscribers who value high-quality curated content not always found online.
  • Loyal readers are often willing to pay higher subscription fees that generate substantial circulation revenue.
  • Print production and distribution costs can pose barriers to launching new print magazines.
  • Partnering with major publishers to leverage existing infrastructure or beginning with an online-only model can reduce overhead.
  • Assessing comparable niche publications provides benchmarks to forecast realistic revenue and subscriptions needed to sustain operations.
  • With targeted audiences eager to engage with content related to their passions, the magazine industry still offers opportunities for emerging independent publishers.
  • Combining print, events, e-commerce, and online outlets focused on an underserved niche creates a diversified platform poised to monetize readership.

Please let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any area of this magazine market analysis or provide additional data sources. I aimed to keep paragraphs concise per your instructions and link to relevant statistics throughout.

2. Analyze the Competition

When launching a new print or digital magazine, extensive competitive analysis is essential to carve out your niche, set pricing, and attract readers and advertisers. First, identify 3-5 established publications with a significant readership covering similar content to your focus area.

For print magazines, monitor industry data from MRI-Simmons to track circulation, subscription prices, advertising rates, and reader demographics. Subscribe to the publications and critically assess editorial voice, design, topics covered, and ad placement. Visit newsstand distribution points to observe placement prominence and sell-through rates.

Evaluate the online presence for competitor publications reviewing traffic metrics from SimilarWeb and Analyze engagement for their website, newsletters, social media channels, and multimedia content. This data combined with print circulation benchmarks total reach.

Conduct online surveys and focus groups with readers of niche publications to identify unmet needs and gauge pricing sensitivity. Talk to past writers and advertising sales reps to uncover pain points working with established titles.

Using these inputs, you can pinpoint whitespace opportunities to launch offerings distinguishing your publication from current players while apprising production costs, reasonable advertising rates, optimal subscription pricing, and projections for readership and revenue.

Revisit competitive dynamics every quarter, running surveys to accurately position your messaging and rates as the market landscape evolves.

3. Costs to Start a Magazine Business

When starting a print magazine, major start-up costs include research/planning, establishing a legal business entity, securing licenses and permits, obtaining equipment, developing your first issue, and covering initial operating expenses until revenue begins.

Start-up Costs

  • Market research, competitive analysis, branding, and product positioning require substantial time or consultant fees of around $5,000-$10,000.
  • Structuring your magazine as an LLC or corporation involves state registration/filing fees ($100-$800) and completing the requisite paperwork.
  • You may incur legal fees of up to $1,000 to engage a lawyer to review contracts and formalize company agreements.
  • Trademarking your magazine’s brand name costs $275-$500 through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Essential equipment like computers and editing software averages $3,000 upfront.
  • Additional budgets for website development ($5,000 basic WordPress site), branding/logo design ($500-$1,500), and photography/graphics ($1,000 per issue) should be allocated as well.
  • Renting small office space including utilities will be at least $1,000 per month.
  • Hiring writers ($150+ per article), editors ($55 per hour), designers ($65 per hour), and administrative staff ($35,000-$55,000 salary). You may also need a publication manager or managing editor to publish a magazine online or in print.
  • Printing 10,000 copies of a 100-page premiere issue costs around $16,000 through a digital magazine printer given current paper and ink pricing.
  • Distribution via mail/subscription boxes requires one-time fees per issue totaling upwards of $5,000. Purchase small quantities of branded merchandise for promotional events for $1,000.
  • All said, expect to secure $75,000-$125,000 to fully fund your magazine’s launch and operate for the first 6 months as you build an audience and advertising partnerships.

Ongoing Costs

  • Recurring fixed monthly expenses like rent ($1,000), shipping/postage ($2,500 per issue) equipment leases ($500), and software/technology subscriptions ($300).
  • Variable costs per issue average $25,000 covering writing, editing, photography, illustration, graphic design, printing, magazine management software, and distribution logistics.
  • With quarterly or monthly publication cycles, factor 4-12 issues annually costing upwards of $300,000.
  • Promotional events like trade shows and conferences cost $3,000-$10,000 to exhibit. Investing in advertising and PR around $4,000 per month diversifies acquisition channels.
  • Payroll expenses for 5-10 employees tally $250,000-$500,000 per year.
  • Reinvest net income into growing your team and content quality rather than taking profit in the first few years.
  • Pursue angel investment or small business loans to ensure adequate capitalization for the first 18-24 months.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When starting a magazine, selecting the appropriate legal entity impacts liability protection, taxes, and ease of formation. Weighing the pros and cons of each helps entrepreneurs pick the best fit. Popular options include:

Sole Proprietor

A sole proprietorship is simplest requiring no formal registration. However, the owner assumes unlimited personal liability for debts and legal actions against the magazine. Income and losses flow through to the owner’s tax return. While easy to establish, the risks outweigh the benefits as magazines grow.


A general partnership shares profits and losses among partner owners. The structure provides no liability protection as partners bear responsibility for each other’s actions. Partners report shares of income/losses on personal tax returns. This framework faces the same issues as a sole proprietorship on a larger scale.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Establishing a magazine as a limited liability company (LLC) offers personal asset protection while allowing pass-through tax status. LLCs limit personal liability to owner’s investments capping exposure if sued for debts, disasters, or publishing issues. Profits/losses pass to members’ returns avoiding corporate taxes.


A C corporation set up better suits large national publishers. The structure shields owners from corporate liabilities but profits face double taxation at the corporate rate and on dividends. Complex annual meeting/reporting rules also apply. Incorporation costs range from $100-$800 but require extensive record-keeping.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) serves as a magazine company’s social security number for tax purposes. The unique ID tracks your business income, payroll taxes, and other tax transactions.

All LLCs and corporations must obtain an EIN by applying online via the IRS. Sole proprietors can use their SSN but should still get an EIN. Signing up takes less than 15 minutes if you have personal identification details and your LLC certificate ready.

Follow these simple steps to get your magazine EIN:

  1. Verify eligibility: LLC structures qualify for an EIN
  2. Gather personal identification information
  3. Have your LLC certification materials available
  4. Visit the IRS EIN Assistant and click “Apply Online Now”
  5. Answer questions about your business structure and details
  6. Provide responsible party information
  7. Get your EIN assignment immediately

There is no cost to obtain this essential tax ID number. Once assigned, your EIN stays with your business entity permanently.

You should also formally register with your state to collect/remit sales tax and comply with local business statutes. Filing for sales tax permits costs $5 to $100 depending on the state.

Handling both federal EIN and state/local requirements upfront ensures you have the proper licenses before hiring employees or selling taxable goods and services. Paying penalties for lapsed permissions cuts into narrow magazine margins. Consult an accounting professional to establish compliant tax processes.

6. Setup Your Accounting

With tight margins and heavy upfront investments, meticulous financial tracking is imperative for magazine publishers. Whether hiring staff writers, contracting printers, hiring a marketing manager, or buying supplies, transactions must be properly recorded.


Accounting Software

Using small business accounting software like QuickBooks simplifies categorizing earnings and expenses, managing cash flows, tracking accounts receivable/payable, processing payroll, and reconciling statements. The platform can directly integrate with bank accounts and credit cards to automatically download transaction data.

Hire an Accountant

While the software does the heavy lifting in organizing finances, working with an accountant takes optimization further with value-added services like:

  • Bookkeeping – Recording transactions
  • Payroll – Handling monthly pay runs
  • Compliance – Filing quarterly taxes
  • Audits – Ensuring accurate reporting
  • Planning – Forecasting cash flow

Accountants charge around $200 per month for basic small business bookkeeping and reporting. Come tax season, expect fees from $800 to $2,500+ to maximize write-offs and properly document income depending on your entity structure. An accountant can save money long-term by avoiding IRS issues down the road.

Open a Business Bank Account

Maintaining separate business accounts prevents co-mingling finances which raises red flags. Declining advertising revenue or steep printing costs directly hit the bottom line of magazine operations. With everything compartmentalized into isolated accounts, your funds remain protected.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

A small business credit card also segments expenditures for simplified tracking tied to clear purposes. Payment terms tend to be more flexible for corporations than individuals as credit decisions focus on company financials.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Launching paper or digital magazines involves extensive pre-planning before officially opening for business. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

Common permits include:

A DBA filing formally declares your magazine’s brand beyond the registered legal name. Registering a “doing business as” name costs $10 to $50 depending on location making your title official.

Seeking copyright for your publication protects creative content from unauthorized use. Register claims for $45 per issue covering articles, images, and branding like logo design. Without official copyright, your pieces can be reprinted without permission or payment which erodes potential licensing opportunities.

Your state may require specific business licenses for publishing companies charging sales tax or conducting e-commerce. Common categories like retail or wholesale seller permits apply to newsstand distribution and branded merchandise. States levy penalties for non-compliance even if your oversight was innocent. Verify requirements.

Magazines selling alcohol or tobacco advertising must obtain ATF approvals. Issues with age-restricted products can prompt restrictions or disciplinary actions if advertisers lack proper permitting themselves. Don’t risk violations.

Seeking guidance from legal professionals or the SBA helps publishers identify permits involving their state. Verifying if municipal licenses are needed within cities adds another layer. Staying atop changing local ordinances provides necessary wiggle room as operations scale.

8. Get Business Insurance

Business insurance shields magazine enterprises from unexpected liabilities that could devastate thinly margined operations. Policies cover expenses related to property damage, employee injuries, copyright infringement allegations, and other scenarios. Without adequate coverage, minor incidents translate to major bills or lawsuits draining financial reserves.

Consider if a disgruntled writer’s plagiarism accusations prompt lengthy copyright litigation or if storm flooding destroys your rented office space and equipment. Or imagine a workplace injury leaves an editor unable to work for months.

Lacking insurance, legal fees, rebuilding costs, and lost business income from those nightmares must be self-funded. But comprehensive policies transfer risk so you focus on recovery, not bankruptcy.

Securing coverage involves:

  1. Research policy options – general liability, property damage, business interruption, errors and omissions, etc. through business insurance marketplaces like CoverWallet
  2. Inventory assets and quantify risks calculating ideal coverage levels
  3. Get multiple quotes tailoring bundled plans from highly rated providers
  4. Select a provider offering the right balance of premiums costs to coverage limits
  5. Complete the insurer’s small business underwriting process
  6. Make recurring premium payments annually or monthly

Expect costs between $500 to $5,000+ per year depending on revenue size and policy scopes like geographic radius, legal limits, specialty add-ons, and deductible levels.

Working with an independent insurance broker streamlines getting quotes tuned to your business model and risk factors. Overpaying for unused benefits or minimal policy gaps herald catastrophe. An hour of preventative planning stewards success.

9. Create an Office Space

An office provides magazine teams with a centralized hub to handle editing, design, advertising coordination, and subscriber management. Writers can collaborate in person versus email tagging documents back and forth for seamless content workflows. Face-to-face strategy meetings yield better decisions than virtual calls. A space also conveys legitimacy to advertisers touring operations.

Coworking Office

Coworking spaces like WeWork supply everything from private offices to common desks on flexible terms for $300 to $800 monthly. The communal environment enables networking opportunities to attract talent or source partners. Most coworking locations offer meeting rooms, events, office supplies, equipment rental, and admin support.

Commercial Office

Seeking traditional office leases provides enduring roots and full control of customizing layouts. Expect commercial rates from $20-$40 per square foot in most cities including operating expenses and taxes. Five-year commitments help secure ideal spaces in popular business centers that impress clients.

10. Source Your Equipment

Launching a magazine requires a technology infrastructure for content creation, design, advertising, subscriber management, and distribution coordination. While printing physical issues necessitates heavy investments, online-only models have lower barriers to entry. Review Must-have gear across operational categories.

Buy New

Computer workstations constitute the core writing and editing tools. New iMacs, PC towers, or laptops with ample processing power, storage, and memory cost $800 from retailers like Best Buy. Publishers can slash 50% off list pricing on eBay and Facebook Marketplace sourcing gently used equipment for around $300 per machine.

Go Digital

Digital subscriptions and advertising sales require minimal physical infrastructure. Print magazines need far more equipment for production and distribution. Industrial printers using tons of paper and pallets of ink run over $100,000. Most publishers outsource printing tasks via vendors able to produce issues for $16,000. Consider contracting design too rather than buying typesetting machines outright.

Buy Used

For computers, printers, office equipment, and more, you can seek second-hand equipment through online markets. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are a great place to start. Local garage sales and auctions are also great places to snag deals.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Crafting a distinctive brand identity makes an emerging publication memorable amid crowded marketplace noise. Beyond a creative logo and tagline, publishers must assemble critical marketing collateral speeding audience acquisition and revenue growth.


Get a Business Phone Number

Acquiring a personalized business phone line conveys professionalism to prospective advertisers and subscribers versus using personal cell numbers. Web-based services like RingCentral provide call routing, voicemail transcriptions, multiple extensions, and more for $30 per month. Securing a memorable vanity line with a custom greeting sets the tone for every caller interaction.

Design a Logo

A thoughtfully designed logo synthesizes visual and emotional connections to your magazine. Playful or elegant fonts, symbolic colors and graphical elements like illustrations work together cementing first impressions. Online logo makers like Looka build options from $20 fitting defined aesthetic briefs. Locking in logo use rights prevents replication.

Print Business Cards

Business cards serve as versatile advertisements when meeting potential partners, building relationships at conferences, or corresponding with sources. Cards typically cost under $20 for 500 premium cards from printers like Vistaprint. Share them freely to expand visibility.

Buy a Domain Name

Claiming your magazine’s name directly as a dot com domain improves findability and breeds authority with readers. Domain registrars like Namecheap provide email services, hosting, and SSL certificates to power sites for less than $50 annually. Secure available domains even those lacking immediate plans to develop a full web presence. The investment retains future flexibility.

Design a Website

Once equipped with a domain, publishers can choose to build sites themselves via user-friendly drag-and-drop platforms like Wix for free removing code barriers, or hire a graphic designer or web developer from marketplaces like Fiverr for bespoke designs around $500. You can also hire freelancers to write articles for the website or the magazine.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Beyond perfecting the editorial voice, design aesthetic, and operational cadence of your new magazine, networking with fellow industry insiders unlocks invaluable advice for navigating common pitfalls. Local groups build supportive communities sharing hard-earned lessons while national associations provide critical resources.

Local Associations

Every state has an official American Society of Magazine Editors chapter focused on regional issues. Join the nonprofit swaying legislators on policy matters like sales tax laws impacting publications. Attend quarterly events putting faces to industry allies nearby.

Local Meetups

Search sites like Meetup to discover informal local networks for publishers, writers, and designers collaborating across titles. Casual monthly happy hours promote organic relationship-building in lower-pressure social settings. Having hometown contacts helps fill unexpected talent needs faster through trust already established.

Specialty groups like the Association of Women in Publishing offer tailored programming and job boards relevant to marginalized communities. Feel welcomed while benefiting from niche support channels.

Facebook Groups

Facebook is a great untapped and free resource for graphic designers, freelance writers, and magazine startups. Join groups like Self Publishers Publishers Advertising Club and Books & Publishers to get started. Discover how other niche publications creatively monetize readers. Access crowdsourced solutions for printer dilemmas.

13. How to Market a Magazine Business

Implementing multifaceted campaigns expands subscriber reach and retains loyal readers. Leveraging both digital and traditional channels suits diverse demographics sustaining competitive relevance.

Referral Marketing

Readers and advertisers won’t automatically discover new titles through serendipity. Publishers must actively listen to target audience needs and then connect magazine benefits clearly to imprint stickiness.

Satisfied subscribers organically endorse brands sharing content and gift subscriptions. Encourage sharing via referral promotions awarding free issues for every new signup. Insert referral cards into print editions making participation easier.

Digital Marketing

Digital options abound for finding and engaging modern audiences:

  • Run Google/Facebook paid ads micro-targeting niche readership demographics with special offer landing pages
  • Post video trailers on YouTube previewing upcoming issues to generate intrigue
  • Write contributor roundup articles showcasing diverse writer perspectives
  • Promote giveaways and surveys across all social media accounts
  • Publish weekly blogs highlighting featured pieces sending traffic to the latest issue
  • Email promotional excerpts driving conversions for online purchases
  • List events and subscription deals on community calendars

Traditional Marketing

Traditional channels also help cement local notoriety:

  • Distribute first-edition copies for free via local retailers like bookstores and cafes
  • Place radio/podcast sponsor messages right before airing aligned podcast episodes
  • Print flyers with QR signup codes posted across college campuses
  • Hand out postcards at industry trade shows, concerts, and cultural events
  • Run sponsorship announcements at nonprofit gala events attended by target donors

A blended outreach approach allows testing resonating mediums and messages for the highest returning readership and conversions. Analyze campaign reporting insights to double down on what moves the revenue needle.

14. Focus on the Customer

Delivering exceptional subscriber experiences cements reader loyalty over years not just single issues. Though producing brilliant content seems the main competitive edge, customer service missteps erode hard-won audiences.

Attentive publishers personally respond to questions about print delivery problems or digital login issues within 24 hours. They offer courteous refunds for damaged issues through no fault of readers. Proactively surveying subscribers identifies areas for fulfillment improvements rather than waiting for complaints.

Readers feel respected when publishers care about optimizing their enjoyment. They reciprocate by spreading positive word-of-mouth and writing online reviews. Referrals from pleased subscribers become the best marketing source for magazines enabling sustainable growth.

focus groups provide candid qualitative feedback about cover designs, section priorities, or themes to double down on. Implementing reader suggestions into future issues shows customers their input matters. They become invested in the magazine’s continued success.

Major publishing houses with a spectrum of titles cannot provide such tailored support to each niche readership. However independent publishers targeting specific demographics build bonds through meaningful interactions and transparency around plans.

While monetizing through advertising and branded collaborations makes sense, without an audience to expose such partnerships to, the magazine becomes irrelevant. Satisfying the informational or entertainment needs of target readers must take priority to earn repeat business.

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