Categorized | tip sheet

Forget social marketing and new media, publish a MAGAZINE!!!!

Just when you thought old media was dead, Hewlett-Packard rolls out an on-demand magazine printing service that makes it possible to cheaply print small-run magazines. I’m talking four-color, full-bleed, decent weight glossy paper magazines as good as anything you see in a bookstore (provided you have a good designer) for TWENTY CENTS PER PAGE. A 40 page magazine would cost . . . eight dollars to print. Now, if you’re printing thousands of magazines, that’s a bummer. But if you’re printing 100 magazines ($800), then you’re literally saving thousands to tens of thousands of dollars over a sheet-fed or Web (press, that is) version. (Because, even though web and sheet-fed presses cost less per page — only a couple pennies — it costs an enormous amount to set the press up, so using a professional press only pays off with high-run print jobs).

There is no end to the possibilities. Even if you print up magazines chock-a-block with articles just to promote your product or company at a trade show, you have the ability to look like a big-time player for practically nothing (provided you know a good copywriter and a good designer willing to work for cheap). You can even start a trade magazine devoted to your company or vision and, for less than a print ad in a newspaper, give away a few hundred versions of the magazine. But you don’t need to print magazines: you can also print high quality brochures by the dozen, brochures that you could only afford if you printed hundreds. If you’re on the job market, add a “magazine” to your resume and cover letter — that will get you noticed.

The folks at Hewlett-Packard want to become the “YouTube of magazines.” What they’re going to become is the next wave of small business printing. Remember: most great products end up successful because they are used differently than originally intended. The Apple II was designed for small businesses, who didn’t give a damn, but shot to the top of the PC heap when large companies started snatching it up.

After the jump, I’ll explain the process.

MagCloud works like any other on-demand printer. You send a press-ready PDF of your magazine and they print it whenever there’s an order. For instance, if you want to print a magazine about, say, search engine optimization, you just get somebody (or somebodies) to write it, somebody else to design it, and you send the press-ready art to MagCloud. At this point, it costs you nothing outside of the writing and designing (which you can probably do for free or cheap).

If someone wants to buy your magazine, they have to order it through MagCloud (or they can order it through you but the order goes through MagCloud). The minimum price is twenty cents per page, but you can set any price higher than that.

But who says you have to play the game their way?

You could, of course, upload your artwork and then order 100 copies yourself to do with as you please. Have them in your office, distribute them to prospects, bring them to tradeshows (I’m big on guerilla marketing at trade shows). Instead of a magazine, you could submit artwork for a magazine-sized brochure or whatever. Same thing. Send the artwork. Order the number you want.

This seems, of course, dangerously retrograde in an era when newspapers are rapidly disappearing and magazines are next in line at the drain. But it really isn’t. New media is fine, but finely printed magazines offer something new media never can: a tangible sense of quality and “carryability.” A magazine offers the “anytime anywhere” interactivity that new media can never achieve, even with iPhones and Kindles. I mean, how many times over lunch have you whipped out your iPhone or Blackberry to give yourself something to read? Do you read your Kindle on the can?

But printing is not for the faint of heart. You need to be familiar with the whole science and art of printing, color management, readability, flow, magazine layout (do you know where the “hotspots” of a magazine are?), and how to prepare high resolution, four-color press-ready artwork. You also have to know how to write (most people think they know, but they don’t) and edit.

I can’t stress how important editing skills are. If your magazine is crammed with sloppy English, then no matter how well-designed or how well-printed, you look like an idiot (unless you’re pitching a skateboard or tattoo magazine, then your audience doesn’t care). If you see nothing wrong with this sentence, “Less people support that policy” or “If given the choice between taking the bus, the train, or the subway, I choose the latter,” then you’re probably going to have to bone up on your English before deciding to launch even a low-distribution magazine. (And if you want to know what’s wrong with those sentences, well, you’re just going to have to write to me and ask. So there.)

However, if you’re willing to bite the bullet and you have cheap access to writing and design talent (I, for instance, have access to really cheap, national award-winning writing and design talent with immense experience in magazine writing, editing, and design — cheap for me. that is, because I’m looking at it every time I shave), then the marketing possibilities are as infinite as they are for YouTube or social marketing.

Think about it. Sit down and imagine what you could do with a magazine to promote you or your company. But don’t forget to get some sleep tonight.

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