Newspaper publishing: a good way to lose money

… I would like to open a newspaper. I know that now this is a very profitable business, otherwise there would not be so many newspapers and magazines. What can you advise here?”
From a letter

There are already several letters in my mail on this subject. Therefore, I decided to answer in more detail, especially since I am familiar with the newspaper area firsthand. I immediately warn you that I express only my personal opinion, which can be overly biased, erroneous and distorting reality.

as you know, in the public mind the status of the publisher or editor of a newspaper (magazine) is immeasurably higher than, say, the owner of a shop or restaurant. Perhaps that is why so many people want to become representatives of the “fourth estate”, and the number of newspapers and magazines will soon approach the number of readers.

Who usually comes up with the original idea to publish their own newspaper?

1. You are a professional journalist

And it is clear that you are extremely attracted to the opportunity to do what you consider it necessary to do, and not the owners of the publication, not the editor-in-chief, not your immediate supervisor.
There is only one way to achieve such creative freedom: to become the chief editor yourself, and even better – at the same time the owner of your own publication.

2. You are an advertiser

People involved in advertising in the media are gradually starting to look at the same newspaper no longer as a mass medium, but as a large number of empty pages that can be filled from top to bottom with advertising. Money for air, money in exchange for cheap paper – isn’t that a wonderful business?

3. You are an entrepreneur

You have been paying money for advertising your company, your products and services for years. And one day an insight comes to you: why give your money to some foreign newspaper when you can make your own newspaper and place all the necessary advertising for free, and even in any volume, and also take money from other entrepreneurs?

For example:
You are in real estate. It is quite logical to think about the release of a specialized publication on the purchase, sale and rental of real estate.
You have an advertising agency. So why not open a purely advertising newspaper, some kind of “Business Courier”? And now keep all the advertising money for yourself, and not share it with advertising media.
You have a recruitment agency. If you had your own newspaper, it would be possible to place paid advertisements in it on the offer and job search.
You are the owner of a chain of pet stores. Who is stopping you from becoming a publisher of a specialized newspaper at the same time (“Four Paws”, “Dog and Cat”, “Our Furry Friends”, “Children in a Cage”)?

4. You are a Big Businessman

As soon as an entrepreneur rises above a certain level – in terms of income, business or political rating – he almost always has an irresistible desire to become a media mogul. Having your own TV channel, your own newspaper or magazine is, firstly, prestigious, and secondly, you can “influence” through them. What exactly this “influence” will look like, the future Rupert Murdochs are extremely vague.
This desire is enthusiastically supported by close journalists – “The newspaper is simply doomed to success!” – who hope to get money for at least six months of work. As a rule, they have their own vision of the future publication and it rarely coincides with the vision of the investor.


Nine out of ten publishing ventures end in losses. Their size depends on the size of the initial capital, the ambitions of the initiators and their financial capabilities. If investors get tired of maintaining a loss-making media six months after the launch, the losses are less; if out of stubbornness they hold out for a year or two, then the losses, respectively, increase.

How to avoid losing money?

Very simple: do not publish a newspaper unless absolutely necessary. And before you rejoice at the opportunities that await you as the owner or editor-in-chief of the newspaper, you should scrupulously calculate the cons and potential losses.

First, it must be taken into account that the sale of an edition (even if it is completely sold out) at best covers only the production costs. Rare exceptions do not count, they do not make the weather. To make a profit, you need to have advertising.
There aren’t enough advertisers for everyone. For obvious reasons, they come to the most popular and well-known publications with a large audience.

If you are an optimistic believer in an influx of advertisers, then ask yourself: where will you send your ad yourself – to a well-known newspaper with a large circulation or to a publication that you have not heard anything about before? Will you risk your own (not someone else’s!) money? Of course, you can attract customers with low prices, but low prices mean low incomes.
And it takes time for your publication to become known. With luck and an accurate marketing hit – at least six months, a year and a half – optimally. And all this time you will have to publish a newspaper at a loss, and even invest in advertising to promote it (this is an indispensable condition: in order to get money for advertising, you must first give it to advertising).

Of course, if you have an annual margin of financial strength (that is, money to pay for paper, printing services, journalists, editors, typesetters, designers, staff distributors, etc.), then you can try. Of course, without a guarantee of a positive result.

Secondly, the publication of the media is an extremely time-consuming task. You will find the most difficult work to create from scratch the original, unlike other publications. And this includes the development of the general concept of the newspaper, design, marketing strategy, the choice of a printing house, the establishment of a production cycle, indispensable jobs on the day the newspaper is delivered (it’s good if the newspaper is weekly, not daily).
You will have to manage the so-called “creative people” – that is, individuals, by definition, little disciplined and optional, in order to achieve timely delivery of materials and news.
You will need to create a distribution network, that is, to convince the owners of newsstands and free distributors to sell your newspaper – in addition to those tens and hundreds of publications that are already on the shelves. And they do not want to get involved with the new newspaper at all, because it is not clear whether buyers will take it.

Okay, let’s say you don’t have a particular need to make money from sales. Let’s assume that you have enough advertisers (or you have filled it with advertising from your own company) and you are ready to give it away for free.

Giving away for free is a big deal. Imagine for a moment what it’s like to give away even 5,000 copies. And you need to organize mailing and distribution through couriers (both mail and couriers also have to pay) tens of thousands of copies. Couriers are generally a special issue. Instead of kicking their ass by running to hundreds of addresses, they tend to leave 30-50 copies in one place. Until you debug this direction, you will not have any confidence that part of the circulation is not thrown into the nearest dustbin from the editorial office.

Move on. It is necessary to find full-time and freelance advertising agents. But good agents are worth their weight in gold, besides, they prefer to work with promoted publications. They pay more there, and it’s easier to convince advertisers.

Are you ready to independently negotiate with large advertisers? The difficulty of this work can be easily imagined if you are an experienced entrepreneur, which means that you have already encountered advertising agents, letters and requests to place your ad in one publication or another.
What was your usual reaction? – Most likely: “Tired!”
Now it’s your turn to annoy and (not) resent potential advertisers’ aggressive reluctance to meet with you and your employees.

In a word, if we compare the efforts required to publish a newspaper (I mean a real, full-fledged publication, and not a primitive collection of advertising modules that are of little interest to anyone, and this niche has long been occupied), with work in other business areas, then You will earn twice as much for the same amount of work.

Thirdly, if you don’t want to deal with the publication of a newspaper yourself, but decide to limit yourself to the role of an investor and owner, then tune in to the fact that the return on your money (and it will take much more than you think) will be very slow – so that the hired person does not promise you editor.
He did not deceive you, just most often he is a person who is far from real business. He looks at the newspaper from one side of the barricade – from the side of the writer. And making newspaper materials and making a newspaper are very different things.

It requires the qualities of not only a journalist, but also a marketer, manager, organizer – preferably in one person – who can ensure the release of a newspaper, and the uninterrupted work of the editorial team, and the sale of the issue, and attracting advertisers.

It is certainly possible to find such a person, but it is just as difficult as finding a talented manager for a trading or manufacturing company.

Fourthly, if you are a Big Man and you really want to influence public opinion, then maybe it is more expedient to pay well-known, promoted media for the necessary PR materials? Or, if you have a lot of money, buy an already working and profitable publication?

Yes, but there are successful publications, right? Certainly. Some of them have existed for a long time, since Soviet times. And this is the established audience, accustomed to the promoted brand, and, accordingly, advertisers.
Others had the necessary margin of safety and calmly, sometimes for two or three years, worked at a loss, gradually gaining a place in the market.
And there are publications whose owners have pre-arranged that their publishing business will always be unprofitable. They need a newspaper or magazine for political or representative purposes. They run a newspaper like others run a stable or a football club.

And, of course, from time to time there is a lucky hit, when a new publication in a relatively short time reaches a profit.

Yeah, so it’s not all hopeless, is it? So you can try?

Can. And you will be lucky too – on one condition: if a highly professional manager who is well-connected in advertising circles takes up the newspaper, and who, relying on serious financial support, together with a highly professional team, will create a competitive concept for the new edition and find an unoccupied niche.

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