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How to Start a Free Community Magazine
Magazines are available on international, national, state and local levels, both online and in print. They can cover a wide range of content and target various readers, depending on their content. Large and small communities use magazines on a local level to help residents and businesses stay updated on area news and events. If you have experience in the publishing or journalism industries, and are passionate about keeping your community members connected, you can start a free community magazine.
Determine the target market for your community publication to get its focus. Your free community magazine can offer parenting advice, provide news and information to local businesses or function as a general publication that covers a variety of news and information the majority of your community can benefit from reading. Decide whether you want to publish it monthly or quarterly.
Attend community and professional and networking association meetings to find out what types of information people would like to read in a community magazine. You can introduce your idea to these groups and organizations, and ask them to email, call or leave their suggestions in a drop box. When you introduce your idea, you can also encourage individuals who may want to write articles, share artwork or advertise in the community newsletter to provide you with their interests and contact information.
Sort through the suggestions you received from residents and business owners to develop the various sections of your community magazine. Besides the main news section, some sections may include "Parents' Corner," "Small Business Beat," "Around the Neighborhood," "Kitchen Shuffle" or "Eventful Happenings." Develop at least five to seven sections based on the feedback you received, and keep the magazine at eight to 20 pages.
Develop a name for your community magazine and register your magazine as a legal entity with your taxation office. Secure a website domain which mirrors the name of your magazine, and sign up for a hosting plan.
Approach a graphic designer to design the cover and layout for your magazine. Find out if the designer will offer his services for free in exchange for advertising space in your magazine. Offer to distribute his business cards to the business owners you meet with to discuss the magazine. Alternatively, you can find a designer by posting a position for an unpaid graphic design intern with local colleges or on community boards.
Create a mock-up of your magazine so that you can show it to local businesses who may want to provide sponsorships, purchase advertising or carry the free community magazine at their business locations. Create an editorial calendar so you can show them when the magazine gets published and distributed and the advertising rates, schedule and options.
Use the money you make for advertising placements to help pay for printing and production costs. Find a local printer who is willing to sponsor printing, provided you let him advertise in the magazine and on the website, or see if a community printer will give you a printing discount.
Contact the individuals who expressed interest in writing or creating art for the community magazine, and ask them to submit samples of their work, then provide selected contributors with their publication deadlines. Give them a copy of the mock-up of your magazine and your editorial calendar to give them an idea of what you're looking for. Offer contributors bylines and a three-sentence bio for their work until the magazine generates enough profit to pay for submissions.
Print at least 100 magazines for your first run, then increase as you go along, if you see the readership picking up. Remind residents they can download a copy of the free community magazine online. Distribute your community magazine to at least five businesses that residents frequent, such as the supermarket, doctor's office, a church or school and a community or business center.
Include a downloadable version of the community magazine on your website.
Miranda Brookins is a marketing professional who has over seven years of experience in copywriting, direct-response and Web marketing, publications management and business communications. She has a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Towson University and is working on a master's degree in publications design at University of Baltimore.