School magazines provide practical publishing and editing experience for some students, a creative outlet for others and may even be a way to generate some extra money. If you have a pool of talented students eager for a way to prove their skills and at least one faculty member willing and able to guide them, it can be fun and educational to start your own school magazine. If your first issues are a financial and popular success, a new school magazine is a great legacy to leave to future students.
- Skill level:
Choose a faculty adviser who is willing to put in the extra time to guide staff members to the successful creation of your magazine. This adviser ideally will have had experience in the real world of journalism. Most schools turn to English or communications teachers for this position.
Decide what the publication schedule will be: monthly, quarterly, and twice per year are the most common choices. Take into consideration costs for printing and the likely popularity of your magazine. If you're not sure, choose an infrequent schedule (quarterly or twice per year). You can always change the frequency later.
Choose a printer for the magazine, or arrange to use school equipment. It may be cheaper to use a local print shop, and outsourcing your printing generally results in a more professional looking magazine. Don't put this decision off, as your choice will influence many production details like length of magazine and whether to print in full-colour or not.
Determine which staff positions need to be filled, and who is to fill them. The most common positions are editor (who works with getting content to fill the magazine), publisher (who organises the actual production of the magazine from typesetting to distribution), photographer(s), reporter(s) and at least one distributor or circulation manager. If ads will be run in the magazine, an advertising sales manager position should also be created.
Once all the people are in place, create the magazine's look: its cover design, masthead, and table of contents. Decide how many pages you want to fill (get quotes from outside printers before you finalise this decision). Do some investigative work on the cover. If you want your magazine to be more like a literary journal, a title and some artwork are enough for the cover. Magazines that cover other things like news should be designed more like news-stand publications, with titles of interior pieces printed on the front.
Decide whether you are going to distribute your magazine for free or charge for it. If you plan to sell advertising in your magazine, it's generally wiser to distribute it for free, as that guarantees you have good circulation, which generates more advertising income.
Put together your first columns, features, artwork and photography. Use a good print program like Adobe In Design or Microsoft Publisher to create the first mockup of your magazine. You'll quickly start to see where you have too much story, or too much art. Give yourself plenty of time to work with this, and be ready for the publisher or publishing staff to need a tutorial or class in using their print program; they can have a steep learning curve.
If you're going to sell advertising, try to reserve about 25 to 50 per cent of each page, on average, for the ads. Put together some ads for non-profit and public-service announcements that you can use to fill in holes in your magazine.
If you're going to sell advertising, do this at the same time you're working on your first magazine edition. In regular papers, ads are sold as 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and full page sizes, with different pricing for each. Figure out what you want to sell your ad space for. If you need guidance, call your local newspaper and ask the advertising staff to help you out. They will have plenty of advice for you.
Sell ads to companies that generally do business with your school, to parents of students, and to businesses that are near your school and where students often congregate. Gaming stores, teen clothing stores and fast food restaurants may be good targets. Don't forget that parents often read school magazines, and make that an advertising selling point.
Handled well, selling ad space in your school magazine can not only pay for the magazine but also become a great fundraiser for your class or school.
When you are happy with the design and content of your magazine, print the first issue. Free magazines will have a larger circulation. If you're selling your magazines, assign someone on your staff to survey a random number of students to see who will buy it at several different prices. Ask your math teacher to help you figure out which of those prices will get you the most profit, and how many magazines you should print.
Distribute your printed magazines. Free magazines can go anywhere, even to teachers to distribute to class. Paid magazines need to be more controlled. Many students sell these from the school office, or set up stands in the hallway to sell the magazine before and after school and during class breaks.
Finally, assess your results. You need to see what should be changed before you put out your next issue. Look at how many magazines you actually sold, whether you are making a profit, and how well your advertising, if any, performed. Distribute a survey to students who read the magazine and see what they'd like to see more or less of in the next issue. Have a staff meeting with your new data to determine what you need to do next.
Tips and warnings
- Pre-paid advertising can provide you with a great start-up fund for your magazine's printing costs. Give advertisers a discount for paying up front.
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