Launching new magazines

Date of publication: June 15, 1993

Author: Michael Bird


The quest for a cheap and reliable method for developing and launching successful new products is probably futile. Indeed this paper proposes that for a firm to develop profitably it is not strictly necessary to be able to predict how well its new publishing concepts will perform in the future, ie The Crystal Ball. What we need instead is to seek practical ways of limiting the scale of losses when a new product gets into difficulties, ie. Risk Management. In this way, a publisher can afford many more launches with a better chance that some will be successes big enough to outweigh the short-lived failures. The chief cause of runaway losses when a new magazine or newspaper finds itself falling short of sales targets is that senior managers a) have not planned for any other scenario but success in the prelaunch phase and b) have not installed or implemented systems for detecting problems early and taking rapid corrective action after the launch. The researchers have the unenviable task of attempting to contribute to management decisions at all stages before, during and after the launch. That they will allocate adequate budgets for quantitative as well as qualitative reader surveys, and for rapid, accurate retail audits before and after the launch. That they will aim for continuity and consistency in monitoring all aspects of each launch, including measures that may not be under the control of researchers eg advertising page yields, unsold copies, merchandising activity, etc. If such a policy is conscientiously pursued, techniques may be acquired over the years that have increasingly reliable predictive powers. We may, with persistence and luck, find that the organization has brought together a collection of skills, applied to an invaluable historical database, that deserves to be called - despite blemishes and occasional cloudiness - a Crystal Rail.

Michael Bird


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