Last November, blogger Scott Karp described newcomer and its Web/print hybrid magazine JPG as "the next generation of publishing…stripped of all the hype and dopey buzzwords."
Targeted toward digital photography enthusiasts, JPG originally launched in 2004 as a print-on-demand side project of Paul Cloutier and husband and wife team Derek Powazek and Heather Powazek Champ. All three were publishing veterans, with Powazek and Cloutier doing stints at Wired and Thresher respectively, primarily on the Web side. "We had seen how little magazines were taking advantage of the Web," says Cloutier, who serves as co-publisher. "They just didn’t get it. On the other hand, we kept hearing about how this was the end of print except we all still had subscriptions to print magazines."
JPG is comprised of three parts: The print magazine, the Web site and a community of digital photography enthusiasts. The magazine originally was printed through self-publishing service Lulu, and followed the standard editorial model of editors dictating content to readers. "During that process we realized we had a much bigger opportunity to empower the community to make the magazine with us," says editor and co-publisher Powazek.
The audience can sign up at jpgmag.com to upload photos to the Web site and vote on other submitted photos to narrow the field. The best photos are selected for publication in the magazine by JPG editors. That enables each medium to do what it does best: "We get all the interactivity of the Internet with the beauty and exclusivity of print," says Powazek.
The buzz around JPG drew the attention of private equity firm Minor Ventures, founded by CNET creator Halsey Minor, which gave the enterprise "a couple million dollars" in funding. "That really allowed us to take the next step," says Cloutier. "As cheap as it was, it was still absurdly expensive to create the magazine."
Minor Ventures gave 8020 the funding but its community gave it the buzz. "It allowed us to make a splash, so when we were ready to launch the print magazine, it wasn’t like we were starting from scratch," says Cloutier. "We had hundreds of thousands of page views a month and we could start talking to advertisers without the usual, ﾑYou’re a startup, where is your audience?’ It’s less about how much circulation we have and more about how this model works. We’ve got a lot more interest from advertisers than if we were just another print magazine."
In 2006, JPG re-launched as a traditional offset-printed, six-times-per-year magazine with retail distribution. The first print run was about 20,000 copies, while the Web site drew 1.5 million page views in the first month after the re-launch. For each issue, photographers submit photos based on a theme. "It’s half-wisdom of crowd, half-editorial, and we think it leads to a photo magazine that’s much more real;it’s made by people who are doing it, not by a snob deciding what’s best," says Powazek.
Advertisers needed to be part of the community as well. "The idea that we’re trying to create is participation: How can advertisers participate beyond just putting up messages that say, ﾑBuy our stuff,’" says Cloutier. JPG sells traditional full page ads for about $1,200, but it also sells "sponsored themes" for about $20,000. For one issue, the theme was "big." For an upcoming issue the theme is "tourists." In a recent issue, a lens manufacturer sponsored a theme called "Embrace the Blur" and the audience submitted just shy of 7,000 photos.
At presstime, JPG had 1,200 subscribers after only a few weeks of selling subscriptions. "We get a lot of people who say, ﾑI would have never subscribed but I downloaded the PDF and it rocks. I want it to show up in my mailbox six times per year,’" says Powazek. "The day we put a copy of the magazine online for free was the day subscriptions doubled."
While 8020 has posted nominal revenues for 2006, Cloutier says the company should become profitable within the next two issues of JPG and is projecting $2.5 million in revenue by the end of 2007. In the spring, 8020 will start development of it next community-based Web/print hybrid, focused on travel. Says Cloutier, "The travel industry is based on such a select group of people talking about it when in reality so many different people have been there and have something valuable to say."
Leverage Your Audience
If you’re good, your audience will care about your magazine and if they care, they will have a sense of ownership. Turn that sense of ownership into content and word-of-mouth.
Find a Purpose for Your Media
Print is not dead but for some publishers it’s starting to take on a new role. Determine whether your print magazine is still the primary outlet, or a support channel.