When Todd Romer was 16 he began investing in the stock market. As he began to see the power of his investments, he wondered why his teenage friends weren’t doing the same. By 1999, when the Internet was booming and young entrepreneurs were popping up everywhere, Romer, then 31, decided there was a market for an investment magazine for young adults.
Young Money first emerged as a bimonthly for the high school market. Romer teamed up with Junior Achievement, an international organization that offers programs to help students better prepare for real world experiences, to distribute the magazine to 30,000 high school students.
Romer used his own personal capital he had earned from market investments to fund the launch, which cost well over $150,000. "My biggest concern at that time was getting our idea in front of national advertisers," says Romer. "We knew the market was a viable market that a lot of advertisers were interested in, but it was a matter of how long we could prove ourselves without running out of cash."
Four advertisers came on board for the launch issue of the magazine, including big names like Toyota and Capital One. The contracts were obtained by a two-person staff. "We were wearing quite a number of hats," says Romer. "Our problem was that we launched the magazine in late 1999 and only six months later, the dot-com world crashed, so it was not a good time to raise capital."
A New Target
After three years, Romer learned that the high school market was not the most viable for Young Money content. He sold the magazine to the InCharge Education Foundation in 2002 and took on the role of executive director. The magazine relaunched and raised its circulation to 300,000, targeting college students nationwide. The magazine began to be distributed as a special-issue insert in college newspapers. "We’re taking what Money did 30 years ago for the adult market and doing something very similar," says Romer.
The magazine pays anywhere from $400 to $1,000 per insert based upon the size of the school, and is currently distributed in 35 colleges and universities nationwide. It also has about 2,500 paid subscribers, who stay in contact via the Web site. "We are still striving toward our original goals," says Romer. "We have a distribution that we see growing about 10 to 15 percent per year. We have over 150,000 visitors to our Web site per month now, and that’s continuing to grow."
Schools contact Young Money weekly to get the magazine on their campuses. The magazine will reach as many as 20 additional schools in 2007. To reduce costs, Romer is looking into new distribution options for next year, including career centers, direct to school-of-business and the magazine’s first retail sales push: Selling Young Money in college bookstores.
The magazine finally reached profitability in 2006, and Romer projects revenue for 2007 to reach about $1 million. Current projects include a Web site relaunch and the expansion of the magazine’s live-events program, Young Money Live. Currently, the Young Money team visits sixteen campuses across the country, promoting the magazine and gaining market feedback from students.
In 2004, a spin-off title, Military Money, launched to fill another market gap. The 200,000-circulation quarterly targets military families and is distributed through commissaries throughout the U.S. It has limited distribution overseas through a partnership with the Department of Defense.
Looking back, Romer says he would have launched the magazine as a quarterly rather than a bimonthly, to save on design and production costs. Still, demand for the magazine is the highest it’s ever been.
"Young adults today are dealing with more money-related issues than any other generation before," says Romer. "What we did right was to continue to be passionate and excited about our brand because we knew the market would be accepting and it’s starting to show that now."
Launching as a quarterly instead of monthly or bimonthly will allow you to save on staff, production and marketing costs.
Hit the Web
Having an established accompanying Web site before you launch in print is key. If a potential reader or advertiser hears about or sees your magazine, that is the first place they will go for information.
Although Young Money’s events program is modest, the magazine uses it as a way to get face time with its audience, promote advertisers’ products and promote the brand to potential readers.