A print-focused launch aimed at bringing “national magazine standards” to local lifestyle coverage.
Gregory Hamilton, a 20-year magazine and digital publishing veteran and an Arlington, Virginia resident, had a pretty strong sense that his community—a highly educated, affluent population living in the Washington D.C. area—would welcome a high-quality, local-focused publication. Seeing the success of nearby Bethesda magazine, published by his friend and former boss Steve Hull, Hamilton believed that he and Hull could bring a similar model to Arlington. In talks with Hull, Hamilton ultimately decided to vet his hunch by launching an extensive research plan in September 2010, starting with a set of what he calls “gates”: First, a deep dive into census data to more specifically gauge demographics; second, a series of interviews with local businesses and residents to determine interest.
What he found was a “tremendous sense of community engagement,” coupled with strong demographics. When you get that combination, he says, “You have a winner on your hands.”
Hamilton raised funding with a combination of private equity and a line of credit from a local bank and created three-year projections based on best, base and worst-case scenarios. By June 2011, the business launched with a staff of five. This was the magazine’s first and biggest investment, Hamilton says: “We didn’t lose time recruiting people.”
The staff works with a network of local freelance writers and also plugs into Bethesda’s web design, customer service, advertising operations and art teams, the latter of which includes a new hire to help accommodate Arlington’s needs.
The first issue of the magazine followed in October, with the release of its November/December issue.
The bimonthly title distributes 25,000 copies to subscribers, newsstands, retail stores and prominent local places.
Hamilton says the first issue drew 50 advertisers and revenue that was 8 percent ahead of projections; the number of advertisers jumped to 69 for the second issue, with a revenue increase of 32 percent.
The website, so far, is mostly a marketing brochure, according to Hamilton, though that may shift to a more editorial approach in quarter two or three. “I think digital is critical and will play a big role going forward, but when you’re creating a business plan, you need to see what’s going to help you grow quickly, what’s a proven model. Ultimately, we saw that there is still high demand for print from readers and advertisers, especially at the local level.” As for tablets, he says, “There may be an opportunity to jump on that bandwagon when the economics makes sense. Right now, I’m not sure they do, but things change really fast.”
Progress So Far
The bimonthly title distributes 25,000 copies to subscribers, newsstands, retail stores and prominent local places with a cover price of $3.95 and a subscription rate of $19.95 for the year. The first issue drew 50 advertisers and revenue that was 8 percent ahead of projections; the number of advertisers jumped to 69 for the second issue, with a revenue increase of 32 percent.