Everybody loves a comeback story. Unfortunately, in magazine media these days, those are few and far between. But for Take magazine, its second chance is still in the making and it’s a story that should give hope to magazine publishers of any size.
If you haven’t heard of Take, that’s probably because it’s a very small regional niche publication nestled in western Massachusetts and dedicated to the arts and culture scene of New England. In 2015, our sister publication min recognized it at its Hottest Launches event that it’s collaborated on with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni for more than 20 years now. The quarterly has a circulation of only 10,000, and nearly half of those issues are going out through controlled circulation. But the size of Take is not material in its comeback story.
Niche magazines don’t rely on scale like many of the Big Four publishers. What they need is a dedicated audience, and advertising partners who believe they are reaching a highly qualified audience. Take had and still does have that, at least for the most part. What it didn’t have was enough cash to survive, or enough human capital to help it grow.
Founder and publisher, Michael Kusek, tells us that when he launched the magazine he had raised nearly $600,000, which was about 75% of what he felt he needed to make the business sustainable. But once he got the magazine up and running he ran into some unforeseen problems.
The most obvious challenge was raising the additional money he needed for the brand. That required hustle, which took Kusek’s attention off critical day-to-day details like selling advertising, and managing operations. Even worse, he timed the launch after his clients had already blown out their ad spend budgets for the year. As a result, debt began to pile up, and the operation was not getting the attention it needed. So in the summer of 2016, Kusek decided to halt print, despite having presold advertising, and focus on digital until he could regain his footing and strategize what to do with the brand. In this industry, pausing print is usually the beginning of the end, at least for the physical magazine.
Serendipitously, two weeks after he decided to put print on hold, Stacey Kors reached out to him. She had a deep background in publishing and had become a fan of the magazine. Over the course of several weeks the two met and talked and discussed what Take could be. And on Christmas Eve, the two made the partnership official. Kors’ cash infusion allowed Kusek to pay off outstanding debts and refocus on how to move the magazine forward.
Kors also implemented a new content strategy. That included a more aggressive digital push. Its website has digital-only features along with freemiums from the magazine. And just a year ago its website was attracting just 3,000 UVs a month, but it’s since grown nearly 22% month-over-month and is now reaching upwards of 35,000 monthly unique visitors. Not bad for a regional magazine whose focus is on arts and culture—talk about a niche within a niche.
More than that though, Kusek, and Kors (who also serves as editor-in-chief), staffed up. It hired a full-time salesperson, whose impact is very noticeable in its October/November reboot. It also hired a digital editor and an experienced managing editor to focus on producing its lush magazine, which retails for $6.95 and is available in boutiques around New England along with Barnes & Noble.
For now, it appears that the pieces are in place for growth. Not only is advertising revenue increasing, but it’s also growing its social following quickly (13k+ on Facebook and just under 4k on Instagram), which is driving more traffic and Kusek and Kors hope that will spur subscription conversions. Kusek also says that the magazine has actually sold more than 150 subscriptions in just the past few weeks and credits some of that to social. That may seem insignificant to a mass consumer title, but in the context of a magazine with its circ size, that is very healthy growth.
Take still has work to do, but Kusek and Kors want to continue to grow its content products, and then turn their eyes towards events and possibly even retail synergies with local artists and makers. While the future is still uncertain, Take illustrates that print can overcome the ever-increasing challenges it faces in today’s marketplace through passion, the right strategy and a quality product.