Blogonomics: Going Magazine

Fans of Paul Jackson’s Housing Wire website might have noticed his latest venture: Housing Wire magazine. Starting up a new trade magazine is an expensive proposition, and Jackson is spending a lot of money on this launch, getting a big mailing list, printing on expensive stock, putting a lot of effort into great design, that sort of thing. He’s even paying me to write a column for the first issue! But before that issue has even been written, it’s clear that the existing Housing Wire franchise gives Jackson a very strong headstart over anybody trying to launch a magazine from scratch.

Housing Wire gets a good 60,000 unique visitors each month, nearly all of whom are in one way or another mortgage-industry professionals. They know that Jackson is a genuinely independent voice, which is quite rare in the trade-publication industry. When they see the magazine they’ll recognize the kind of original reporting that the website does well; they’ll also see longer features which simply don’t work particularly well online. They won’t, on the other hand, see pages filled with articles penned for free by major advertisers. I wish the magazine well.

I also see a very interesting way here for a small minority of blogs to monetize their readership. A lot of advertisers, especially in the trade space, are still a bit unsure about online banner ads and whether/how they work. They know print ads, they already have print ads, and they like seeing something physical and glossy which has a much longer natural life than any banner ad. So when asked to advertise on the website, their first instinct is to say that they’d actually rather spend a bit more money and advertise in print instead, at least for the time being. Having a magazine allows Housing Wire to get those advertisers’ money, and it also makes Housing Wire the obvious first port of call if and when the advertisers decide to move into online advertising.

A magazine is a symbol of gravitas: it’s physical proof that Housing Wire is a serious publication, and it helps to dispel any lingering unpleasant odors associated with the idea of blogging. If you have a high-minded blog which appeals to a narrow trade niche, then starting a magazine could well be a bright idea. Especially since it allows you to carve out a new niche at the same time: you’ll probably be the only trade magazine in the space which puts up all of its content online for free. That’s a very easy decision for a blog-turned-mag to make, even if it still seems to be a very hard decision for print publications building out their web presence.

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