How to Make a Magazine: 6 Essential Steps

A magazine has to capture something: an industry, a lifestyle, a focal point in time, an audience, or a discipline.

This doesn’t come about by accident. It takes painstaking research and intricate design work to even get to a position to think about putting pen to paper.

The process of creating a magazine is more than a rote learned system input into a form, but you can still give actionable and concrete advice on how to find that ephemeral blend of form and function.

It might sound daunting, but there’s a willing and active market looking for small or niche magazines dotted across the globe. Put in the effort, work smart, and it’s a very rewarding endeavour.

Focus on voice

We’ve mentioned that a magazine has to represent something. In order to do that, you need two things: a voice and an audience in mind.

Develop a voice that gels with your target market. A fashion magazine should evoke elegance and beauty, but if it’s alternative fashion you might be better off pushing independence and a more grungy by-line.

By the same token, a magazine focusing on the elderly will have a completely different voice and style to one reaching a market for kids.

Know your audience

Once you have your voice and your intended audience, it’s time to fine-tune it. You should have the wide basics of it at this point (EG: I am a car repair magazine, so I will have an authoritative voice that emphasizes the love of machines and the dedication to craft), but now you’ll need to know the audience everyman.

It’s not enough to have the basics; you need to know where not to misstep, what are the indicators of your in-group, and what marks your product as something that they want to consume.

If you’re marketing to book readers, it might not be a good idea to make too many references to extroverted activities or nightclubs. Sure, there’s plenty of people who do that, but you’ll be alienating anybody who doesn’t for very little gain among those who do; stick to what they like as a whole unless you’re going for an extreme niche.

Font is more important than you give it credit for

Typography is everything. It’s your logo, your header, your quotes, your headline, and your content. A typeface on a page is just as important as an image, and finding a great font and style with that font is ultra-important to the establishment of your magazine.

Even within the world of typography, certain fonts are known for their use amongst different characters and audiences, even within extremely niche communities. Within communities of tech users, it’s quite common to use Segoe UI or Roboto, for example.

Spend some time thinking about it, or at least ask around on a community that knows its thing. There’s plenty of free help a quick google, pinterest, or reddit search away.

Content is key

We’ve focused a lot on trappings and side things that are vital, but ultimately you also need stellar content. Remember that your issue #1 will be your only time to debut, and that later visitors will quite often start with a backlog (if accessible).

Nail your words and only accept the best. Generally speaking, you’re going to want to be an authoritative voice on the subject. If you don’t have consistent quality, readers will look elsewhere, especially with the internet enabling readers to access content from communities across the globe.

Learn to be every role

Unless you’re coming to it with a large team of 20+ people, you’re going to have to dip into other roles when creating a magazine. Copywriters and journalists may have to edit for others, file paperwork, or run errands. Magazine creation is a demanding thing indeed, and being flexible enough that you can run with a few cogs missing without it all crashing down is an utterly vital capability to have.

Vary the content

There’s a reason magazines have columns, letters to the editor, and various different segments. Without them, you’re going to be reading a newspaper (and even they have the funny pages).

Chuck in some various associated content, even if you’re going to be largely article focused. It helps break up the pace for the reader, and gives them points to take breaks, both consciously and through easier reading.

Never underestimate the need for people to get to the end of your magazine. By and large, people will skip a few segments that don’t appeal to them and still feel their purchase has been validated, but if you fail to convince them to read the whole way through because it’s so dense, they might question their subscription.

There you have it

It can seem like a successful magazine contains an intangible mixture of content, style, voice and design, but when you isolate each element you should be able to pin down what your target audience will most appreciate. It’s worth doing your research first and making sure you have these six key elements covered.