Saturday, March 19, 2011

Start-up Journal: You Need a Distribution Plan.

I WENT TO THE printer n New Jersey to pick up 10,000 copies of a 48-page magazine on 60 pound stock paper. And when the dude above tried to set the palette on the bed of my step-father's flat bed truck, it nearly blew the shocks on the Chevy S10.

I had to make two trips with around 5,000 copies of JUMP each time. Even then, the truck was dragging and I thought it might blow out the tires.

Then, I had to figure out where to put the 10,000 magazines. My plan was to distribute around 5,000 copies during week one. Then, a month later, we would deliver the rest after seeing what distribution points were most effective.

But holy cow! Those 10,000 magazines take up a lot of room! I put around 7,000 in my shed (leaving us barely able to take out our bikes) and another 2,000 at my school office. I delivered 1,000 immediately.

One week later, the shed is much more manageable. We've delivered around 7,500 magazine in eight days.

What did I learn in this process?

• We need a place to store stuff. And we need a way to transport the mags. If might even be wise to rent a truck for two days. That way, we have temporary storage until we can canvas the city with mags.

• I had ideas of hand delivering mags to people, and then begin conversations about advertising in future issues. But I've been hustling just to get rid of mags that I have only spoken to a handful of decision-makers at businesses. I just don't have the time.

• I've delivered around 4,000 copies on my own, if not more. That is just plain stupid. I need to teach people how to distribute and then trust them to do it.

• We've dropped small amounts (10 to 30 copies) of mags at tons of places. The thinking is that since people don't know what we are, it's better to have wide distribution - really saturate the city so that people can't avoid us.

• We also dumped larger numbers at mags at strategic points - World Cafe Live, university settings, a few record shops and venues. Basically, where there are large numbers of people or people specifically interested in music, we left a bunch of mags.

• I've delivered mags to prominent producers, journalists, artists and other relevant folks. I've also handed mags to random individual people. I heard a kid rapping on the corner of 6th and Jefferson the other day while he was waiting to cross the street. I asked him if he liked music. Then I handed him a mag.

When was the last time you ran into a magazine publisher? I bet you remember it. Even if these folks don't care, or even if they recognize the fact that I'm just some jackass dude, I guarantee they'll remember the experience.

I never leave the house without twenty or more mags.

• I've followed up at locations where I've dropped mags. I get excited when I see the stacks gone. I get bummed when I see a big pile still there. Fortunately, at most places I've gone, the piles are much smaller. I've even restocked a few places.

Every once and a while, I see people outside reading the mag as they wait for a table at Honey's. That's an amazing feeling.

I understand why people like the Internet - you can instantly see what people are reading and appreciating. With print, it's really hard to tell. But I've walked into places and people have told me they have already seen the mag, or they've heard about it. I've received a lot of emails and the website is getting a few hundred hits per day.

There is a buzz about the mag. That's cool. But it will take a while before we have the word-of-mouth and recognition of the existing publications.

So far, I think we are achieving our goals. We will grow from here.

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