Magazine publishers must have a rare combination of business sense, creativity and communication skills. Becoming a magazine publisher can take either years or minutes, depending on whether you want to work with a specific publication or start your own. Either way, be prepared for a life of deadlines, meetings, management and decisions if you want to publish a quality product that will make it in a competitive market.
As the publisher, you set the editorial direction of the magazine. You meet regularly with your editorial staff to determine articles columns, special features and other content. You listen to their ideas and share thoughts of your own, with the goal of setting the editorial calendar for each issue. Once the direction is set, you leave it in the hands of your editors and monitor the progress from a distance, stepping in only if needed. The publisher reads and reviews the magazine at certain points during production -- including just before press time -- and communicates changes to the editorial staff. When the issue is complete, you give the OK to send it to press.
A magazine's publisher is the boss, the end of the line. Depending on the size of your publication, you may be responsible for overseeing a staff of several dozen or several hundred. If the publication is large, you directly oversee a small group of department heads, including editors, creative directors, advertising directors, subscription and circulation managers, and financial directors. Your role is to help them determine the direction in which to steer their staffs. Regardless of the size of your publication, you may need an assistant who can help manage your calendar and complete administrative tasks.
Meeting each publication deadline will ultimately rest on your shoulders. As part of your duties, you make sure your editorial staff keeps the editorial content moving and sends the publication to the printer on time. Should problems arise, you must make final decisions regarding what should be printed and what should be pulled.
When controversy arises with your publication, you are responsible for fielding questions. A source who was interviewed may claim he was misquoted, for example. Or a company may object to where an ad was placed. Should anything published in the magazine fall into question, you will be the one to respond, either defending or apologizing for what was published.
The Bottom Line
No magazine can stay afloat without a profitable bottom line. As the publisher, you are responsible for making sure your magazine makes a profit and is able to sustain its operations. By hiring a skilled financial team, and sales and subscription staff, you ensure that qualified employees are helping you generate and sustain revenue. This part of your job involves holding meetings with your team and setting goals. You also work with your sales staff to develop ideas for advertising partnerships and promotions.
Part of a publisher's duties is to serve as the magazine’s ambassador at local or national events, and be a voice of expertise in the field covered by your publication. Magazine publishers may participate in media interviews and work to spread the good reputation and credibility of each issue.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.