A new statewide magazine

Keepsake: The publishers of `Maryland Life' hope readers will want to save its issues `for generations.'

December 14, 2004|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

Don't look for hard-hitting news or investigative exposes.

The publishers of Maryland Life, a new statewide magazine expected to hit subscriber mailboxes tomorrow and newsstands by Christmas, are admittedly leaving room for a little fluff.

Think recipe of the month, profiles on fancy homes, photo essays, historical essays and 50 things to do to beat the wintertime blues.

The lifestyle magazine is the creation of three partners - a former magazine editor, a former sports columnist and a finance executive - who met nearly three years ago in an entrepreneurship class.

The publication is the first statewide magazine since 1997, when Maryland Magazine, a publication with 30,000 paid subscribers, stopped publishing after 28 years.

The magazine was started by the state but later went private. Michael C. Hodes, a Towson attorney, and his partner, entrepreneur Charles J. Nabit, own the rights to the magazine but have no immediate plans to revive it.

Fans of the defunct magazine will see some similarities in Maryland Life. The new magazine will chronicle life around the state - from travel spots to features on Maryland products to profiles on quirky people, such as the woman in the 128-page premier issue who has made it her life to save the diamondback turtle from extinction.

"There's no controversies," said Ross D. Peddicord, co-publisher and vice president of sales and marketing at the new magazine and a former sportswriter for The Sun. "It's a beautiful magazine that celebrates the state."

He and his partners liken it to a coffee-table book. "We want to be something that people hold onto," said Daniel S. Patrell, the former editor of Frederick Magazine who is editor, president and co-publisher of the new publication. "These are issues that people can save for generations and then give to their next of kin."

So far, nearly 2,000 subscribers have signed up to receive the magazine, many of whom the owners met while pitching the publication at county fairs and festivals around the state. (At one local fair they sponsored the animal birthing booth.) The first issue will have a print order of about 50,000.

Like most magazines, Maryland Life launches in a highly competitive and crowded market. "In general, it's difficult to make money in the magazine business, and although there are some formulas that are products for success, you never know what is going to grab the reader's fancy," said Patti Wolter, an assistant professor who specializes in magazines at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

About 80 percent of all magazines fail. In 2003, 440 new magazines were launched and 40, including Biography, Savoy and Bridge Today, went out of business, according to Magazine Publishers of America, an industry group. Maryland Magazine stopped production because of financial problems.

Turning a profit takes at least five years - for magazines that succeed.

"Many magazines are started by editorial people who don't know a lot about the business side of magazines," said John P. Burks, chairman of the department of journalism at San Francisco State University and a former managing editor at Rolling Stone. "They don't understand that you should spend as much time marketing to get people to read it as they do on the writing."

While partners Peddicord and Patrell bring the editorial background to Maryland Life, the third partner, Scott Runkles, a former vice president with a financial services firm, has the job of keeping the magazine on track financially.

About 40 percent of the first edition is advertising, a ratio experts say is high for a startup publication, which will sell for $4.95 at newsstands. Companies buying space in the first issue include About Faces day spa, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and Washington College.

Maryland Life's three partners would not say how much money they raised to launch the magazine, but it has several investors, including Great Southern Enterprises Inc., whose president, George B. Delaplaine Jr., is a part of a Maryland publishing and media dynasty.

His grandfather founded the Frederick News-Post newspaper in 1883. Delaplaine will write a historical column called Maryland Memories for the new publication.

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