JACKSON — On July 8, the Mississippi Technology Alliance will release the first issue of its new magazine, Pointe Innovation.
The glossy 80-page quarterly magazine with an initial circulation of 30,000 has piqued curiosity in the publishing industry, in part because the public-private partnership is unveiling it during a time when other publications are struggling or facing closure. On May 2, The Oxford American’s editor Marc Smirnoff e-mailed friends that unless the 10-year-old magazine secured financial backing within two weeks, it would shut down.
“There is always room for a new magazine if there is a need,” said Samir Husni, professor of journalism at Ole Miss and arguably the world’s most adept magazine expert. “What can an information and technology magazine offer to the techies of Mississippi that other IT magazines don’t? If we have an answer to that question, and if the magazine can be necessary and sufficient for such an audience, then there is room for it.”
The idea for Pointe Innovation evolved from MTA’s commitment to serve as a voice for the state’s science and technology community, said MTA president and CEO Angie Dvorak, Ph.D.
“To be a voice, you must have a focused strategic approach communicating Mississippi’s science and technology story over and over again through a broad base of disseminated information,” said Dvorak. “When we started looking for a vehicle, we felt that a very high quality quarterly magazine with readership appeal, written at a level for a lot of people to enjoy, and delivering it to community and business leaders, elected officials and technology households in the state would accomplish a central part of our mission.”
Even though other publications were communicating science and technology-based information, it has not been their primary and continued focus, Dvorak said.
“Pointe Innovation wouldn’t work if we didn’t already have other print media resources talking about technology,” she said. “We’ve been pleased with the coverage. For instance, the Mississippi Business Journal has been a tremendous partner. But Pointe Innovation is not a news magazine. It is a complement to existing publications that will go deeper and further in a much narrower group of topics. We need MBJ and other newspapers to whet the appetite of readers.”
Since last year, metro and regional magazines have witnessed strong growth, said Husni.
“In fact, they are the No. 1 category in new magazine launches in 2001 with 86 new titles introduced across the nation,” he said. “As for the economy and The Oxford American, yes, times are tough. Any magazine, old or new, that cannot depend on its readers to make ends meet is going to have a hard time surviving. Publishers have to understand that advertising should be the icing on the cake and not the cake itself. Readers have to start to pay for the product, and they are not going to do so unless the product is worth it. Magazines must charge the readers the real value of the product and should not continue to depend on advertisers to subsidize the product.”
Pointe Innovation, which will sell for $4 per issue ($16 for a one-year subscription) and will be available primarily through MTA, will be solely funded through the private sector, Dvorak said.
“We have a real simple funding model,” she said. “The magazine will be solely funded with ad dollars. We run a very lean shop. We’re a non-profit, so we don’t have to have huge profit margins to satisfy shareholders.”
The funding model is based on 40 pages of advertising with a $3,500 base per page. By May 11, 80% of the space had been closed for the premiere issue.
“We calculated expenses to recover costs for each issue,” Dvorak said. “Of course you’re behind in the beginning getting started, but at the end of the day, each issue forward will have recovered its costs.”
MTA hasn’t spent money on promotional activity typically associated with a new magazine launch, Dvorak said.
“We’ve worked hard to keep expenses down on our first issue,” she said. “We haven’t traveled extensively or done some of the expensive things you can do. We want to make sure the magazine is viable and we haven’t tried to artificially create viability. A lot of people have stepped up to advertise who believe in the value of sharing Mississippi’s tech story.”
A diverse group of advertisers have already signed on for the premiere issue: Mississippi Development Authority; City of Jackson; 121 Micro; Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada; Venture Technologies; Mississippi Polymer Institute; Dale & Associates; AmSouth; Resource 21; Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; Service Printers; BellSouth; Consultrix Technologies; SmartSynch; Eagle Ridge Conference Center; Votum Consulting Group and Community Bank.
“Our goal for readers is to tell the Mississippi story,” said Dvorak. “Our goal for advertisers is to draw customers to them and we will be able to do that. When it drops on the desks of 30,000 people, we’re in a win-win situation. Like upscale magazines, we will have a complete advertisers reference page and feature advertising on our Web site. It’s a very interactive magazine, with plenty of places throughout for feedback. We really want it to be a dialogue between the people of Mississippi and the science and technology community.”
The premiere issue will feature articles about the future of e-government, a profile of Lextron Corp. CEO Charles Doty, and regular departments, such as Pointe Enterprise.
“E-government’s future depends on energy and exposure,” said State Auditor Phil Bryant. “Pointe Innovation should help provide both by publishing the latest information on e-commerce innovation that may be applied to government services. That will energize us all.”
A vision for Mississippi manufacturing will also be explored.
“The focus on science and technology issues is the absolute key to our future,” said Jerry McBride, president of Mississippi Manufacturers Association. “We need to maintain what we have in our basic manufacturing jobs and grow them, such as Nissan and others where possible, but we also have to grow into the 21st century and have jobs that are based on current science and technology.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or firstname.lastname@example.org</a.