People often ask me how I got started in the magazine business. I kind of stumbled into it, really.
I was working in real estate, dealing with raw land in rural areas and investors. I’d buy a larg...view morePeople often ask me how I got started in the magazine business. I kind of stumbled into it, really.
I was working in real estate, dealing with raw land in rural areas and investors. I’d buy a large parcel of 100 acres or more and split it up into smaller parcels, bringing in power, roads, water and other improvements, and then resell the parcels at a profit. The very first parcel I purchased was located in Willcox, AZ. I noticed what looked like a field of dead plants across the road from the parcel and asked what they were. “Grapes” was the answer, and they were not dead, they were dormant for the winter. I said “You mean like a vineyard?”
I saw the headline in the classified ad right then “Across from a Vineyard”. I figured that would get more phone calls than “Across from some cows”. I was fortunate to start this while the real estate market was still going strong. I used the vineyards as a sales point to great advantage. We did bus tours with investors through “wine country”.
Then, as everyone knows, the bottom fell out of the real estate market and investors disappeared completely. I owned thousands of acres of “vineyard land” still and had no buyers. I figured I needed to find end users immediately. I had to find someone that actually wanted to plant a vineyard and start a winery. I thought that if someone was looking to start a vineyard, they would begin by visiting the other vineyards and wineries in the state to get some tips and information, such as, “where should I buy land for a vineyard”.
I began researching to compile a list of active wineries. What I found was that there was no accurate list of wineries. Some websites listed wineries that were out of business for over ten years, others that had been in business for four years or more weren’t even listed. I set out to get a current, updated list and had the idea right then. I would print a brochure with an accurate list of wineries and their contact information and put all of my real estate listings on the back. I also included some articles about what was happening in the industry, such as Dick Erath (famous vintner from Oregon) buying 200 acres to plant vines next to all of my land. I thought I’d throw in a couple more articles and call it a magazine. It was eight pages and we printed 10,000 copies; our distribution network was all of the wineries.
We called it Arizona Vines & Wines – 2008 Edition. It turns out that we ran out in two months. All the wineries wanted more copies. It was not cheap to print the first 10,000 and we could not afford to keep this up unless we sold advertising. We were now in the publishing business. Because of the narrow focused niche of Arizona wine, my advertising worked very well and continues to do so. It is also working very well for all of our other advertisers. We are now up to 68 pages, 20,000 issues per quarter, plus our online version and website. Our Fall 2010 issue will be in 58 Barnes & Noble bookstores throughout Southern California, Las Vegas and Arizona as well as all of the Borders, Bashas’ and AJ’s in Arizona.
I have to say that my wife, Rhonni, is the real star of the show. Not having any background in publishing, writing, photography or anything related to a magazine (other than being literate), we went out and bought an expensive camera and an expensive software program. She taught herself how to use both. We constantly get compliments on the magazine and each issue just gets better and better. Since I spend the lion’s share of my time dealing with real estate, Rhonni does most of the work with the magazine in addition to being the Executive Director for the Arizona Wine Growers Association. We are very well connected in the whole industry and consider the wonderful people in it our family.
With the growth of our magazine and the wine industry in Arizona, it seems like we are always working. Fortunately, sometimes, that work entails attending spectacular wine events, drinking fabulous wine and amazing food prepared by the state’s top chefs. It’s tough work, but somebody has to do it.view less