THE magazine industry is facing tough times — and this is true all around the world. With the cost of printing increasing and traditional advertising shrinking, many publications are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Some have even closed down.
Mass communications graduate Nurlina Hussin understood this when she decided to venture into the world of magazine publishing. But to be commercially viable she needed a lower cost solution and for that, she decided to go digital.
A graduate of Curtin University, Nurlina did public relations and marketing in the corporate sector for 16 years before embarking on her own publishing venture in late 2015. She talks to Savvy about her fledgling publishing business, the challenges and opportunities it offers, and her publishing ambitions for the future.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO DO A WOMEN’S ENTREPRENEURIAL MAGAZINE?
I wanted to do a magazine that will inspire women to go into entrepreneurship, just as I have done. When I looked at women’s magazines, I saw there were a lot of lifestyle titles but none really focused on the business side of things. So, that’s what InspiraC (www.inspirac.net) is all about. It has lifestyle elements to it but at its core, is about entrepreneurship.
WHAT’S YOUR TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC?
InspiraC is targeted at women between the ages of 18 and 45, and is available in both English and Bahasa Malaysia to have the widest reach.
HOW DID YOU FUND THIS ENDEAVOUR?
My husband, Rashid, and I self-funded it at first but we now also have one investor who believes in us.
DID YOU DO A LOT OF RESEARCH BEFORE THE LAUNCH?
Yes, we did. We know publishing is a tough industry to be in. Advertising is hard to come by and we knew it would be a huge challenge. But we’re not just selling advertising space. We are doing content marketing where we help companies tell stories that our readers will enjoy and find useful. So, our business model is a little bit different.
DO YOU UTILISE SOCIAL MEDIA A LOT?
Yes, we’re on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Social media is important as it provides brand awareness. We use social media heavily for promotional purposes. It’s quite challenging coming up with daily content for this but it’s necessary. You really can’t do without social media these days.
YOUR SECOND PUBLICATION, FRX VIEW IS A BIGGER VENTURE? HOW SO?
There are more investors involved. Last November, we were approached by some investors to start a magazine on the topic of foreign exchange and we were actually made directors of the new entity called FRX Media.
Like InspiraC, it’s available in both English and Bahasa Malaysia and can be viewed online or downloaded. We have big plans for venture and in time it will grow to cover more than just foreign exchange but will deal with investment in general.
WHO DOES THE WRITING FOR YOUR MAGAZINES?
At the moment it’s still just us doing it. I do the writing in English and Rashid will help to translate into Bahasa Malaysia. Rashid is also the one who takes photos. So we really do the magazines ourselves, from A to Z — including the sales and marketing. But we do outsource some work, namely design and IT infrastructure.
HAVE YOU GOT A THIRD TITLE IN THE WORKS?
Yes, very soon we’ll be signing an agreement with a new publishing company to come up with another magazine title. We can’t disclose much yet but I can say it will involve the topic of innovation.
WITH SUCH GROWTH, WON’T YOU HAVE TO EXPAND YOUR TEAM?
Yes, for sure we need to get more people involved — contributors, freelance writers and more marketers. We can’t go on with just the two of us handling everything. So, we’ll be taking on more people. We have engaged a strategic adviser to help us on how to move forward with this.
IS THE REVENUE FOR YOUR COMPANY PURELY RELIANT ON ADVERTISING?
No. Advertising revenue is there but it’s not enough. So we do take on some outsourcing work. The great thing about our digital magazines is that they also act as a showcase of our abilities in terms of developing content for publication. People are amazed that we’re able to do this in two languages.
Recently we did a project for Usahanita (Persatuan Usahawan Wanita Bumiputra Malaysia) producing a publication for them. So, these kinds of things help to generate income.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF CONTINUING TO DO OUTSOURCING WORK EVEN AS YOUR RANGE OF TITLES EXPANDS?
Publishing is a tough business and we won’t say”no” to any revenue-generating opportunities, including outsourcing work. Of course our passion is in publishing our own titles so that is going to be our focus. Perhaps once we’re more established, we can set up a special division to just focus on doing outsourcing work while we — Rashid and I — focus on our publishing projects.
WHAT’S YOUR LONG-TERM ASPIRATION?
I really want to grow this business and in five years’ time I want us to become a well-established media house like Karangkraf, but with a focus on digital.
SPEAKING OF DIGITAL, DO YOU PLAN TO OFFER MULTIMEDIA CONTENT?
Yes. Right now our content is static but we have plans to incorporate video streaming. We’re very open to multimedia opportunities. The basic idea is to translate content into something that’s very visual, which is what today’s audience wants.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN BUSINESS?
I’d say that building relationships is important — relationships with everyone you deal with, including people you interview, advertisers and sponsors. We try to give them value and build opportunities for them.
HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR NEW JOB COMPARED TO YOUR OLD ONES?
I was in the corporate world for 16 years and towards the end, I was really burnt out. But what I’m doing now doesn’t feel like a job at all. Recently, we attended a gala dinner in Genting which we covered for the magazine. We just came back from Terengganu where we covered an event in Perhentian. These days, there’s no difference between weekends and weekdays for us. We’re constantly working but it doesn’t feel like a job. We enjoy what we’re doing and it’s very fulfilling.