Growing magazine targets area’s campus crowd

February 12, 2009 – Persuading 120,000 students at nine different college and university campuses to pick up and read any publication is a daunting task, especially when the aspiring persuader is a 23 year old entrepreneur.

But Amanda Nachman, a University of Maryland, College Park, alumna, has her sights set even higher for her College Magazine. Focused entirely on students and campus life and ranging in subjects from student nudists to the future of financial aid, the free publication combines the resources of 45 student writers and one lecturer to offer a spectrum of information with both local and universal appeal.

College Magazine runs quarterly and can be found at six Maryland campuses and three in Washington, D.C.

“I wanted something for undergraduates, to guide them along the way since I practically came into college with a blindfold,” said Nachman, of Rockville. “People want to hear about college from their friends and not advisers or parents.”

An English graduate, Nachman launched College Magazine in both its print and online format in August 2007, supporting the venture through advertisers and sponsors.

Joe Dupriest, marketing director for the Washington Capitals hockey team, said Nachman’s model appeals to advertisers because students personally hand the magazine to other students rather than just leave it to get picked up at student unions. The Capitals offer student discounts on Thursday night tickets and advertise in student publications.

“She sold herself really well,” Dupriest said, referring to Nachman’s persistence in obtaining the Capitals’ sponsorship.

Nachman said College Magazine was originally a fun project that became something more as she started to find more advertisers. At one time, she said, she often worked on College Magazine from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m.

“I wanted to offer students a chance to write about topics that interest them. We don’t want to censor students,” she said, adding that she also encourages her writers to get expert input for their articles.

Nachman recalls hosting her first writers meeting, during which she was shocked to see so many people interested in helping her.

“I’ll never forget that first meeting. It was like, ‘People want to write for us!'” she said.

Les Kollegian, owner of creative agency Jacob Tyler of San Diego, soon joined Nachman after hearing about College Magazine from a relative who works with Nachman’s sister. Although he originally contributed design advice, Kollegian became Nachman’s investor and business partner.

“I think she’s phenomenal,” Kollegian of Nachman. “She works all the time and sets out to reach her goals with strategy.”

Kollegian also said he believes the market is strong for the 18- to 25-year-old readers the magazine targets. He emphasized the college market is always growing and supported by a steady source of disposable income, making it attractive to advertisers. About 60 percent of College Magazine’s advertisers return to the publication after their initial posting, he said.

Joseph Webb, a lecturer at St. Louis University who runs his own blog, said he chose College Magazine to publish his columns because it looked like a publication with which he could grow.

“Not a lot of people are equipped to [Nachman’s] entrepreneur skill set. It’s one thing to have an idea, but she has the ability to make those dreams happen,” Webb said.

Nachman’s enthusiasm is also felt among the staff — though they rarely gather together — as she always goes the extra mile to ensure her writers enjoy themselves, said Brian Cognato, the magazine’s editor-in-chief and a senior at the College Park university.

“She leads by example,” he said.

Nachman’s current goal is to take College Magazine to 200 campuses within the next five years.

“Every time we expand or grow our circulation, I get really excited … My business plan is to make it great and then grow it,” said Nachman, who declined to disclose revenues.

College Magazine’s newest distribution area, as of November, is the Baltimore region.

Steven Cohn, editor-in-chief at Media Industry Newsletter in New York, said it is difficult to predict success for college-centric publications, as students are reading less and many attempts to market to them have come and gone.

But Kollegian has high hopes.

“With Amanda at the helm, we have a good shot,” he said.

Nachman said she knows College Magazine will still feel the market’s pressure — which has already forced larger national and state publications to share content and led to several newspapers closing — but she believes her niche audience continues to spend.

“We’re going to keep growing advertisers and form partnerships with other national businesses to bring this to more schools,” she said.