Horsham-based independent journal The Aviation Historian marked its first birthday on October 22, and its founders are looking forward to another high-flying year.
“Since we launched in October 2012, our circulation has grown even faster than our optimistic business-plan predicted,” says the quarterly’s managing editor, Mick Oakey, who lives in Dial Post.
“And we’ve already got subscribers on every continent except Antarctica. We want to attract lots more, though, and we reckon there are plenty of potential readers out there who just don’t know about us yet.”
Marketing — locally, nationally and internationally — has been the biggest challenge facing the four-person team that runs the journal.
“We’ve got long experience in making magazines, so the editorial and production aspects are taken care of,” says Mick, who worked on IPC Media’s London-based monthly Aeroplane for nearly 30 years, 12 of them as editor.
“But when you’re part of a big company you have a whole department doing your marketing. Now we’re out on our own, it’s quite a steep learning-curve.”
At the local level of marketing, The Aviation Historian (TAH) is closely involved with Sussex novelist Daisy White’s Pop-Up Indie Bookshop, which Mick describes as ‘a terrific showcase for local authors and small publishers’.
The journal has also attended events such as the Shoreham Aerojumble and the Gatwick International Aircraft Enthusiasts’ Fair at Crawley’s K2 leisure centre. Even simple things like placing flyers in Mick’s local pub,
The Crown Inn in Dial Post, bring in extra business.
“A fortnight ago a subscription order pinged in from Northamptonshire, and the buyer said he had heard about us when visiting The Crown, presumably while on holiday here!,” says Mick.
Spreading its marketing wings more widely, TAH relies strongly on its website, www.theaviationhistorian.com, which Mick says accounts for about 95 per cent of all our print sales in the UK and worldwide, plus a few selected specialist outlets such as aviation museums, a modest amount of paid advertising, and a digital edition in partnership with major online newsstand Pocketmags.
“We don’t sell our print edition through conventional newsagents, though,” says Mick, “because for a very specialist publication like ours it is too expensive and wasteful”.
“Grassroots marketing is also very important to us”, says Mick, “so we try to have TAH reviewed in aviation club and society newsletters and on forums and blogs, and we have a lively Facebook and Twitter presence.”
Describing itself as “The modern journal of classic aeroplanes and the history of flying”, The Aviation Historian is aimed at dedicated enthusiasts — “people who want more depth than the mainstream monthlies provide”, says Mick.
“Its compact format, similar to National Geographic, makes it more like a book than a magazine, and we strive to explore the less well-known paths of aviation history.”
In its first year TAH has covered such subjects as a 1950s project to create a nuclear-engined bomber; a Dunsfold-based test pilot’s recollections of introducing the Hawker Hunter jet fighter into service in Peru; a controversial theory that the Wright Brothers were not the first to fly a successful aeroplane; and even the private jet owned by Playboy chief Hugh Hefner in the early 1970s, which was actually a customised DC-9 airliner complete with oval bed and ‘Jet Bunny’ flight attendants.
Copies of TAH are sent out to customers from Mick’s Dial Post home, from where he runs the business side of the journal with his wife Lynn, TAH’s finance manager, who had a long career as an accounts analyst with various companies in Horsham and Redhill.
Meanwhile the editorial side of the business is run by editor Nick Stroud and his wife Amanda, TAH’s production manager, from their home in Camberwell, London.
“As a four-way partnership with no other employees and no office building, we can keep our overheads down, which is vital for success”, says Mick. “Our biggest single costs are our payments to our authors and artists; followed by printing; closely followed by postage.”
So what does the next year hold for TAH?
“We’re sending out our fifth quarterly issue to readers at the moment,” says Mick, “and we’ve just sent off a box of issues to a big aviation shop in Canada, so I hope that will be a regular new outlet for us.
We’ve got an abundance of amazing articles in the pipeline, and we’re in the early stages of planning an enthusiasts’ event to mark the centenary of the onset of World War One. We also hope to do more video and TV work [Mick was interviewed on BBC1’s The One Show in August], and to keep finding new ways to get noticed and spread the word.
For more information contact The Aviation Historian, PO Box 962, Horsham RH12 9PP; tel 07572 237737; website www.theaviationhistorian.com. An annual print subscription (4 issues) costs £44 inc p&p in the UK.
Copy and pictures submitted by The Aviation Historian