A new Colonial Heights magazine is betting its mission to be an antidote to negativity will pay off in the competitive local media business.
Catherine Oakley launched South of the James Publishing and created Reaching New Heights: Lifestyles of Virginia’s Tri-Cities Area. The first issues of the free monthly magazine went out in August.
“I knew there was a need for something positive,” Oakley said. “I wanted something you could leave at your mom’s house, church or day care and there wouldn’t be anything offensive in there.”
The company prints 45,000 copies each month, 40,000 of which are mailed to residents in southern portions of Chesterfield County and the tri-cities area, which includes Colonial Heights, Petersburg and Hopewell.
The magazine’s three biggest advertisers are Saber Healthcare, EVB and Bank of McKenney, Oakley said. Its other advertisers include area realtors, retailers, community events and service providers.
Reaching New Heights focuses on members of the community and includes reports on a variety of topics, including lawn care and domestic abuse.
Oakley spent about $60,000 dollars to launch the business and says the company is breaking even. The biggest cost is printing and mailing the magazine, which accounts for 50 percent of the business’s expenses. About $13,000 is spent each month, going to Progress Printing Plus in Lynchburg.
Oakley, 39, worked for 10 years at the Progress-Index, a Petersburg-based daily newspaper, as a sales representative and then as advertising director. When she wanted to return to work after having her twins in 2010, Oakley said she didn’t want another job that required her sitting in a cubicle.
The mother of six spoke with some writers from the Progress-Index and with advertising contacts she had made over the years to see if she could turn her idea into a viable business plan.
“I talked to advertisers in the area,” Oakley said. “They said they were looking for stronger circulation and ways of getting in households.”
For Oakley, that meant going with a direct mail print magazine. She said just leaving the magazines at drop points inside restaurants or on sidewalks wouldn’t give her the distribution that could attract advertising dollars. And on a personal level, she preferred print media to online.
“Online is good if someone wants to grab some news,” Oakley said. “But if you really want to know your community, it’s nice to sit down with a magazine and read about the people that are living in your area.”
Oakley faces some competition when it comes to glossy magazines covering local communities. The Chesterfield Observer publishes Chesterfield Monthly and launched the Henrico Monthly in October 2012.
Reaching New Heights has five freelance writers and other contributors, along with a freelance designer and photographer. Oakley has three employees on staff at the publishing company’s office at 16037 Continental Blvd. in Colonial Heights. Cliff Davis, formerly of the Progress-Index, is the magazine’s editor.
The magazine also has a website, and online editions of Reaching New Heights can be accessed through the publication’s Facebook page.
Oakley admits there were naysayers within the business and media community at first, and even her own father questioned the viability of a print magazine. But now she’s now looking to increase the page count of the magazine and is working on plans for other publications.
“Our Facebook [friends] doubled [to 500] in 48 hours after the second edition,” Oakley said. “Even the doubters are coming back to say ‘Hey, this is really great.’”
Congratulations, Catherine! It’s good to see a P-I alum starting their own media empire!
We invite everyone to visit our Facebook page to learn more or view the magazine.
Awesome local magazine. We look forward to every issue hitting our mailbox. Congrats to Catherine and the RNH Team!
So proud of you Catherine. What a great magazine you have developed. All the best to you!
The magazine layout is great!
I am so proud of Catherine for following her dream and so very proud to be working with such a talented group of people!