WASHINGTON (AP) — It hardly seems the time, given the economy, to start a new magazine.
But Rick Khosla, an Indian entrepreneur in Virginia, is doing just that, complete with a fancy launch party in August.
Washington Masala, which is modeled after Washington Life, will cater to educated, affluent South Asians in the area.
“It’s a very niche market,” Khosla said recently at a Starbucks in Capitol Hill. “That market has always been overlooked.”
A lot of the $100,000 for the first issue came from Khosla’s pocket. But he believes the magazine will become self-sustaining within three months.
Across the country, thousands of newspapers, magazines, and television and radio stations are aimed at certain immigrant groups. Many are in languages besides English, and they deal with events in the homeland and acculturation issues that mainstream media do not address.
A poll in the spring by San Francisco-based New America Media shows that despite the poor economy, consumption of ethnic media is growing. About 150 outlets are in the Washington region.
“In some ways, it is both the best of times and the worst of times,” said Sandip Roy. He is an editor at New American Media, an association representing 2,000 ethnic news organizations. “They are definitely not immune to the pressure on media going on all over the place … but in terms of audience, the interest has never been higher.”
Khosla’s magazine will include news about Bollywood, profiles of successful local South Asians, and tips on getting into local universities.
Roy said such a publication might be able to fill a hole in the South Asian market. “That kind of glossy magazine has not existed for the longest time,” he said. “People have wondered about this.”
Older South Asians in the United States depend heavily on ethnic papers and television for their news, according to Deepa Iyer, executive director of Washington-based South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national group that advocates for issues affecting South Asian communities.
Iyer has not seen a copy of Washington Masala. She said she isn’t sure that young, professional South Asians would be interested in such a magazine.
“For people who are more affluent and educated, in their 20s and 30s, professionals, I wouldn’t say those people would tend to use ethnic media as their source of news,” she said.
The 41-year-old Khosla owns an IT company. He has no publishing experience, but has visited plants in the United States and abroad to see how it is done. “You have to start somewhere, no? So I started,” he said.
The magazine will print 20,000 copies and will sell for $4.95 after the first three free issues.
Khosla’s business model has several unusual aspects. Although most magazines such as his depend heavily on advertising, he expects half his revenue to come from ads and half from newsstand sales. Unlike many ethnic media outlets, most of his advertisers are national businesses, which, he said, he charges “a quarter of the cost in The Washingtonian.”
Washington Masala has lower production costs because designers and some writers are based in India. Writers in India are paid $13 an article; the highest rate paid to U.S.-based writers is $30.
Khosla wrote some of the articles for the first edition.
Khosla is planning future Masalas in other major U.S. cities.
“I’m so sizzled with this thing I came up with,” he said. Looking over the design for the cover, he said: “You know what masala is, right? It’s like spice. So it’s the spice of life.” ♦