At a time when a decline in publishing has been hastened by the pandemic, a new magazine in San Antonio is using an old-school model to stay afloat – and thrive.

Advertising dollars pay for the bulk of Live From the Southside, a monthly online and print magazine featuring positive stories about the South Side of San Antonio.

The reliance on advertising revenue harkens back to an older revenue model for magazines, which today depend increasingly on higher subscription rates.  

“It’s profitable, and surprisingly so,” said April Monterrosa, the magazine’s founder and sole staff member. She described the profits as “small but consistent.”

The magazine is the only publication to focus exclusively on the South Side, an expansive and historically neglected section of the city. Home to the Spanish colonial missions, the area has received attention from developers in recent years, particularly around the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River.

Stories in the magazine’s January 2021 issue include an interview with a local artist, a book program at a Southside elementary school, and a new urban farm at a local coffee shop.

Print issues of Live From the Southside are available on Amazon or digitally through a subscription. The publication boasts nearly 10,000 subscribers, according to its website.

Monterrosa’s advertisers include many Southside businesses, such as Wheelock’s Mobile Detailing and Pressure Washing, a car wash shop. But they also come from elsewhere in the city.

Monterrosa attributes her broad reach with readers and clients to the connections she’s built over the years as a travel writer, and her long presence in the city. The Southside native has been a brand ambassador and social media maven for many businesses and organizations, including the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

She also said she’s received support from other female entrepreneurs.

“Most of my ads have been from women,” she said.

One advertiser, realtor Amanda Gonzalez, said that although she’s not from the South Side, she had once been a customer of Monterrosa’s former beauty studio. Monterrosa approached her with the advertising offer, which has ultimately helped her get more business from the South Side.

“I’ve got several clients that I’m working with right now that came from the magazine,” Gonzalez said.

The January 2021 issue of Live From the Southside Magazine. Credit: Courtesy / Live From the Southside

Freelance writers for the magazine also contribute sponsored content paid for by advertisers, alongside the magazine’s other features.

The advertising model of revenue Monterrosa has pursued is at odds with the approach taken by most new magazine ventures.

“The crazier an idea I have, the more it works,” she said.

Professor Samir Husni, founder of the University of Mississippi’s Magazine Innovation Center, told the New York Post last week that most new magazines rely on high subscription and newsstand prices.

And that’s for magazines that successfully launch in the first place. Husni, who has been tracking the number of new magazines launches in the country since 1978, said the pandemic slashed the number of new print magazine launches by more than half in 2020. The year saw only 60 new magazines launch, compared to 139 a year earlier.  

Most, he said, are centered on food, home, and fitness topics. “People are stuck at home, bombarded by bad news. They are looking for diversions,” Husni said.

For Monterrosa, the pandemic is what spurred the magazine’s launch in the first place, coming as an expansion of a newsletter and blog she began in early 2019. Her previous business, promoting and hosting events on the South Side, dried up when large in-person gatherings stopped.

Monterrosa’s publication has appealed to more than just advertisers. KSAT, San Antonio’s ABC television affiliate, entered a content sharing partnership with her last month, posting an article on its website headlined, “Best Reasons to Visit Each of the San Antonio Missions.”

“Our partnership with Southside Magazine gives us a new way to reach folks who live, work, and raise their families on the south side of San Antonio,” KSAT News Director Bernice Kearney said when the deal was first announced.

In the future, Monterrosa hopes to offer a print delivery for subscribers, or to have the magazine available free of charge at H-E-B locations, but only those on the South Side.

“People in Alamo Heights will have to pay money for it,” she says with a laugh.

Waylon Cunningham covered business and technology for the San Antonio Report.