🎤 Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Radiant Health Magazine on Adding a Personal Touch

Nnenna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Radiant Health Magazine. Her lifelong commitment to improving health outcomes for Africans began with her work as a pharmacist. Wanting to make a larger impact, she transitioned to the public health sector starting as an intern at the World Health Organization (WHO) Geneva where she helped to develop data for the WHO Global Infobase, a country-level database of non-communicable disease risk factors.

Nnenna served as a Global Health Fellow at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she spent a year in Tanzania working to strengthen the laboratory system for HIV/AIDS diagnosis and treatment monitoring. She continued her public health work at CDC Atlanta and later as a consultant for the D.C. based Advocates for Youth before going on to launch Radiant Health Magazine.

Nnenna completed one year of study in Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, prior to moving to the U.S. She earned her Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from Texas Tech University and her Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University.

She’s dedicated to helping African women find their way back to living healthy and Radiant Health is the perfect way to express that. The magazine is the healthy living guide for today’s African woman who wants to look good, feel good and live well. It began as Nigeria’s first women’s health magazine and have grown globally to reach African women on the continent and across the diaspora as Africa’s leading health magazine.

How did you start with Radiant Health Magazine?

We launched 3 years ago with a simple website (the online edition) and because I wanted people to get the idea of it as a magazine and not so much as a blog, we created cover designs each quarter and made the cover articles available to read online.

Last February (2016) we launched the Radiant Health app in Apple iTunes and Google Play and transitioned to paid subscriptions. Our first print issue launched this February (2017).

How big is your team and what is your mission?

The team is composed of about 9 people who are regularly working on the magazine though most of them are freelancers (editors, social media, web design, web support and admin assistants) and thus we’re spread out across the globe.

Our mission is to create credible health content for African women that embraces their African identity. I want to see us represented in health publications in a way that will make us proud. And equally important, I want to tell the African health stories in our own voice that challenges the narrative we often hear in mainstream media when health and Africa are discussed.

In terms of the reader’s profile, our readers are in the 25-45 age group and spread across the African diaspora and in Africa. Generally, they’re women coming out of their youth and settling into new roles like full-time work, motherhood, etc or women who have been at it for a while. Either way, whether because of expanding waist line or overwhelm, they’re forced to think more about their health and overall wellbeing.

How did you decide to have the magazine in print format when others are running away from it?

You know people kept saying to me, “Oh, I wish it was in print.” I thought that digital would make it more accessible but it turns out people still like to have something to hold.

From my point of view, print is not dead and I think in print you have to niche down until you pinpoint the audience who would find your magazine appealing enough to buy it. That’s what I see with other independent magazines who are doing well with print. Even some big publishing companies are now creating their own indie print magazines.

Radiant print issue is doing better than I expected. I thought the price point would be an issue but so far that has not posed nearly as big a problem as I imagined. We’re still in the early phase of marketing the print so we’re learning and fine tuning.

How do you monetize?

We monetize mainly through subscriptions, advertising and content production for health and wellness companies like doctors’ offices. I think this might be key for some other indie publishers out there – I’ve learned the hard way that eventually you have to expand your product offerings, diversify.

Initially no matter what we published readers kept coming back to “how do I lose weight” or “what diet can I use”. So, we eventually created a fitness challenge that I called 30-Day Body Reboot Challenge.

I think the first round we had like 600 people sign up right away and this was only after 5 days of promoting it. We had a fitness expert design the challenge and our nutrition editor on board for the nutrition side but not much else was planned beyond that. So I was up every night preparing emails for the next day’s challenge. We also created a Facebook group for the challenge which was so much fun for me because it was the first time I really got to interact one-on-one with our readers.

The Reboot challenge ended up being a huge attraction and the best way to get people into our list. Since then, we had many more challenges though we’re only focusing on 4 a year now. It’s been a great way for people to find out about us.

Those are the people that eventually buy the magazine. We’ve been analyzing what’s working for us and the reboot challenge has consistently been one of our biggest drivers.

Can you share a few numbers in terms of website monthly traffic?

Our website traffic is in a bit of shabby state right now. In the early days when all our focus was more on online content, we were getting about 40,000 unique visitors a month. In the last 18 months, it’s dipped to less than half of that.

Now that I’ve gotten a hang of the print and in-app magazine production cycle, we’re ramping up work to re-engage with our online content and we have set some ambitious traffic targets that we’re aiming for, focusing on optimizing existing content and mobile channels (about 60% of our traffic comes from mobile users).

What were some of your challenges when you started with your own publication?

There have been many tough moments, but I would say that what one of the main problems I had initially was convincing people to work for me at “start up” pay. This created a bit of an imbalance I didn’t like where it seemed people were doing me a favor and I could only demand so much. I’ve had to change my mindset and learn to step into a leadership role.

Now I’m clearer on my expectations and that’s made a huge difference. We’re taking on new team members very, very slowly but I’m very happy with the team that we’re working with at the moment.

Also, I knew nothing about publishing when I decided to start a magazine so I think in general it’s been an uphill battle where I’ve just failed my way through everything I know now. Sometimes I feel like it’s been a big trial and error journey.

What would you recommend anybody that is looking to start their own publishing business today?

You know there are so many things … The obvious thing is you need to read up, you need to read up and do as much research as you can but nothing is ever going to prepare you as actually doing the work; don’t fall into the trap of all research and no action. Be ready to learn as you go along.

Don’t stay too long on things that are not working – we did so many things that from the outside looked like they were working but when we measured it we realized it was in fact abysmal.

You need to really measure, you have to find a way to talk to your audience, whether it’s through a social group, some sort of campaign or talking to them directly via email. This is something I shied away from, I didn’t want to be the face of the company, I didn’t want to put my name on it, but people like the personal touch. So now I write a personal note with my newsletters and it’s working because when I say “Reply” it’s not so vague anymore, they feel like they are talking to a human being.

When it comes to content a big mistake I made was stressing about quantity like, ‘oh, people would feel that my website is not being updated’, all the things you think people would think, your readers would think – they’re not thinking it!

The focus should be on producing the best quality work that you can and when in doubt ask your readers.

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CEO at Appticles. Tech-Biz in between guy. Passionate about entrepreneurship. Love to play tennis.

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