When publications specialist Jim Fawcette elected to launch a magazine to attract a readership of software programmers, he planned to tap that subscription base and the advertisers it drew for expansion into higher-margin areas, such as conferences. Among the first to sign on for ad space was, predictably, Microsoft Corp. After that, however, up-front cash support dwindled to nothing.

So Fawcette contacted potential advertisers and, rather than delivering a sales pitch, solicited their participation in planning and designing the product itself. To create a market and make his potential advertisers successful, he asked them what to do.

These people represented "small companies working out of their basements, like myself, so they understood," said Fawcette. "They wouldn't be buying ads in a magazine, they'd be buying a market we'd developed together."

Fawcette acknowledges that their advertising support for a magazine that didn't even have a readership was critical in getting his company off the ground. Now, thanks to the way he served his advertisers, Fawcette Technical Publications, based in Palo Alto, Calif., estimates 1997 revenues at $24 million.