“How can I create an online magazine website in 2020?”
If you’re here, chances are that’s the burning question you have right now. Well, you came to the right blog post — that is, unless you’re really just wanting to know how to convert from a print magazine to digital, But for those who just want to know how to get started, we’ll guide you to the digital path.
An online magazine website is a great business model that can be very enjoyable to run and, of course, very profitable. In this post, we will list tasks in the chronological order that will build a successful magazine faster, so let’s get straight to the point and begin to lay out how to create an online magazine website in 2020 from the ground up!
Creating a plan for your brand new online magazine
Everything starts with a plan, and an online magazine is no different. So how do you prepare to create an online magazine? You’ll need to spend a decent amount of time planning out all the creative aspects that determine the niche, as well as all of the technical aspects that impact production. Let’s look at these in more detail.
Select your niche & name
Ideally, what drives you to create a magazine in the first place should be a strong connection and understanding of the topic niche. Your niche will impact brand, audience, marketing, and everything else you do.
Research who’s already out there via digital tools like Google search and semrush to see which niches are already well-spoken-for and which are aching for a sub-niche just like the one you have in mind. If you don’t have a sub-niche in mind, consider how you can bring value that others aren’t bringing to the table. That’s your niche! Anything short of that laser focus on who you should serve will put you at odds with far bigger magazines.
Protect your brand. Choose a name carefully after considering the niche thoroughly. Be sure to register it as a trademark and copyright each issue with the Library of Congress and an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). Taking these steps allows you to rest easy you have full rights to use your name in connection with your magazine (for example, on the cover and on the web), as well as protect you from copycats who might try to steal your idea and beat you to the finish line.
Choose a magazine format
Which magazine format is best suited to your target audience?
The 3 common magazine publishing models:
- Print only. In this case, you’ll always have to produce a magazine PDF and send it to the printer. The process involves creating publication branding, designing a magazine layout, and going through proofreading stages with an editorial team.
- Print + online. In this case, you need all the above plus online publication. The ideal solution is to publish the most recent version online as a modern flipbook and, as soon as the next edition comes out, publish it on your digital library along with other past issues. The most recent version always has to get the maximum exposure to boost sales and advertising revenue.
- Online only. In this case, you can chose to produce a PDF or not. Online magazines can work entirely as a website as long as it has a magazine specific structure. Each magazine needs to have a linear reading experience and must be isolated by issue. Content structure in an online magazine creates a crucial difference when it comes to traffic generation, email capturing, and monetization.
Decide on a revenue strategy
It is very important to decide on your revenue strategy.
There are generally two main revenue strategies:
- A subscription-based online magazine where the visitor can access a limited amount of content before being asked to subscribe to access more. The revenue is generated from subscriptions sold.
- A sponsorship-based online magazine where visitors can access all the content for free and revenue is generated from sponsors and advertisers.
Both these models are quite different and it’s very important to decide which best fits the goals of your magazine.
In its earliest stages, your online magazine might operate a little differently until your website’s traffic and your email subscriber database grows. It’s important to plan the system in such a way that it grows efficiently with your magazine.
Create an editorial plan
Start with editorial planning and create your content strategy. Build an editorial calendar for at least one year, ideally for two years. Editorial calendars need to be consistent and help you build exciting, premium content for your digital magazine. Make sure your content isn’t repetitive.
Ideally, the outcome of this plan should be a table of contents for each upcoming issue over the next year or at least a list of sections you are going to write about in each upcoming issue of your online magazine.
Once the plan is ready with your editors, consult with your marketing team on the topics you outlined so that they can check the relevance and give you some useful insights on how to create better content or adjust the topics a bit. Creating content that has the greatest demand and lowest competition will draw readers faster.
- Plan your content calendar once you’re sure about the above:
Branding: Define a creative strategy for your brand
Both print and online magazines are far more of a visual medium than a newsletter or blog. Starting a magazine is about starting an experience.
Also, whenever we are building an online magazine we are building a vehicle with more options to “speak” with the reader. Again, I assume you are the geek of your niche and you have already defined the character of your readers.
Defining the reader plays a big part in your creative strategy, helping us pick the right font, text size, and speaking tone. It even impacts branding decisions, user experience, and so much more.
These four parts cover the online magazine planning stage, but now it’s time to take some massive action. The plan that we just defined will assure you’re taking a consistent direction towards success.
Now let’s start to build your first magazine issue.
Evolve your online magazine website’s layout
Creating the first issue is too often like flying blind. It’s also an extremely important milestone. This is because it will help you to understand if everything works as planned in regards to time and budget.
It’s okay if you don’t know exactly how your magazine layout and brand presence should look yet. The first issue will also lay down the foundation for your magazine’s branding and style, which you should never radically alter once it’s established. The design, user experience, and style all need to progress through evolutionary phases, rather than sudden revolution.
Do your best to be original with the layout and design of the first issue. The most important aspect is to give the magazine a recognizable brand and engaging, valuable, easy-to-read content. Impart visual meaning to different sections of the magazine.
Brand those readers! Be sure to use your brand’s color palette to maximum effect. More about this last part below.
Create a brand book
As soon as the first issue is complete and you still have all the fresh ideas and experiences from designing it, create a brand book. A magazine’s brand book is like a manual for your magazine’s layout design. It should have each element described with examples (i.e., pull quotes should look like this, folios like so, sections like this, so on and so forth). This should be a tool that will help you keep your issues consistent and professional no matter if you work with one designer, a team of designers, or simply outsource your magazine design.
Update your brand book every time you update the magazine’s design elements. As soon as you update or tweak any element in your magazine, it should be updated in the brand book. This keeps your brand consistent and helps you to evolve it consciously.
In most cases, magazines need to be designed using Adobe InDesign, or similar software, to keep the layout visually appealing and professional. This also gives you an additional format for your magazine: the PDF. This format is very useful when working with the editorial team, also for offline reading and for customer email capturing.
Only if you are using a purely online magazine model (and you don’t want to go the extra mile creating a great visual experience for your readers) can you skip this step and go with a magazine website approach for your articles. This might work really well for some niches, but others, like beauty, travel, or style, might need something visually stronger.
It’s important to understand that online-only magazines are not simply websites. Call it blog if you just want to post some text and pictures. We, as magazine publishers, are here to offer premium content and a top-tier reading experience. Our mission is to bring the best periodical reading experience to our readers.
Publishing the first issue of your magazine
Before you publish your first issue, you need a website to promote your magazine and route all the traffic. The website needs to be built with an email capture approach. Ideally, there needs to be two main parts on your website: free content and premium content.
Free content is usually the content that is available to your website’s visitors to showcase what your magazine is about and to allow them to see if it aligns with their interests. The goal is to make them subscribe to your mailing list so you can let them know when your new magazine issue is up, which brings us to your premium content.
Create an issue archive
Since you have just started your online magazine and you only have one issue, it’s a good time to establish your issue archive.
If you publish your first issue as a modern-style magazine, you can convert it into a digital library item when the next issue comes out. This option requires a bit of extra work for your production team, but it also brings the most benefits, such as an amazing desktop and mobile experience, Google visibility, and multi-platform publishing.
Alternatively, you can publish your online magazine as a classic digital edition, as a flipbook, or as a portal digital library. Whatever issue archive option you choose, this created format will help in future issue conversions for your archive and eliminate the guesswork.
Create incentives for opt-in and subscription
If you’ve designed your magazine and already have a PDF, you can simply allow it to be downloaded in exchange for an email address or allow it to be printed using a print-on-demand service.
Smart idea: give issue #1 away!
Your online magazine is now live. What’s next? Now you need to bring as many eyeballs as possible from your carefully-researched niche to read the magazine. Giving the entire issue away to those willing to part with their email address is the smartest way to get subscriber leads right out of the gate.
This method is low-commitment. It gives you the opportunity to impress and delight your audience. Use that opportunity to the fullest.
Just be sure to get the issue seen with the right marketing tactics! In the future, you can give away access to individual articles. and use analytics to track what’s hot and what’s not.
And if you cry a little inside at the idea of giving away all that hard work, you shouldn’t! You can charge for the archived issue later on when you have more issues out. Always give away the first issue so you capture the maximum relevance and attention from prospective opt-ins and subscribers. This also allows you to understand your editorial and design mistakes before asking for big bucks. And of course, you can correct those mistakes before shelving the 1st issue in the archive.
Check out our companion article on how to market an online magazine for more on how to take your new magazine to the next level. Subscribe below so you won’t miss related topics.