How to Start Your Own Online Magazine in 2019

Everything you need to know to create your own online magazine from scratch.

How to Start Your Own Online Magazine

Introduction

So you're thinking of creating a digital magazine. You probably have lots of questions about where to start, what software to use, how to distribute it, and more. This guide will touch on all of those points and highlight other factors you may not have thought of. After reading this, you'll be prepared to take the next step towards becoming a digital publisher.

1. Digital magazines versus online magazines

First of all, there are plenty of terms flying around (digital magazine, online magazine, ezine, webzine, digital edition, digital publication, magazine apps, etc.). It can be tricky at first to get past all the lingo, so let’s start by clearing it up.

Magazine Terminology

1.1 What is a digital magazine?

Simply put, a digital magazine has many of the same characteristics as a print magazine, but uses digital publishing technology so it can be consumed on an electronic device like a computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

There are plenty of advantages to using a digital magazine. Massive savings on printing costs and eco-friendliness are the most obvious. Depending on the technology used, digital magazines can have aesthetic and functional benefits as well. For example, they may contain animations, hyperlinks, video, and other dynamic content.

You might be surprised to learn that the first digital magazines were actually produced in the 1980s! Diskzines (or diskmags) were magazines distributed on floppy disks via post and read on a computer. PCLife was one of the first to create magazines in this format. The magazine was an executable program that included music, animation, and various forms of multimedia.

PC Life Diskzine

By the mid 1990s floppy discs were mostly replaced by CD-ROMs that could hold far more data. And by the 2000s, most digital magazines moved online.

1.2 What is an online magazine?

Online magazines (or ezines, e-zines, eMagazines, webzines) are digital magazines that are hosted, distributed, and read online. While they share some characteristics with online newspapers and blogs, the editorial approach remains more like a traditional magazine.

HTML5 Magazine Example

Online magazine example from Wageningen University

 

Due to their low cost compared to print, online magazines can be seen as a disruptive technology. Many magazine publishers have either created online editions of their magazines (referred to as a digital edition), or switched exclusively to digital formats.

The relative ease of producing digital online magazines has also opened up the digital publishing space, allowing virtually anyone to create, publish, and distribute their online magazines and achieve a wide readership.

 

TL;DR

    • Digital magazines: Any magazine that can be read on an electronic device.
    • Online magazines: Digital magazines that are hosted, distributed, and read online.
    • Digital edition: An online version of an existing print magazine.

 

For the remainder of this article, we'll be using the terms "online magazine" and "digital magazine" interchangeably as virtually all digital magazines are now online.

2. Types of digital magazines

Today, online magazines can be found in many different formats. They can be standalone publications on the web like this one from Nestle, they can be native apps for iOS or Android like this one from the Economist, or they can be part of a magazine subscription service like Zinio or Kindle Newsstand.

Below, we’ll talk about different types of digital magazines and rate them based on the effort each takes to create and the impact they’re likely to make.

2.1 Flash magazines

Flash was a technology originally created by Macromedia and later bought by Adobe. It was a popular format for many online magazines in the early 2000s as it could facilitate rich multimedia and simulate the turning of pages, just like in a printed magazine.

Adobe Flash Player is Out of Date

However, Flash as a technology has declined significantly, and many major devices (like the iPad) no longer support it. If you plan to create an online magazine, you’ll probably want to avoid Flash due to the minimal support.

Effort: High

Impact: Low

2.2 PDF magazines

Other online magazines use PDF. This is an easy and cheap solution, especially if you already have a printed magazine. With PDF, you can create an exact replica of your printed edition, and virtually all design software can easily export to PDF.

However, there are some big drawbacks to using PDF.

Notably, PDFs are fixed-layout documents intended for printing, meaning that magazines which look okay on desktop, will be:

  • Difficult to read on a mobile device
  • Usually require zooming in and panning around

In the mobile-first age, most people don’t want the hassle of looking at something that doesn’t fit their screens.

Reading a PDF magazine on a mobile phone

Reading a PDF magazine on a mobile phone

 

Furthermore, PDFs require you to download them before viewing. This is already a barrier for desktop users, but for mobile users, downloading files — and then finding them in your phone’s local storage — remains an almost alien task.

Finally, generating revenue, leads, or subscribers with PDFs is difficult because you cannot control their distribution or measure their impact. Once downloaded, readers can freely distribute them to their friends and you can’t collect data on how readers interact with them.

Effort: Low

Impact: Low

2.3 Flipbook magazines

As online magazines evolved, a new take on PDFs emerged called flippable (or browsable) PDFs. These PDF documents are typically embedded on websites and can simulate the flipping of pages, just like a printed edition. Essentially, they act as a digital replica.

Flipbook example

Here is an example of a flipbook magazine.

 

The same advantages apply to flipbooks as to simple PDF magazines — it’s extremely easy to take an existing printed magazine and digitize it. And as an additional benefit, the publication doesn’t need to be downloaded before being read.

However, the same disadvantages apply as well. Try opening the above example on a mobile phone. Because of the fixed layout, flipbooks are extremely difficult to read on mobile without zooming in and out.

Effort: Medium

Impact: Low

2.4 Native app magazines

Some publishers decide to create their own native app for their magazine. A native app simply refers to an app you can buy in the Apple app store, or the Google Play store for your iOS or Android device. These cannot be used on a traditional desktop or laptop computer.

 

Some native app magazines

 

Some native app magazines

 

Native apps probably offer the best reading experience on mobile devices as developers have almost complete control over the look and feel of the magazine. They can take advantage of digital text reflow — meaning that the text size and layout responds to the size of the screen, offering an optimal reading experience on any device.

In addition, native apps can contain all kinds of extra functionality. They can pull in dynamic, personalized ads. They can download editions for offline reading. They can include rich multimedia. They can track and measure reader behavior so that the publisher knows what types of content is popular among various segments. And the list goes on.

However, native apps have their downside as well. Most obviously, they are very time consuming and usually very expensive to develop. In addition, you are dependent on Apple or Google to approve your app (which can take time), and they will take a cut of any revenue you earn. Also, apps need to be downloaded, which is an extra step for your readers — especially in an age where people are becoming more discerning with what they install on their phone.

If you can’t afford to hire your own developers, there are numerous services that offer to create simple digital magazine apps for you. However, most of these simply convert PDF files and you end up with many of the same display issues as with flipbooks.

Effort: High

Impact: High

2.5 Magazine subscription apps

Google Play Newsstand and Apple Newsstand have both been discontinued and replaced with Google News and Apple News, respectively — simple news aggregators like Flipboard that pull in blog posts and articles from various sources.

However, there are still some major players in the magazine subscription service space including Amazon’s Kindle Newsstand, Zinio, Texture, Magzter, Readly, and more.

 

Some popular magazine subscription apps

Some popular magazine subscription apps

 

Each of these are native apps that require users to create an account, add payment details, and then allow them to subscribe to thousands of magazines published specifically for the platform with in-app purchases.

Many publishers decide to produce online digital magazines for one or more of these platforms rather than developing their own app from scratch because these services already have a large user base.

Creating magazines for these platforms is more restrictive than developing your own app because you must adhere to the platform’s (often confusing) guidelines. And while the process is somewhat simpler than developing an app from scratch, you will still need developers and designers to help you.

If you opt for this route, keep in mind that you'll be competing with thousands of other publishers featured on these platforms to get your magazine found. Also, most of these platforms charge a significant membership fee to become a publisher, along with a percentage of your sales.

Effort: High

Impact: Medium

2.6 HTML5 magazines

Last, but not least, are HTML5-based magazines. These are digital magazines that use the same technology websites depend on — HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They’re designed to work in any modern web browser and are thus appropriate for both desktops and mobile devices.

Unlike fixed-layout PDFs or flipbooks, HTML5 magazines use responsive design principles to adapt layout and typography according to the screen size of the reader. When read on a computer, they feel much like using a modern website — except with a linear flow. When used on a mobile device, they feel much like interacting with a native app.

 

Responsive magazines

HTML5 magazines work great on any device

 

The big advantage over native apps is that — because they use simple web technology — they require only a fraction of the resources to develop, and you don’t need to create more than one version for Android and iOS. Additionally, HTML5 magazines can be hosted anywhere you choose, so you’re not dependent on Google, Apple, or other services for distribution.

Some other benefits include the ability to track and measure reader behavior, the ability to update magazines even after they’ve been distributed, and the ability to control what gets indexed by search engines so that the content of your magazine shows up the way you want in search results.

There are quite a few platforms for developing HTML5 magazines, and they all vary in price and options. Foleon offers a powerful drag and drop editor for creating and publishing your own multimedia-rich, interactive, HTML5-based magazines and comes with a free trial.

Effort: Low

Impact: High

3. Choosing what type of magazine is right for you

Now that you're familiar with different types of digital magazines, you must decide which one is right for you. This largely depends on your goal, your budget, the time you have available, and whether you already have a printed edition available.

Types of digital magazines compared

3.1 Low cost options

If budget is your biggest concern, creating a PDF is by far the cheapest solution. All you need is good content and a graphic designer who’s proficient with InDesign.

If you already have a printed edition and want to go for something slightly fancier without spending much, a flipbook (or digital replica) might be best for you. There are even free tools that will do much of the work for you.

Just keep in mind the drawbacks we discussed in the previous chapter: PDFs and flipbooks don’t do well on mobile devices so you risk alienating a large segment of your potential audience. Also, it’s difficult to control distribution as your audience can freely share your magazine.

3.2 High impact options

High impact options

 

3.2.1 When to choose a magazine subscription app

If you already have a printed edition and you want to replicate its style and format as much as possible — and if you want to earn money through subscriptions — you might consider a magazine subscription app like Kindle Newsstand or Zinio.

If you choose this route, you will need to go through a vetting process before your magazine gets listed, pay a membership fee, and likely hire a developer to create XML exports of your magazine. Even then, there is no guarantee that you’ll build an audience because you’ll be competing with the thousands of other magazines featured on their platforms. You can also expect to pay a percentage of the subscriptions you sell.

Example of XML markup

Example XML code for a digital subscription app magazine

You can find out more about getting a magazine listed on Zinio here.

 

3.2.2 When to develop a native app

If budget is not a concern, and you’re willing to invest in serious development, you might consider creating a native app. This gives you lots of flexibility over the user experience and provides more than one way to generate revenue — through app sales, in-app purchases, or through advertising. Just keep in mind, you will only reach mobile readers, not desktop users.

You’ll need to create a separate version for each mobile platform you want to be on (iOS apps and Android apps are written in different programming languages). You’ll also be subject to Google and/or Apple quality control, terms and conditions, and you’ll have to share a cut of your profits. And again, the app store is crowded, so unless you already have a strong brand, there is no guarantee readers will ever find you.

You can learn more about submitting a magazine app to the Apple app store here.

 

3.2.3 When to choose an HTML5 magazine

If maximum impact is your goal, and you can’t afford a team of developers, an HTML5 magazine is probably the way to go. They allow you to reach both computer and mobile users with an equally immersive reading experience, and you won’t be subject to anyone else’s terms and conditions.

An HTML5 magazine lives on its own domain (e.g., yourmagazine.com) and users can read it with any modern browser, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. And just like with native apps, you have tremendous design freedom. You can embed rich media like background videos, and create fluid animations as users turn pages.

Example HTML5 magazine

An HTML5 magazine from Headlines UK

 

Because they use the same technology as websites, you can put anything in an HTML5 magazine that you could on a regular website, including forms, overlays, frames and embeds — even 3rd party tracking scripts and remarketing pixels.

Watch out, though, many platforms that claim to produce HTML5 magazines, really just create flippable PDFs that suffer from the same poor mobile experiences we discussed earlier. These can be spotted quite easily as they typically offer to "convert" your PDFs.

For a high quality HTML5 magazine platform, check out Foleon’s no-code, drag & drop, true HTML5 magazine builder.

4. What’s the goal of your digital magazine?

At the outset of any big project, it's important to start with the goal in mind. Creating an online magazine is no different. Magazines can have many different objectives, and identifying yours will affect the platform you choose, the layout and design options you decide upon, your editorial formula, and more.

The goal of your magazine

4.1 Selling subscriptions and ads

When most people think of a magazine, they think of good old-fashioned subscription-based magazines. Here, the goal is simply to generate revenue through subscriptions and/or advertising. Of course, for this to be a feasible goal, you need to have high quality content that people are willing to pay for and a good marketing strategy.

More and more publishers offer "freemium" models — that is, they offer some of their content for free, but then require a subscription for full access. National Geographic, for example, offers plenty of free articles on their website and in their native app, but if you want the full experience, or access to past editions, you must subscribe.

Many magazines, such as The Economist and FastCo, offer their digital edition for free if you are also subscribed to their print edition. Others, like Extra Crunch from TechCrunch offer only an online edition.

Economist subscription

If you have an existing printed magazine with a big subscriber base, you'll need to decide if your upcoming digital edition will be a standalone product that you sell separately, an online replica that print subscribers get for free, or even a supplement that offers exclusive content not included in the print edition.

If you're just starting out, on the other hand, you may want to consider a free or freemium model, at least until your magazine gains enough traction to begin charging a fee. Most new magazines choose this route, relying on advertising revenue to turn a profit.

4.2 Engaging readers

Not all magazine producers are publishers per se. Companies in any number of industries may create magazines to keep their customers up-to-date, inspire them with interesting new content, and keep them engaged with the brand.

Some great examples are Red Bulletin by RedBull and Airbnb magazine. Neither of these companies are publishers primarily, but both produce great magazines to keep customers engaged and enthusiastic about their brands and the lifestyles associated with their products and services.

While the above mentioned examples charge subscription fees, other companies simply produce magazines for free.

In this case, the goal is not to sell subscriptions or earn revenue directly — the benefits in reader engagement offset the production costs. Organizations that have other primary revenue-generating activities create magazines to use as valuable communication assets.

Whole Foods Magazine, for example, is a completely free nutritional magazine produced by the supermarket chain, Whole Foods, in both print and online versions. It contains news and editorial content, original research, and more.

Whole foods magazine cover

It is not a place where Whole Foods advertises its products. Rather, it contains all kinds of content to inspire people interested in nutrition and healthy eating. By engaging and inspiring their audience in this way, Whole Foods indirectly encourages more shopping.

It's worth noting that, even though Whole Foods Magazine is free for readers, they do also include advertisements to help finance it.

Another example where engagement is the main goal are staff magazines. Many large companies produce magazines for internal distribution among their employees. Again, the objective here is reader engagement — to keep their workforce informed, happy, and more productive.

4.3 Selling products or services

A third goal you might have in mind is not to sell the magazine itself, but to use it to sell your products and services. In this case, your magazine would resemble something of a product catalog or brochure.

Probably the most obvious example of this type of magazine would be the duty free shopping magazines you find in airplanes. These are magazines full of nothing but ads, and while they may be in a magazine format, their main purpose is to get readers to buy something.

Duty free magazine

But some brands also make magazines to sell their own products and services — not only those of their advertisers. This rather stunning HTML5 magazine from Forbo Flooring is a good example.

The 2017/2018 edition of My Volvo Magazine is another exceptional example of an online magazine that is designed to move product. Rather than creating simple ads, Volvo devoted an entire magazine, full of long-form content and stunning imagery to market a selection of their products.

5. How to structure your online magazine

When we talk about structuring a magazine, we're speaking primarily of the sections you should include and the order you put them in — your editorial formula. Of course the decision you make here depend largely on what type of magazine you intend to create, the goal of your magazine, and your target audience. The good news is that with a digital magazine, you have even more freedom and flexibility than with a printed edition.

How to structure your magazine

Let's first cover the most common sections that almost always appear in traditional magazines.

5.1 Cover pages

Traditional print magazines have four "cover" pages: the front and back covers, and the insides of the covers which are usually reserved for the most expensive ads.

However, because we're dealing with digital formats, the "inside" covers are not really distinct from any other page. The same goes for the back cover — you can't exactly hold a digital magazine and turn it over, so the back cover isn't necessarily relevant.

So that leaves the front cover. This is the part everyone will see and it plays a big part in whether potential readers choose to open your magazine. You should give a lot of thought as to how you design it and what it should feature.

What should go on your front cover?

Taylor Swift magazine cover

A good rule of thumb is that, if you want to stand out among your competition, your cover needs to be striking. Your choice of colors, visuals, and typography should be well chosen and compelling. Besides this, there are a few pretty standard things to include on a magazine cover:

  • Your brand logo or title of your magazine
  • A featured image or illustration
  • The publication date (optional)
  • The issue or edition number (optional)
  • A subtitle or name of the edition (optional)
  • Some highlights about what's inside (Not everyone will visit all your pages, so showing your most important articles on the cover may increase the likelihood they’ll read them)

One of the advantages of a digital magazine (depending on the technology you're using) is that you can use a fullscreen background video for the cover instead of a static image. This is a great way to stand out and attract attention. It's even possible to include a button to encourage people to "keep reading" or "open the magazine."

Digital magazine video background cover

Online magazine with a background video for a cover

5.2 Front of the book

"Front of the book" is magazine terminology for several pages usually in the beginning of the magazine, including the table of contents, impressum, the editor's letter, and comments or letters from readers.

Of course, depending on your goal and target audience, you can choose which of these are relevant for your magazine. Let's quickly go through each of these with a short explanation.

 

5.2.1 Table of contents

This is almost always the first page of a magazine, although in digital publishing, some magazines even combine this with their cover page. It should, at the very least, list all of the featured articles in the magazine, if not everything.

Table of contents example

A big advantage of digital magazines is that you can turn the items in your table of contents into hyperlinks so that readers can easily jump to the section that interests them.

 

5.2.2 The impressum or masthead

Usually in the beginning of the magazine, but sometimes placed at the back, the masthead is a page or section that lists all of the people involved in the production of the magazine, including the editorial staff, the marketers and content producers, designers, and other key people.

Depending on the type of magazine you're creating, this section may or may not be necessary. If you're creating a magazine that will serve as a product catalog, for example, you might leave it out entirely.

Remember that today's readers have short attention spans, and you want to get them to the important stuff right away. With this in mind, you might consider putting it at the back.

 

5.2.3 Letter from the editor

Again, this will vary depending on the style of your magazine. Usually, the letter from the editor is a welcoming message that briefly covers the contents of the magazine, gives some important information, or touches on recent news.

Letter from the editor

In a staff magazine, this is often replaced by a letter from the CEO or head of human resources. In either case, it serves to give your magazine more of a human touch and make it feel less like comes from a faceless brand.

 

5.2.4 Letters from readers

This section is entirely optional and, obviously, depends on whether you receive such letters. Magazines with a very large reader base may have the luxury of hundreds of letters from which to choose the most interesting. Smaller publications probably don't receive enough reader feedback to create a dedication section, but this also depends on the frequency of your magazine.

If you have the material, however, including letters from readers is a great way to show other readers that they're not the only one reading. It helps to create a community feeling around your magazine — and this can be valuable.

5.3 The feature well

This is the main part of your magazine where your featured articles go. Size-wise, this should be the most substantial section.

It's always good to add variety here. Use a combination of longer and shorter articles. Mix that up with interviews, reviews, and opinion pieces — or whatever is relevant to your subject matter. Staff magazines, for example, might feature an interview with an employee of the month and then a short piece about next month's targets.

Types of magazine articles from Foleon

Add variety in the types of featured articles you include

 

It's important to keep your features visually distinct so that readers know when they've moved from one article to the next. Your layout and color choices should make this distinction clear while also serving to make for a pleasant reading experience.

In a digital magazine you can include more than just text and images. Videos are a great way to add more engaging content. Interactive, animated charts and graphs are popular. Overlays and popups that readers can open to see more content are fun to play with as well. HTML5 magazines even allow you to add forms and collect feedback from your readers right on the page.

5.4 Back of the book

The back of the book is where everything else goes. But that isn't to say it shouldn't be interesting. In many magazines, you'll find classified ads, horoscopes, and smaller columns. But this greatly depends on the type of magazine.

Generally speaking, advertising in this part of the magazine is cheaper than in the front of the book or in the feature well as it tends to get less attention.

Some magazines choose to put the impressarium in the back of the book rather than the front. For a digital magazine, there's even more reason to do this as you want new readers to get to your best content as quickly as possible.

The last pages of can be a great place to add contact forms, or even calls-to-action (CTAs) if you're using your magazine for sales or marketing purposes. If you're running a traditional subscription-based magazine, don't forget to provide a way for potential advertisers to get in touch.

Contact form in your magazine

6. Online magazine revenue models

Most people intend to earn a reasonable ROI with their magazines, whether it's directly through selling subscriptions, or indirectly, for example by providing customers with relevant, inspiring material that encourages them to stay engaged with their brand.

Before we go further, it's important to mention that much of the publishing industry in general has endured difficult times recently as social media and free content has grown in popularity and people spend less time reading traditional magazines.

The good news, however, is that with a digital magazine you have a huge advantage.

Online magazine revenue models

This section will discuss various revenue models you can implement for your digital magazine. The model(s) you choose will largely depend on your goal, the style of your magazine, and the technology you choose.

6.1 Subscriptions and single copy sales

The most obvious way that magazines earn money is through sales, either via an intermediary, or as a subscription service. Let's look at how traditional print magazines do it, and then compare that with online magazines.

 

6.1.2 Single copy sales

If you go to the local newspaper store and purchase a magazine, only a portion of what you pay ends up as profit for the magazine's publisher.

Single copy sales are usually the least profitable ways for magazines to earn revenue. When you consider the printing and distribution costs, the margin is not very large. On top of that, the magazine typically pays for space on the newsstand's shelves.

Profit = revenue - production costs - printing costs - distribution costs - shelf costs

 

6.1.3 Subscription sales

Subscriptions are far more profitable because publishers can eliminate one of the middlemen. The publisher ships magazines directly to readers and doesn't have to pay for shelf space. Also, income tends to be more predictable because subscribers typically pay in advance.

Profit = revenue - production costs - printing costs - distribution costs

Still, for a printed magazine that sells subscriptions, the revenue will always be offset by how much it costs to print and ship. Printing and distribution costs are typically the largest expense for any magazine.

The huge advantage of online magazines is that they entirely eliminate printing and shipping costs.

 

6.1.3 Decreasing marginal costs

Another thing to consider is that, with physical magazines, a unit must be printed and shipped for every copy sold. Thus, your total costs increase as you sell more. You also run the risk of printing too many upfront.

Profit = (sale price x units sold) - (cost per unit x units printed)

A digital magazine, on the other hand, only needs to be created once. Because it's virtual and not physical, it can then be sold an unlimited number of times without incurring additional costs.

Profit = (sale price x units sold) - 1-time production cost

With a digital magazine, your cost per unit is simply your 1-time cost divided by the number of sales (i.e., it shrinks as you sell more).

 

6.1.4 Selling digital magazine subscriptions

While eliminating printing and shipping costs makes creating and selling digital online magazines much cheaper and accessible for more people, there will be other costs involved.

If you decide to sell subscriptions via Zinio or Kindle for example, you will pay a membership fee and most likely a percentage of all your sales. This is comparable to the shelf fee a print publication pays to newstands. These magazine services provide various options for you to promote your magazine to existing users of the platform.

Similarly, if you decide to create native apps for your magazines, both Apple and Google retain approximately 30% of the revenue you generate from selling your app or providing in-app purchases, in addition to the initial registration fee. Your ability to sell subscriptions will depend on how well your app does in the app store.

With an HTML5 magazine, you have more control over your marketing without having to rely on Apple's, Google's, or Zinio's existing audiences. You will pay for using most HTML5 magazine software platforms to create content, but they don't typically take a cut of your sales. Your magazines will exist on any URL you choose.

6.2 Selling ads

The other most common way for magazines to earn revenue is through advertising. It's extremely rare to find a magazine that doesn't contain ads. Most magazines use a combination of subscriptions and advertising to generate multiple streams of revenue.

 

6.2.1 Classified ads

Just like in a newspaper or printed magazine, digital magazines can contain classified ads where just about anyone can pay for space. Classified ads are typically small, include just a few lines of text, maybe an image, and some contact information. They usually appear in the back of the book.

Classified ads in online magazines

What makes classified ads more interesting in digital format is that they can contain hyperlinks with UTMs that the advertiser can use to track the source of the traffic they generate. This gives advertisers a far better understanding of the performance of their ads than they would obtain from a printed version.

Your ability to generate revenue from classified ads depends on the circulation and popularity of your magazine. The more people read your magazine, the more advertisers will be willing to pay for space.

 

6.2.2 Display ads

Display ads are the most common and easily recognizable ads in a magazine. They are often distributed throughout an entire publication and clearly display some product or service. Display ads are far more expensive than classified ads (often costing thousands of dollars) because of their location in the magazine and the amount of space allowing for a great deal of exclusivity.

Full-page display ad

Again, a brand's willingness to pay for advertising space will depend on the reach of your magazine. If you're just starting out it will be difficult to attract advertisers. But as your readership grows, this can turn into a major source of income.

A benefit of digital magazines is that you can include dynamic display ads — the most common being Google Adwords. With these kinds of ads, you provide the space for the ad, but Google determines what content will show up in that space based on the reader's previous browsing behavior. One advantage here is that you don't need to negotiate with individual advertisers; Google pays you for the number of times your ad is clicked.

 

6.2.3 Advertorials and sponsored content

Advertorials (sometimes referred to as native ads) are a form of advertisement that usually takes the form of a story. Reader's may often confuse them with editorial content. However, most publications include a note that the article is "sponsored content" paid for by an advertiser, or simply add a label that marks the article as an advertorial.

Native ads and advetorials

Native ads are less disruptive to the reading experience than display ads. They are not intended to fool readers into thinking they are editorial pieces — readers can readily tell when they're reading sponsored content — but they make ads more interesting and relevant as they fit the flow and design of the magazine.

Rather than focusing directly on selling a product or service, native ads tell an interesting story, or highlight some fun facts that are both relevant to the publication they're in and the company that sponsors the piece.

How much should you charge for native ads? That can be a tough question. HubSpot gives some ideas on pricing for sponsored content, but you should also consider factors like whether the pieces are beneficial for your readers and add to your overall magazines experience, and whether you may want to build a long-term partnership with the advertiser.

Oh, and if you intend to attract advertisers, don't forget to include contact information in your magazine for them to get in touch!

6.3 Content paywalls

Today's content consumers are used to getting things for free. Many magazines and newspapers now use "freemium" models where they offer a number of articles free of charge, but pay for access to additional content.

The New York Times, for example, allows you to read 3 articles per month before requiring you to subscribe. Other magazines don't limit the number of articles, but place their "high quality" pieces behind a payment wall.

New York  Times paywall

Still other magazines allow you to read the first several pages before you run into a screen which requires you to sign up.

Offering content for free is a great way to get more exposure and generate more brand awareness around your magazine, especially in the beginning. People like to "try before they buy," and offering a taste of what they'll get increases their confidence when deciding to purchase a subscription.

Your ability to generate revenue with this model depends on the quality of your magazine's content. Is it engaging and interesting enough for people to want to pay to get more?

HTML5 magazines like those created with Foleon, allow you to gate your magazine at any point throughout the publication, requiring readers to log in or sign up before continuing.

6.4 Generating leads

As we discussed in Chapter 4, magazines can have different goals. Not everyone who produces a magazine is a publisher. Many organizations create magazines for marketing purposes to engage their audience rather than to generate revenue directly.

Still, in order for these types of magazines to be worthwhile, some kind of return should be expected, whether it's increased engagement with your brand (as Airbnb magazine does), more ideas for shopping (as Wholefoods magazine does), or something else.

One of the most popular ways to use digital magazine as a marketing asset is to collect reader information and generate leads. Online marketers often create "content offers" such as eBooks, whitepapers, and guides that site visitors can download after filling in their personal information.

In most cases, the sales or marketing department will use the gathered information to follow up with visitors, offering them some kind of promotion and nudging them towards becoming a customer.

Online HTML5 magazines are a great format for lead generating content offers that help to fill your sales funnel. In a world where most marketers still put their eBooks and whitepapers in PDF format, a responsive, interactive digital magazines can be a big differentiator.

Digital magazines can be "gated" behind a regular form on a landing page, like our Introduction To Digital Content Creation. Another option that's growing in popularity is to use social login instead of a form. If visitors use their LinkedIn credentials to access a magazine, you're more likely to get more accurate and more complete information.

Gated magazine with social login

An HTML5 magazine gated with LinkedIn and used for collecting leads

7. Conclusion

No matter which route you take, creating an online magazine from scratch is a big job. From creating and curating content, to working with advertisers and media partners, there is a lot to consider. Hopefully, this article provides you with enough information to start making important decisions like what platform you'll use and how you'll finance your magazine.

A final piece of advice we'll leave you with is that content is king. In the end, the success of your magazine will depend mostly on how good your content is. If you provide consistently superior content that engages and inspires, readers will keep coming back for more and you'll achieve your goals, whether it's charming readers, educating your employees, selling your products, or turning a profit.

 

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