Thinking of going digital with your content? Or even start a digital magazine from scratch?
When it comes to online publishing, we know a thing or two, so we’ve put together a complete guide to help you get started in the digital publishing world.
The idea of starting or running your own digital magazine is very appealing. It may start as a hobby or a passion for many, but for others, it could be a business right from the very start.
How to start a digital magazine: carve out a niche
Let’s say you’re passionate about traveling and enjoy talking and writing about it. There are a lot of other online publishers that already do that and they do it well. So, you’d like to stand out? But how to do that in an already overcrowded space? Take Flaneur magazine, for example.
They explore traveling quite different, covering one street per issue. And for each cover, the editorial team moves into an apartment near location embarking on daily missions to explore the lives and culture of residents.
Business wise, you should find a niche by looking out for competition and thinking about defining your brand to stand out from the crowd.
Who will read me? Where?
Defining your target audience as narrowly as possible is the key to success!
Who is your target audience, where they spend time on? How they like to consume magazines?
These are the main questions to ask oneself before getting down to work. Maybe your potential readers enjoy reading interviews so you should include at least one in your publication.
One man show or part of a TEAM
Starting a digital magazine from scratch takes a lot of passion, hard work and determination.. and money. Most digital magazines start small and expand over time.
You can start as a one man show and do-it-all by yourself or build a team, if money’s not an issue. However, you can keep costs down by working with freelance editors, content writers or graphic designers.
Contributed content is another option to go for. It can expand your visibility and help you gain audience, especially at the beginning. Or you can mix both, your own with contributed content.
Content is King
You’ve decided to launch yourself into the digital magazine space. You’ve got a main idea about how you want it to be. What next? Start writing content!
Good content comes from great ideas but I’d highly recommend outlining an editorial plan before getting down to work. In addition to your workflow, your editorial content plan will define the characteristics of your publication, the tone of voice and style of your content. The editorial rules and standards will control all your writing efforts.
Even if you’ve managed to get together a handful of great writers, you also need a copy editor.
Not only he will help with spelling and grammar but also make your work ready for publication.
A copy editor will ensure that all material complies with the rules and standards outlined in your editorial plan.
After all, the style of your narrative will come down to your readers, your target audience. If your digital magazine is aimed towards teenagers, you should adopt a more casual tone. On the other hand, if you are publishing for a more mature audience and cover subjects like current affairs or business, your tone of voice should be serious.
When it comes to putting your publication out and getting people to buy it, design makes a huge difference.
The old saying Don’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t apply here. You need an appealing cover and layout design to enhance your content.
Every element, from color scheme to fonts and photography should be an important detail of your magazine’s identity. If you can’t afford to hire a designer right away, there are plenty of freelancers you can work with.
In the end, the most important thing here is to use responsive design, making your digital magazine easily readable on a desktop, tablet or smartphone.
Let’s talk layout
All your content needs to be presented and organised now. You will most likely have recurring sections, such as interviews or editorial opinions section.
Managing a large amount of content while maintaining a stylish look and flow can be quite a challenge.
The cover could be one of the reasons why someone initially picks your magazine, but the contents page is the real hook for the whole publication.
PRO TIP: Try to spread diverse content throughout the entire magazine. It’s good to have recurring sections so that readers have something to come back to, but try to stir things up a bit by adding new surprises every now and then.
When it comes to print vs digital, there are many similar processes that need to be handled. One of them is distribution. Even if you don’t have to think about the logistics of printing and manually delivering your magazine, distribution is an important process in the digital publishing world, as well.
Many digital publishers consider building an app or a website as the best choice, whilst others will use a digital publishing tool, such as Flipsnack.
Hosting your digital magazine on Flipsnack is free. And you don’t need tech skills as you can easily share or integrate your publication on other websites with the help of the embed code. Easy as 1, 2 3!
Take into consideration that, if on a shoestring budget, creating an app or publishing on your own website will take more money and resources, while hosting your publication directly on a digital publishing platform, is more affordable. It all depends on your budget and team, at this point.
Pricing and monetization
A very important aspect of starting a digital magazine is establishing a correct price. You will put a lot of hard work and passion into it and that’s why this process may be a very daunting one. Let’s pinpoint the most important factors here:
- The actual production of a digital magazine is less expensive than doing the print version.
- Make sure to analyse your competitors before establishing a price. Do not make this an instinct decision.
- Long term subscriptions. Offer readers a deal by paying a longer term subscription to your magazine.
Your revenue will most likely depend on subscriptions. But there are many other ways to monetize. The most common model of generating revenue is through ads. However, if you don’t want to do this, you can opt for a metered paywall. Your website’s visitors can read a few free articles a month, after which they are asked to pay. The Times is successfully using this strategy to monetize since 2011. This method is now standard across digital publishers.
Content bundling is a big trend this year. This is something cable television companies and print magazines have been doing for ages. Since more and more magazines shifted from print to digital, the bundling content strategy can help with increasing readers engagement. If you’re already publishing in print, one way to use content bundling is to sell your print and digital versions together, for a special price.
Sponsored content is another great way to offer good editorial content that doesn’t turn off the reader’s experience. The best example to showcase how sponsored content can be engaging and interesting without being too promotional is The New York Times partnership with Airbnb. It’s a project dedicated to Ellis Island and the way immigrants used to travel to New York in a pursuit for happiness and a new life.
Promoting your online magazine
You finally got here! It’s time to get your magazine out in the world wide web. If you’re not already publishing in print, and you’re new in this business, you need a solid marketing plan.
If people don’t know about you, how are they going to read your magazine when it comes out? At this point, you should keep your target audience in mind. Where are your readers? Are they spending time on social media?
Most publishers consider social media more of a traffic driver and SEO-supporter rather than a sales driver. So, you should definitely include social media in your marketing plan.
You shouldn’t be on every social media platform, try to find the best fit for your publication and start creating buzz. A very effective strategy is to work with influencers that could help promote your work and increase brand awareness in your field.
Newsstands and app stores
In a time when traditional newsstands are less profitable, just as print magazines shifted towards digital, physical newsstands did as well. These digital distribution platforms offer a wide variety of digital content, from newspapers and magazines to journals. There are 4 most widely used digital newsstands: Amazon, Apple, Amazon and Google Play.
PRO TIP: No one likes a free app without any free content. We highly recommend offering a free magazine issue, or at least, a few articles to pique curiosity.
When uploading your digital magazine on these newsstands, is essential to do keyword optimization so that users will easily find your publication. Using the right set of keywords can help you reach in the top five app pages. Good reviews are also helpful. Make sure to get your ratings up!
Another marketing practice to help you stay top of mind with your audience is to publish editorial newsletters. If you’re sending out valuable, usable content, your readers are more likely to spend money with you. When building your email list, consider giving away freebies in exchange for an email address.
Congratulations, you made it!
The old days when publishing meant throwing newspapers and magazines onto doorsteps, are long gone. Nowadays, you have the opportunity of building a much deeper relationship with your readers through online publishing.
We hope this complete guide will inspire you and help you get started in the digital publishing world.