Why should you focus your publishing efforts on the web?

(Rather watch the video this article based on? It’s at the bottom)

What are the biggest benefits of publishing your magazine or news site online today? Let’s define what a web based magazine is today. If you look at the bigger publishers:

  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Sports Illustrated
  • New York Times
  • Bostonglobe.com

They are publishing on the web which means that their stories can be found in Google search, their stories can be commented on and forwarded into social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Now, let’s start answering some questions.

How do you reach new subscribers with an online publication?

In this case Google is your friend. Watch the 44 second video below to see how Google handles your articles when new visitors look for information that you are publishing.

Did you see how new readers search in Google and land directly on your article page? They skipped your home page entirely! Keep in mind that most (over 70%) new readers will land on your article pages first. You can see how important the layout of your article pages is (make sure you read our article on article page layout).

How do Facebook, Twitter and other social sites fit in?

Each article you publish (at the very least) should be set up so that it can be liked in Facebook. If I Like your article (clicking the Like button on your article page – see image below) and I have a 100 Facebook friends, then a 100 of my Facebook friends might see that I like your article… and the Like gives them a link in Facebook back to your article.


This is the viral power of social media and you might find a new subscriber. You can also add Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, and Pinterest buttons if you wish.

Comments are powerful in your publication

Give your readers the ability to leave comments on each article. Each comment you get does 2 things:

  1. it engages your audience further
  2. it adds more content (text) for that article which helps your articles show up in Google search results. More text = a good thing with Google.

An example: If you’re a reader of the New York Times, for example, you might notice that some of the articles get hundreds of comments.

nyt comments600

What’s interesting is that I can jump right to the comments of an article and figure out what the story is about (without reading it) and what people’s opinions against the story are. It’s almost more interesting than the story itself. It’s a powerful way to add dynamic content to each article. And guess what, you are not doing any of the work. Your readership is.

What types of content should you publish?

So what can you publish on your magazine site?

Other than your bread and butter articles, here are 2 important ideas:

1. Audio interviews. Fire up Skype and interview somebody of note in your industry (record it). Publish the interview in your article and and produce an audio file that can be imported into somebody’s iPhone or Android while they are traveling.

2. Video. If you are not exploring video today, you need to. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. That’s right, after Google people are searching in YouTube. It’s clear readers love video and you should produce video in your publication. There’s another benefit to publishing public videos and that’s they are findable in search. Have you ever searched for something and gotten a few video results? Google is delivering more and more video results in search.

iPhones/Androids/Kindle/smart devices

iphoneLet’s talk about smart devices – iPads, Androids, Kindles. Your magazine should be readable on these devices. Look at this statistics, Nelson recently revealed that over 50% of cell phones carried in early 2013 are smart phones.

Now, think about that. That means in 2013, 14, 15, we’re going to have most people carrying smart phones. What do people do with these smart phones? They read. They read while they are sipping hteir morning coffee, waiting in a line, getting their oil changed, on the toilet and in bed. You hve to be there during those moments of downtime.


Let’s shift gears and talk a little bit about workflow. Publishing your stories online is very different from publishing your stories in a paper magazine. You design once. In other words, you create a master design for your site. Then, you get to focus on content, and you get to focus on marketing. That is much easier than having to re-create a layout for every single issue as it comes out.

As far as a content management system goes today, I like and promote WordPress. We find that it is the easiest content management system for clients to use. They love to use it. It allows them to publish stories quickly with video, with audio, photo galleries, anything they like.

Long term costs

Let’s talk a little bit about cost reduction. I’m going to go to a different place… There’s some obvious benefits to publishing online, versus paper. Yes, you’re not laying out every issue, you’re not printing issues, and you’re not paying for the mailing costs of all of these issues.

But, what if you want to change development companies? You publish your magazine online. You decide, for whatever reason, that you’re going to hire a different company.

What this brings up the discussion of open source versus proprietary software: in other words, the software that you’re going to use to build your magazine. It’s very important.


“Open source” means software development by a community that encourages contributions, and it’s free. Firefox is a great example of open source software that is given away. It’s great software, lots of people use it, and yes, it’s free. It’s developed by a talented, passionate group of volunteers that welcome contributions from other passionate developers.

In contrast, Microsoft publishes and sells proprietary software. No one else can contribute to it.

For web publishing software, it slows a platforms ability to improve, and that can be the death of that software. One of the big downsides we have run across with a proprietary systems is that you get tied hard to the platform  If you decide to move from one system to a different platform, you are back to square one. The cost and time to change platform is almost as much as the original construction. I’ve seen this happen, over and over again.

Now, just for your information, the three most popular open source content management systems–CMS, you might have seen around, standards for Content Management System–are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. We use WordPress, we love it, clients love it, and that’s what we recommended.

How do you make money with an online magazine?

Let’s cover a few approaches. They all work and depending on your audience, one might work better than another.

  • People pay for your subscription  (pay wall). They can’t read an article unless they have paid (perhaps a teaser is available).
  • Foster a membership community, where the subscribers get to interact with each other, and you get to produce special interactive content for them. Each member pays a monthly fee.
  • Serve up ads. This is the easiest to set up but without volume can be difficult to make money with.
  • You can serve up “advertorials”–in other words, full articles that are really ads for your advertisers.
  • Or let advertisers blog right on your homepage for a weekly fee. This works really well for hyper-local publications.
  • You can repackage your existing articles into ebooks. You have a great series of stories? Well, create an ebook and sell it for 19 bucks as a digital download.
  • Or, let’s say you’re interviewing experts in the industry once a month, and after 12 months you have great interviews. Well, put it on a CD and sell it so people can listen to it in their car.
  • The same goes for video. If you’re publishing video, put it on a DVD, put a price tag on it, and sell it.
  • Sell targeted products to your audience (your own or affiliate products)


Let’s wrap up the major benefits of publishing your magazine or news site online.

  1. Your stories have reach: Google search will send you new readers every day.
  2. Your stories are easily shareable in social media.
  3. Varied content: You have the ability, online, to easily publish audio, video, photo galleries, and more.
  4. Your magazine can be readable on smart devices all by itself, without the need for an app.
  5. Workflow. Use a content management system (hint: WordPress) that’s going to be easy to train other people to use, and even fun, so that you can push the stories out fast, and focus on marketing and creating content.
  6. You can make money with a magazine using several diffent publishing models

One last story… we had a magazine client come on board that stopped printing, went to 100 percent online, and in their first month, they actually gained subscribers. Yes, some complained and went away, but more than enough subscribers joined, in that first month, to cover and increase the subscriber base.

It was a big win, and you can do it too.

Here’s the video version of this article:

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