What platform should you use for your online magazine? (Hint: WordPress)

Why WordPress?

The war for attention online is brutal. Today, you absolutely positively must do these 5 things right:

1. Open your arms to Google search: let your articles get easily found


Paper doesn’t do it. Flip-book/digital mags rarely show up. iPad/Android mags don’t do it. PDF’s don’t do it very often. So what format shows up in Google search over and over again?

Blogs, online magazines, news websites, and YouTube videos do. Their content (as long as it is free or at least teased) gets crawled by Google and shows up when readers look for information that is covered in an article.

Here’s an example: Search for “How to decorate your bookshelves”  Click the link and see what you get. The 1st 2 results are articles from House Beautiful magazine and realsimple.com. Note these are web based articles.

2. Let your articles share quickly via social networks


This means engaging your readers with article comments, Facebook Likes, Twitter tweets, Linkedin shares, etc. The web makes this easy to do. You want ultimately readers to add your article links to their conversations on the social web.

You want readers to comment on your articles, Like and Tweet  your content. You won’t find a more powerful and easy way to do this then a web based magazine. We are not as comfortable sharing PDF, flip book articles, or iPad app content. And linking to paper… well we are still waiting for that technology to arrive.

3. Make devices happy: Let your readers read your articles on their phones


Yes WordPress right out of the box will read nicely on iPhones/Androids/iPads/Kindles and more.

And yes you can make mobile device friendly reading experiences by either: using a responsive theme (which auto adjusts to the size of a small screen – check out responsive designs at StudioPress/WooThemes/Solostream), or create a mobile device specific experience through the use of adaptive design or a WordPress plugin such as WP-Touch (affiliate links).

WordPress shoulders these 3 right out of the box quite well and it’s easy to add plugins to enhance these functions.

4. Use several ways to make money online

The fourth and less obvious thing WordPress does better than any other platform is let you create multiple ways to make money with your content.

You can:

  1. Advertise (the low bar)
  2. Sell advertorial pages that become part of your content
  3. Build an email list and sell premium advertising to it
  4. Create a monthly membership site with a plugin such as s2member or Premise (affiliates)
  5. Mix and match free vs. premium articles or issues
  6. Set up a way for your advertisers to blog about their business in real time on your site (Village Soup uses this very effectively)
  7. Get sponsors and auto publish your podcasts to iTunes
  8. Sell affiliate products
  9. Sell your own products
  10. Sell a how-to course
  11. and yes more

Number 5: The invisible shield

wordpress-logo-notext-rgbThe benefits of open source code and the WordPress community:

A. If you don’t know this, WordPress is open source and free and supported by a core team of developers at Automatic. Open source means that any developer in the world can improve the code, keep it up to date, and contribute updates back to WordPress for inclusion. That means you literally have more passionate developers improving WordPress than Google does… 10’s of thousands. It’s what makes WordPress so damn state of the art, easy to use and flexible.

B. You won’t get stuck with a proprietary system. This is one of the biggest and long term critical protections you need. If you build a publication with one developer and decided to find someone else… you can move/give access to your site to your new developer… no sweat. I ran into a small nonprofit that had sunk $30,000 into a proprietary website and 2 years later decided they didn’t like the service level they had with their developer. They were stuck (and still are), and yes legals were involved. Don’t go there.

C. Fast Workflow. Yep I snuck this one in here. More frequently than not I hear things from clients like “wow I loaded up my entire issue in less than a day!” or “I can’t believe how easy this is compared to xyz system.” That’s right WordPress let’s you load up your content wickedly fast. Ask around.

D. WordPress is also the leading publishing platform in the world. It handles over 20% of all website traffic. Used by the biggest publishers today that are on the front-lines of the web and need to cover all the bases.

  • There are currently over 60,000,000 WordPress.com sites and
  • Over 5 million downloads of WordPress 3.5 (the latest version) there are millions of older versions running, and 1 copy of WordPress could create 1000 sites (many do). The math gets tricky here but I think you get the idea, and hey if the NYTimes uses WordPress why wouldn’t you?

If you are into charts here is a good one from Sage Internet. You can see how WordPress in blue in 2010 took a solid lead over the other 2 leading open source platforms (Drupal & Joomla):


Some WordPress website and magazine/news site examples:

I am always curious as to who uses WordPress today for their blog, magazine and even main websites. Not surprisingly the list is growing with brand names.  Here are a few WordPress examples:

Rolling Stones




Marines Magazine



Bangor Daily News


LA Times


National Geographic


The Wall Street Journal


Network Solutions


And many more brand name organizations:

Nokia BlackBerry Ford Social LinkedIn Reader’s Digest Forbes Best Buy Harvard Boys’ Life Vanderbilt Dartmouth Getty Images ESPN Ning GE TechCrunch AMD Carnival Cruise Lines Pepsi Samsung Rackspace Herman Miller Flickr Adobe NY Times Blogs

If you made it this far, I know you have comments. Agree? Disagree? Let it rip :)

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