An increasing number of reputable publications from Black Enterprise to the Village Voice have abandoned print for an online-only publication schedule. If you’re getting into the world of online magazine publishing, you’ll find a new medium that offers broad and amazing possibilities. You’ll be diving head first into a community that’s supportive and engaging.
Here are the five most important things to remember when it comes to starting your own online magazine publishing.
1. Research Your Market
Before you start writing, you need to figure out who needs your magazine the most. While you might have a lot of great things to say, you need to know that there’s a readership out there for your work. Putting blood, sweat, and tears into a magazine is important, but if there’s no one to read it, you need to consider other options.
Lots of magazines cater to a niche of a niche market. While this might work for you, if you want to sustain your life in publishing, you need to find a market that needs you.
Once you figure out what you’re most interested in exploring online magazine publishing and sharing with your audience, you need to look at what resources they have. If you see a big wide gap in a market, take the time for a reality check. There might be a reason that no one has taken up that space already.
2. Find Your Voice
Finding your voice takes years, if not the lifetime of a publication. While you might have some grand notion that your online magazine publishing is for everyone, there is an ideal audience member out there. Once you figure out who that is, you need to start targeting them with laser accuracy.
You need to think how they think and talk how they talk.
Once your voice has been established, you can start broadening your reach. But at your core, you need to maintain a strong voice that you can build on for years to come. Your core readers will need to have a voice to depend on, no matter whether they’re a regular reader or someone who tunes in every once in a while.
3. Find Your Distribution Channel
Once you’ve put together your marketing plan and you have a little direction, you need to figure out how you’re going to reach your audience. While merely posting on social media is enough for some online magazines, its probably not the most sustainable way to run your magazine.
You need to figure out where people are finding magazines like yours and make sure you’re in line with those kinds of publications. You should be standing side by side with the most important publications in your field.
Sites and apps like Medium are great for formatting and distributing your online magazine but might not be able to give you everything you need. For the sake of displaying and viewing, they have strict limitations on how magazines can look and feel. You also might want to take advantage of the medium and expand the meaning of a “magazine”.
If you’re a sports magazine, you might want to add highlights to your articles to show off the best moments in sports. Without a channel that supports multimedia, you won’t be giving viewers everything they need.
4. Choose a Revenue Stream
While this will certainly be a project that draws deeply on your passions, it’s something that you deserve to get paid for if you’re devoting enough time to it. You shouldn’t just work for free if you could be getting paid for your efforts.
Additionally, it’s hard to attract good talent, great writers, and strong photographers if you can’t ever afford to pay them anything.
Look at what other publications in your industry are charging their readers. You might want to undercut them a little to gain an audience, but if you’re able to charge readers $15 a year for four issues, you could do quite well. If you’re struggling to give readers something they want to pay for, think about how you could incentivize subscriptions.
The whole industry is changing but if you can offer a mug or a tote bag that comes with a subscription fee, you could gain more than just straight digital subscriptions. Giving your readers something physical to have in their home makes them feel connected to your publication. That could build important loyalty that will last for decades.
5. Make Your Schedule Months in Advance
If you want to attract and keep great talent for your publication, you need to show them that you respect their schedules. Give them deadlines that are far enough in advance that they can comfortably meet your deadlines.
Also, show your customers that you want their commitment by teasing what will be in issues months from now. When they see that you have your schedule mapped out, they’ll be much more willing to send you money.
Publications come and go but if you can show that you have staying power and that you’re committed to giving out great content, you can outlast the competition. You need to let your readers know how much their time and energy means to you by having a schedule that you meet every single time.
If you say your next issue will be out at midnight of December 1st, you need to meet that deadline. While you should never put out an issue before it’s ready, magazines are expected to deliver on content and schedule in a consistent way.
Online Magazine Publishing is as Hard as Print
If you ever worked in print magazine publishing, don’t expect online magazine publishing to be any less tough. With grueling regular schedules, managing relationships with distributors, and dealing with subscribers, you’ll have just as many hurdles to success. However, with the lower overhead and increased potential for integrating exciting media, you’ll be moving int a territory that’s fresh and exciting.
If you want to be constantly increasing readership for your publication, check out our guide for success.