02 Mar 2017 by Marco Atzori

5 rules to follow in order to publish a digital magazine

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It’s little wonder that so many people, organisations and companies of all sizes are coming to realise why it is generally such a huge benefit to publish a digital magazine. This is the age where content is king and content marketing is ruling the internet.


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Digital magazines have so much to offer in this environment that really in many cases it would be hard to think of a reason not to publish at least one. At the same time, however, successful digital magazine publishing, as with so many other activities, generally requires a combination of hard work and know how. To help with the latter, here is a list of 5 rules to follow in order to publish a digital magazine.

Make your Magazine Readable

Of course content matters, but all that hard work you put into creating great content will count for absolutely nothing unless people can actually, physically read it. There are two points to keep in mind here.

Firstly people of all ages have varying levels of eyesight. This includes younger people. Even if you’re creating a magazine specifically for the young-adult demographic, you need to realise that some of them are going to have a whole lot less than 20/20 vision, make sure you keep their needs in mind.

The second is that these days your content could be read on anything from a huge monitor to the tiny touchscreen on a budget Android handset. It has to be legible on any and all of them. Fortunately, both of these aims can be easily achieved with a bit of common sense and a touch of technical knowledge.

The common-sense part is sticking with fonts (like Verdana) which were actually designed for on-screen use and being sensible about contrasting text and background and using colours which are physically easy to the eye (as opposed to bright and brash ones, except as accent colours when you really want to make a statement).

The second means that need to have a way to make content adapt to the device on which it is viewed. In practical terms, this means either supporting reflowing or using responsive design. The good news is, if you use a quality piece of software to publish a digital magazine, it will probably have this covered.

Make Sure your Magazine Works from Download to Navigation

This may seem a blindingly obvious point, but a quick glance through user reviews on the Google and Apple stores suggests that many publishers fail to grasp it. From a technical standpoint, this is, up to a point, understandable in the Android world, where there are so many different versions of the operating system still in use. In the Apple world, however, it is much less likely that users will be on antiquated versions of iOS.

Users, however, generally have very little regard for the technicalities, they just want to pick up a digital magazine which opens and which they can actually read. Again, if you use quality software to produce your digital magazine, you will probably have this covered, but if you do find yourself struggling, you may find your best solution, in the short term, is to focus on one platform and get it right there before moving (back) to the other one. As Apple tends to have a higher percentage of users on its most recent operating system, this is likely to be the one to choose.

Once readers have managed to download and open your digital magazine, make sure that they can actually find their way through it. While digital magazines are already a huge industry and growing all the time, there are yet to be any standards agreed on how they should be presented.

This means that every time a reader picks up a new title, they may be faced with having to unlearn what they have learned from previous purchases and learn a new interface from scratch. From a user’s perspective this can be a really frustrating experience and it’s very little comfort to them that it’s nobody’s fault, exactly.

One of the golden rules of any type of industry is to make life easy for your customers so put a section in a prominent place in your magazine, which explains exactly how to navigate through the digital magazine (as opposed to what’s in it). Remember, it may seem obvious to you, but it may be completely obscure to your readers.

Make your Digital Magazines Interactive

Yes, you can just make your digital magazine the on-screen equivalent of a paper magazine, but you’re wasting so many opportunities if you do. Every successful company does all it can to engage its customers and going digital gives publishers a huge leg up over the paper world.

In the paper world, interactivity is largely restricted to running competitions and publishing letters (or these days, more likely e-mails). Online, you can have them playing games and completing quizzes where they see how they do against other readers. You can link them to forums where they can chat with other readers and/or members of your team. You can include audio and video and links to other articles. There are all kinds of possibilities, so make the most of them.

Publish Little and Often

Digital publishing frees you from the hassle of print schedules and the logistics of distribution. This means that you can and probably should look to publish smaller publications more frequently rather than more substantial ones less often. As a rough rule of thumb, aim to publish something which can be enjoyed and digested in, at most, an hour. Less can be fine, too.

Digital magazines are often consumed by people on the go, particularly commuters, who simply want some interesting and engaging content they can read in a rush. As a reminder, however, the more content you include, the more important it becomes to have absolutely crystal clear navigation and we’d like to repeat, it can be very beneficial to include a navigation section within the magazine itself.

Use Free Content as a Teaser

Free content is a reality of publishing for the simple reason that magazines are generally entirely discretionary purchases and readers understandably want to be sure that they’re going to get value for money before they part with their (digital) cash.

Your free content has to be a reasonable representation of what your customers can expect to find in your digital magazine itself. In other words, it has to offer the same sort of level of quality, neither significantly higher nor significantly lower and it has to be on relevant topics.

Having said that, there is nothing which says it has to be your most recent content. Once you start to build up a library of back issues, you can put some of them (typically your oldest issues) online for free, so customers can see what they’re missing.

As you start building up even more content, you may even be able to start reusing it in different ways to maximize your income stream. For example, you could extract some relevant articles from your old issues and put them online for free as samples and put non-time-sensitive content together in other formats for resale. Alternatively, you could give away your very oldest issues for free, but charge for access to the full archive.

Moving the first steps into the digital word can be tough. For a complete guide on how to go digital, don’t forget to download our ebook:


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Marco Atzori

Marco Atzori

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