How Does an Online Magazine Work?

by Eric Dontigney; Updated September 26, 2017
Two people reading from tablet pc and newspaper

Online magazines serve much the same function as print magazines by delivering broad-based or niche content through the Internet. The widespread availability of free, high-end software for photo, video and audio editing, along with free, increasingly sophisticated content management systems makes online publications feasible for almost anyone with a passion for a given topic.

Take Care of the Basics

As a Web-based media outlet, online magazines require the publisher to purchase a domain name, such as www.mymagazine.com, as well as secure Web-hosting services to provide access to the magazine’s content. The magazine can hire a developer to build the site or use an existing content management platform, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. A content management system provides a system for nonexperts to input content and handle basic formatting without requiring extensive knowledge of Web programming. The CMS then handles the transition from inputting content in the administrator’s section to displaying content to the magazine’s visitors.

Secure Enough Content

Traditional magazines rely on a combination of staff writers and freelancers to develop content on an established schedule, often monthly or quarterly. Unlike print magazines, online magazines benefit from the ability to add content at will, which allows them to address topical issues as they occur. That difference means that content development and publication often occurs with a much shorter turnaround time than with print magazines, but online magazines also tend to employ both staff and freelance writers. With the exception of general interest magazines, most online publications focus on a specific niche or even a sub-niche in which the magazine founder possesses expertise. One advantage online magazines enjoy is the ability to integrate video and audio content the magazine did not commission, such as links to content found on YouTube.

Generating a Profit

Unless the magazine founder intends the online magazine to remain a hobby forever, it needs to draw revenue to support itself and pay for content. While different online magazines find different revenue-generation approaches effective, most depend on advertising, subscriptions or sponsorships to make money. Banner ads and ads that appear to the side of the magazine content, typically supplied by an ad network, generate money through clicks. Affiliate ads, which also typically appear as banner or side ads, pay commissions when visitors click and make a purchase. A sponsor pays to ensure the magazine prominently displays the company’s name or logo on the site in the hope of co-opting some of the readership into customers. The magazine can also attempt subscription models, such as a monthly access charge or a per-article fee.

Promote That Magazine

Online magazines also need to engage in promotional activities. Social media sites offer a way to connect and engage the correct readership, but the magazine’s promotional efforts on social media need to ring authentic. The magazine can also trade ad space with other online magazines that cater to adjacent niches. A magazine focused on screenwriting, for example, might trade ad space with an online magazine focused on feature films.

Photo Credits

  • Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images
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