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How to get started

If you think you’re ready to join the digital publication realm, you may have some concerns about the amount of time, expertise and resources needed to succeed. Relax—it’s easier than you may think. These design trends and layout considerations will get you started on the right foot:

  1. Layout: Smartphones and tablets allow for viewing in portrait or landscape mode—your magazine’s layout should do the same. Although it may be more costly, your publication should be designed with one- and two-column layouts to provide users the option to view your content in their preferred orientation.[21] Similarly, resizing and reflowing your content provides a much better reader experience than simply shrinking your content down to tablet size.[22]
  2. Navigation: Finding your way through a printed publication is intuitive. Navigating a digital version may require some assistance. Provide helpful, on-page navigation cues or a separate help page where users can brush up on finger commands.[23]
  3. Imagery: Apple® Retina display has made high-quality digital imagery an essential component of digital publishing. It may take longer to load, but your readers are sure to pass you by if all they see is blurry text accompanied by pixelated imagery.[24]
  4. Interactivity: One of the best attributes of digital publications is the provision for interactivity. Consider layering movable text over images so readers can scroll while keeping their picture in view at all times. This is especially helpful with instructional content like cooking or crafting.[25] Audio, video and interactive slideshows are others ways to engage. And interactive calls-to-action (CTAs) that allow readers to further explore with the touch of a button are a plus, too![26]
  5. Social share buttons: Several large publishers report that 60 percent of their traffic comes from Facebook®. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Include social share buttons as part of your top navigation to ensure your content can be easily shared from every page.[27]
  6. Bookmarks: Don’t overlook the importance of the bookmarking feature. Readers of digital publications like the option to bookmark and come back to a page just as much as those who read printed copies.

If you plan to design your digital magazine in-house, countless tools are available to help create and design digital publications. Mequoda® Group has a list of digital magazine publishing software options and their features on its website. TenTop10Brands created a similar list that contains a few additional options worth checking out. Before choosing the tool that’s right for you, consider the following delivery methods and which would best suit your audience:[28]

  • PDF: PDFs allow you to duplicate the color, imagery, layout and more of print documents. This format has familiarity on its side, but as the world becomes increasingly mobile, the PDF is gaining a reputation for being rigid as it doesn’t permit easy reading on mobile devices.
  • Flipbook: A flipbook, not to be confused with Flipboard, replicates a printed publication and therefore provides users a similar experience to reading an actual book or magazine. On-screen controls are present to zoom and “flip” through pages.
  • Web app: A Web app is responsive, meaning it adapts to any screen size (smartphone, tablet or desktop). As with most content, responsive is the preferred method to provide optimal user experience.

You likely won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why several digital magazine publishing tools offer a range of delivery methods.[29]

Promoting your publication

Of course, finding success with your digital publication takes more than simply rolling it out. You need to make it known with promotion. These tips will help your digital publication stand out among the content masses:

  • Cross-promotion: Dedicate space on your homepage for promotion of your digital publication. And include quick response (QR) codes on printed copies, if you have them, so hard copy readers can easily convert.[30]
  • Freebies and special offers: Give potential readers a reason to subscribe to your publication. Consider offering a freebie or promotional item with download or a discount on a future purchase. If you charge a fee for your publication, you may want to offer a free, no obligation 30-day subscription. Or, if you offer multiple publications, offer one free with a paid subscription to another.[31]
  • Reviews and ratings: Sixty-one percent of consumers look to reviews to guide purchase decisions.[32] Your digital publication should be no exception. Consider issuing an automatic review prompt for your regular readers, perhaps after they access your content five or more times. You may even want to incentivize reviews with gamification or an entry into prize drawing for all who offer feedback.[33]
  • Social media: Remember that stat about large publishers getting 60 percent of their traffic from Facebook? Facebook, along with other channels such as Twitter®and Pinterest®, make great promotional vehicles. Alert readers with a tweet when your new issue is being released. Promote specific stories within your issue on Facebook. And show off that beautiful, high-quality digital imagery on Pinterest.[34]

Magazines are nothing new, but they are evolving and in ways we couldn’t have imagined even 10 short years ago. The term “magazine,” derived from the 16th century Arabic term makzin or makzan, translates to storehouse. Barbara Rowlands, director of MA Magazine Journalism at London’s City University, discusses going back to the word’s roots by “rethinking the magazine as a unified ‘storehouse’ of value.” She says that doing so is a “ … starting point for brainstorming new ways for magazines to create pleasure and value … ”[35] Digital magazine publication is, in a sense, a way of doing just that—not by rethinking the wheel, but rethinking new and improved ways to remain relevant and provide value through content.


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