Every month I get sent a really boring magazine about publishing…
In it, lots of important-sounding business executives write reams of words about the ‘state of the industry’ and argue over the impact of the Internet and digital age on the money side of things.
Reading it makes me feel frustrated. Especially when you read about how much time it takes some companies to ACT when it comes to going digital – or TESTING digital at least.
It’s enough to put you off even trying it for yourself. Digital publishing, I mean. But it shouldn’t…
To illustrate just how simple it can be to create digital/online magazines, I thought I’d walk you through exactly how to do it in today’s email.
What are digital magazines?
If you’re not familiar with them, digital magazines perform like apps (often accessed through apps).
They are read on phones, tablets or PCs much like Kindle books. They allow you to interact as if they are websites.
There are two basic types of digital magazine (with several dozen variations): PDF and flip-style (think ‘flash’).
A flip-style digital magazine contains interactive content. If you are accessing it from a mobile device, you don’t turn pages: you tap and swipe.
Your reader can choose to read your magazine in portrait or landscape layout. Digital magazines that only enable (or design for) portrait mode really risk losing readers.
With a true digital magazine, you can do things such as nest pages within pages, using interactive formatting.
For example, say you write an article on ‘the Top Three Bloggers of 2014’: with a digital layout, you could have a page that features three thumbnails laid out vertically down the right-hand side.
Each thumbnail shows a different blogger (the top three in the title), with their name underneath.
The main body of the article to the left displays information all about the first blogger – but you click on the second thumbnail, and the body text to the left is replaced by an article about that blogger.
Then click the third blogger in the right-hand vertical menu, and the body text to the left now displays information about that last blogger.
The effect feels more like a website layout than of print pages.
A PDF-based digital magazine is a lot easier to produce, but without the scope of interactivity allowed by the flip style. (It is also significantly less expensive.)
Why should you create a digital magazine?
Earn money by publishing a digital magazine and placing it in a digital magazine marketplace, such as:
Eliminate print costs, although obviously only if you are replacing an actual print magazine.
Provide for the mobile market – the biggest users of digital publishing.
Create fans or customers who return, because they find your interactive content much more fun than merely reading through a newsletter or similar.
Generate leads and traffic through graphic invitations to click on content.
When you stop looking at the technology, a digital magazine is really just an online version of a traditional print magazine – straightforwardly so, in the case of offerings in the iTunes store and Amazon catalogue.
You’ve decide you need to explore these for your business, so let’s take a look at how to create one…
Step One: familiarise yourself with digital publishing
There are a few things you need to get your head around before you sit down to write.
Some publishers create a PDF of their existing print magazine. It’s inexpensive, quick and easy – and it looks identical to the magazine their readers can purchase in print.
The downside of taking this admittedly easy DIY approach is that it looks exactly like the magazine their readers can purchase in print.
Let’s think about this for a minute…
A print publication’s readers are used to other digital magazines – the ones that allow the reader to change the layout to her own viewing preferences or click interactively on headlines and buttons to go straight to a preferred section.
After you’ve been used to that, a static PDF feels, well, static. I read some magazines on my Kindle like this and it can be incredibly SRTRESSFUL as a user.
If you’re trying to view a static PDF on a mobile, you can hardly read the non-fluid print at all.
If you only allow your readers to view your content in portrait view, you may be missing (or at least annoying) half your audience: the half that is used to viewing digital magazines in landscape format on their tablets.
And you won’t reach a broader market. They’ll be too busy finding digital magazines that are more interactive.
If interactivity isn’t something your readers care about – if they’re a group that heavily uses (and is used to) PDF files – this is definitely your easiest option.
But if you want to capture new readers, compete with top magazines, entertain restless, fidgety mobile users, or place your magazine for sale into certain platform, you need to introduce interactivity. It is now part of mobile culture – and expectation.
You can create PDFs that include a degree of interactivity, if you use certain digital publishing platforms.
Or, if your budget is larger, you can create a ‘flip’ book, using publishing platforms or fulfilment companies.
Step Two: meet your digital publishing platforms
There are a number of digital publishing companies that will help you format your digital magazine. Let’s take a look at our pick for best flip-style platform, and best PDF customisation platform…
With flipping book, you pay £249 for the ‘basic’ package: the price jumps to £439 for ‘professional’ and £739 for ‘business’.
Yes, it’s not cheap. But no matter which version you choose, you get a downloadable EXE file – and there’s no renewal: you can use the software for life.
The ‘basic’ package features include:
- Page flip animation
- Intuitive page turning
- Hard cover animation
- ‘Smart’ zooming (single and double-click)
- R–L page-flipping option
Particularly nice touches include fast upload/download time, single-page renewal and Google Analytics and Amazon Cloud integration, among other benefits and features.
You can also click on elements such as graphics and be taken to more information about that item.
Even graphics-heavy magazines load in seconds.
There are even more features available in the ‘professional’ and ‘business’ packages.
A much simpler (and less expensive option is to use Yumpu, which allows you to convert your PDF to a digital magazine format.
Versions range from free all the way up to 277 euros per month – though if you are planning to do this as a business, don’t start any lower than the 8 euros (around £5) per month plan, which starts by adding privacy settings and Google Analytics.
Yumpu is seductively easy to use. You simply drag and drop your PDF onto the platform; then start customising it.
MagCloud is similar to Yumpu, but you can have them sell your digital magazine in MagCloud.com – their marketplace – for you, once it’s created.
One nice option: the ability to offer your magazine for free. This could be great for building an email list or getting traffic to your website.
Step Three: using curated content in magazine format
One final option you may wish to explore: using curated content in your digital magazine through Scoop.it, which allows you to:
- use ‘Smart Search’ to find relevant content;
- ‘Scoop’ (collect) what you find useful;
- add your own commentary and perspective;
- publish to your blog, social networks – and a ‘Google-friendly’ splash page.
You can join for free – and it’s a great tool to have at your disposal when trying out this business.
Step Four: what you need to know
There are some potential drawbacks to consider if you’re contemplating creating a digital magazine.
- Even using magazine-creation platforms, you may need to pay a Flash designer. (Generally the more complex your formatting and platform, the more likely you’ll need Flash.) You will find people on sites like eLance who will do this for you, but it’s another cost to keep in mind.
- You need to read the fine print carefully with any platform: Sometimes there are hidden fees.
- Free digital magazine conversion or creation platforms may insert their own ads – offputting for your readers.
- Advertisers often love interactive digital magazines. In fact, this is one factor in how well they are starting to do. (And one topic of discussion in the ‘boring’ magazine I mentioned at the start.)
- If you just want a PDF magazine and you are going to keep interactivity simple, you can easily just use Adobe Acrobat, which allows you to insert links and graphics.
- Consider using sans-serif fonts for digital and online magazines. While serif prints are still used in the print world, it has been proven that online readers find sans-serif prints much more readable. (Keep the fonts large!)
Step Five: creating an online magazine
Of course, there’s an even easier way to create a digital magazine – one that doesn’t have to involve Flash.
Use WordPress and use a ‘Magazine’ theme for your blog, so it ‘reads’ like a magazine.
Use plugins and widgets to provide interactive functionality and embed content into your online ‘magazine’.
Ready to start?
As you can see, there are many ways to publish a digital magazine. Make sure the method you select is based on key factors such as:
- Your overall business goals and presence.
- Your reader’s preferences.
- Whether or not you intend to actively attract advertisers.
- The ability to share digitally with social networks.
- The ability to share digitally from RSS feeds.
- The type of content you specialise in.
- Your budget.
You can create a digital magazine and distribute it via email. And if your site is so content-rich, you wish you could fit everything on your ‘front page’, you should definitely consider using a magazine theme for your website or blog.
Keep your fonts large and clean. Write in short, succinct paragraphs. Choose images that are as easy to see on the small screen as on larger ones.
And practice writing summaries and descriptions!
Choose the magazine format that suits you and your budget – and see what it can do for you as you start a business online.
If you’re going to try this idea out do let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Until then, have a wonderful week!