Illustration of red-headed woman reading a digital magazine on her smartphone.

Digital magazines offer a compelling tool for today’s marketing experts and they can give you a useful, interactive, measurable and flexible best-of-both-worlds combination. Simply put: the convenience and speed of digital + the depth and authority of magazines = being able to have your cake and eat it.

Here at Dialogue, we have extensive experience with digital magazines. Our portfolio has included digital-only titles for the Harley-Davidson Owners Group, British Skydiving, Center Parcs and more digital content experiences that supplement existing print publications for the likes of Bentley Motors, Porsche Club Great Britain and Air Charter Service.

It’s no surprise that they’re so popular. Their ease of both use and customisation makes them especially valuable for communicating with niche audiences, such as enthusiasts’ groups, membership bodies and professional organisations, and sets them up well for growth-oriented strategies. As Dialogue’s Digital Production Lead, Vicki Sherman explains:

Digital magazines are great way to reach a global audience instantly as a standalone product or complement an existing printed publication. They offer something interactive and accessible from a mobile device and are also ideal for those seeking a more environmentally conscious option. Behind the scenes, the analytics provide insights into users and engagement. Like printed magazines, they can also provide additional revenue for brands and membership organisations too.

But first things first – what are they, what’s the difference between the various kinds and how can you turn them to your advantage?

The fundamentals of digital magazines

The term ‘digital magazine’ is a broad one and a quick look online reveals what can become a bewildering array of options. What’s the difference between pageturners, flipbooks, microsites, content portals, interactive apps or any one of dozens of other types of platform? Will they take more work than you have the time and people to cover? Will they blow a hole in your budget?

These are all reasonable questions. For now, let’s define a digital magazine generously as ‘a platform for providing an audience with digital content on a regular basis’. Exactly what form this content takes, how regularly publication occurs and where the offering begins and ends are all conveniently fluid, and this flexibility is one of their greatest strengths.

Firstly, none of these different types of digital magazine are automatically better or worse than any other and a clear understanding of your requirements will make identifying the right tool for the job much easier. In any case, we prefer to be reasonably relaxed about the terminology because audiences are too and impenetrable jargon can quickly alienate people or undermine trust in a brand. If you want to talk about a digital magazine, you’ll have the whole menu to choose from instead of having to default to just the one option.

Secondly, these options exist on a spectrum that is defined by how much time, effort and money you wish to put into the process. A more complex offering will require more input, but any overlap with assets you already have for your other communications channels – photography and video are the first things to come to mind here – can take the edge off that. This works both ways, and surplus assets from your magazine that would otherwise have to stay on the proverbial cutting room floor can easily be repurposed on your other channels.

Thirdly, a digital magazine’s costs are usually lower – and often much lower – than a print equivalent simply because there’s no need for paper, printing or postage. Similarly, they are more flexible because you don’t have to anchor yourself to a page count and speed of deployment is much faster. Although print has its own merits, a digital magazine can also be a good fit for a younger or more tech-savvy audience that thinks digital-first and their ability to support key digital tools can be a serious draw for brands.

What are your digital magazine options?

Pageturners and flipbooks (such as PageSuite and FlipSnack respectively, although there are plenty more kinds of both) offer an inexpensive, traditional approach. They often represent direct translations of existing print magazines to a digital form and tend to support the fewest features, but this also means there are fewer things to go wrong and fewer demands on you in the first place. While they are less popular options today, they still have their uses and should not be automatically overlooked.

Microsites or content portals, are simple websites in a magazine format where you can post your content and they can be found online when people search for key terms. They’re excellent for growth-oriented strategies thanks to being so sharing-friendly and can be indexed by search engines, with all the benefits that implies. A microsite or content portal can stand alone or act as an offshoot of your regular website, so you may need to consider the impact of splitting your audience away from your main website – the user journey will need some thought.

Apps can provide a fun, distinctive and exclusive way to present content, but this option requires a more active commitment from the audience. People will rarely remember that new content is arriving on any given day, for example, so reminders through social media, eNewsletters, push notifications and so on, will be required every time a new one launches. However, this may work in your favour because creating a buzz of excitement beforehand can help make sure your new magazine edition gets a warm welcome.

How can digital magazines fit into my content strategy?

A digital magazine can quickly become a centrepiece of your wider content strategy and can be an asset of serious substance. They provide a natural point for an audience to focus upon, a gold mine of topics of conversation for your social media channels and a compelling way to bolster retention – people are less inclined to walk away from things they look forward to or feel that they’ll miss.

You will need to consider how digital magazines support any other content marketing activities and it will be necessary to coordinate everything properly to avoid having the left hand accidentally competing against the right hand. Fortunately, one of the greatest benefits of digital magazines is that they can maintain your branding and offer a familiar structure to your readers, so they can take their place in your existing line-up of communications channels seamlessly. That can be particularly useful if you are making the transition away from a well-established print title.

However, a passive approach to marketing digital magazines won’t work and it will have to compete with multitudes of other digital content. To succeed, it needs regular activity to promote it and to be closely aligned with your brand’s USP. What do you offer that everyone else doesn’t? You will naturally want to examine this closely and work out how this meets the needs of your audience while fitting into the requirements of your brand.

Case study: Gazelle magazine

One interesting example of a successful digital magazine is Gazelle. Originally launched in 2014 as a monthly print title, this US-focussed women’s lifestyle magazine quickly developed a national audience. The obvious next step was establishing a digital presence too and adding interactive features was a priority. The prospect of having analytics data to work with had a major draw as well.

They turned to Joomag. An all-in-one California-based digital publishing platform, Joomag offers interactive content creation, multi-channel distribution, performance tracking and monetisation – exactly what Gazelle needed and everything that their smart, savvy audience would expect in a modern lifestyle brand.

A steady but economical programme of transitioning to a digital magazine and then upgrading it followed, with analytical tracking of every step of the way and a regular email campaign to let readers know when a new issue had dropped.

The results were impressive: total page views quadrupled, reader retention rose by 28% and the average time spent per visit was an enviable six minutes. Backstage, Joomag’s analytics data provided essential insights that informed the content offering and helped encourage further growth too – a textbook virtuous cycle.

Talk to us about digital magazines

If you want to reach a modern audience with something that resonates beyond the fleeting nature of social media posts, digital magazines can offer you interesting options. Endlessly customisable and surprisingly accessible, they have much to offer the audience you have and the larger one you’d like to have as well. Talk to us today to find out how we can help you give it to them.

Contact us

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Dialogue creates award-winning multichannel content that inspires, informs and excites your audience. We are a team of marketing specialists in print, online platforms, email communications, magazines, video creation, digital media and more.

Medium Content Marketing Agency of the Year 2023
Medium Content Marketing Agency of the Year 2022
ALF Sales & Marketing Award Winner 2023
Classic and Sports Car Club Awards
Content Marketing Award Silver
Content Marketing Award Gold
MemberWise Recognised Supplier 2024
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