Can Online Publications Outdo Their Print Counterparts?


Print magazines have seen better days. According to Pew Research industry data, the revenue from magazines two sources (advertising and sales) continued to drop in 2011. In fact, two thirds of the top 25 magazines experienced declines in circulation numbers. A weak economy is to blame, but the truth really is in the numbers; and the truth screams, mobile.

In 2011, Apple reported that it sold nearly 25 million iPads worldwide. In addition, consumers have taken a liking to smartphones; that number has doubled since 2009 alone, according to Nielsen. As more and more readers migrate to mobile and digital platforms to get their entertainment, news, and other sources of information, a slew of new opportunities have opened for magazine publishers. To accommodate this trend (and the large number of apps that make it possible), the best online magazines have gone digital.

The best online magazines share aesthetic qualities and content akin to both print and blogs. They provide up to date content along with snippets of shorter prose for those with shorter attention spans. Many of the best online magazines have established, loyal followings, too, and subsequently, a lot of esteem and credibility. Sure, having the best online magazine design or best online magazine layout does not hurt, but the best online magazine websites serve a specific niche, audience, or purpose. Many of the best online magazines offer free content that is comparable (if not equal) to their print counterpart, such as what some consider the best online music magazine, Rolling Stone, while others have transcended into the online only model, such as Rue and Matchbook. Some of the best online magazines offer free content only to their paid, print subscribers.

Eighty one percent of mobile users say they consume news daily on their devices. In line with this evolution, the best online magazines have a choice to thrive in this online arena if they adapt to meet the need.