It’s been a challenging four years as publishers have worked to replace declining print magazine revenues with digital magazine solutions.

Finding success in digital is highly dependent on good planning and consistent re-evaluation of what’s working and what’s not as consumer expectations continue to shift. To build a successful digital magazine strategy, we advise our clients to follow these five key steps:


1. Review existing content potential.

List what currently goes into your print publication, section by section, in writing, and analyze its potential to adapt to a digital format.

• Determine whether there is other content you might be able to gather within the print stream that you can easily leverage at minimal cost.

• Consider expanding print content creation touch points to gather video, audio, or addition photography.

• Clearly evaluate each section’s potential to be presented in a different, more engaging approach digitally, and where that will have the biggest payoff in effort expended.

2. Develop a solid ad strategy, even if it phases over time.

Determine at the outset how you will transition current ads to digital.

• Where will they be placed? In the left to right top position, inline, or at the bottom of story stacks?

• Will you upcharge for inclusion in the digital format? (You should.)

• Will you charge for premium positioning? (You should.)

Many publishers have been able to easily generate new ad revenue by signing on single sponsors for a digital issue or using an à la carte upcharge for digital format ads. Plan for a clear ad strategy, and don’t leave this behind in the shuffle because it seems difficult to deal with.

3. Integrate new engagement and feedback, and consider new revenue opportunities.

This is an interactive platform after all, so don’t forget to pursue that, and avoid getting stuck in the cycle of simply replicating the print edition on a tablet.

• Use live links to web content and social media accounts to bring the reader back and increase engagement.

• Consider daily quizzes, puzzles, and surveys to keep your readers active.

• If you review books, music, or videos, or refer readers to purchasing decisions such as restaurants, check out affiliate programs that offer referral commissions. Amazon is a great one to start with.

4. Don’t forget production logistics.

Plan for a smooth transition when moving print content to digital by effectively using the production tools at hand. Using clear presentation structure such as styles and templates, especially when PLANNING the design, can save hours, days, or even weeks in a digital production process. Ignoring this and focusing solely on creating off-the-charts designs that are manually intensive and not repeatable will eventually tank your efforts with unsustainable costs and effort. Experienced digital publishers will attest to this fact, so learn from their experience.

5. Most important, prioritize your effort spends.

Don’t spend all of your time designing a highly interactive “back of book” section where readers are least likely to engage. It’s OK for some content to be static, especially when its focus is mostly informational. Take that detailed list of sections you prepared in Step 1 and rank the sections in terms of where you want to expend effort and where you know it will pay off. Then look at the overall list to determine if your rankings are really all doable and sustainable for the long haul. If something isn’t, rein it in and refocus it so it really works. Don’t forget to repeat this process regularly as you learn how your digital magazine is doing. Leverage those surveys for feedback, and fine-tune your strategy so you hit the success mark with your digital magazine.

Posted by: Margot Knorr Mancini

A thought leader in the publishing industry, Margot Knorr Mancini has helped numerous publishers redefine their missions to become nimble content generators with the ability to repurpose content easily and efficiently. As Founder & CEO of Technology for Publishing, her analytical mind allows her to remain a step ahead of the industry, recognizing early trends and developing pivotal best practices.