Is the ‘web magazine’ obsolete?

Bundling up your web content and releasing it monthly could be counter-intuitive, argues our head of production - as mimicking print conventions can come at the cost of usability...

 Is the ‘web magazine’ obsolete?

People often ask us – what’s the best frequency for a web title? Should we be publishing our online magazine weekly? Monthly?

But is that really how digital works? I question whether sticking to any kind of regulated frequency is that useful on the web.

After all, web users won’t rush back to your website each month to grab the latest release of content, mulling over it until next month. Websites aren’t newsstands.

Instead, users expect small pieces of content to flow to them regularly – via twitter feeds, rss feeds and blogs. Once a day, twice a week or as soon as it’s ready.

Why mimic print practices in digital?

It’s far too expensive to print and distribute individual articles, so we’re used to the idea of print content being packaged up as a regular ‘issue’. 

But, the great freedom of digital publishing is that distribution costs are low to nonexistent, via sites like twitter and reddit. Information is a constant buzz, not a monthly dose.

What’s more, bulky pdfs or e-Magazines can often be hard to read on a screen, and web users don’t have much patience. 

Releasing lots of content all at once can work against you, too – headline pieces hog the limelight, while niche articles get buried at the back of the issue.

Publishing and promoting pieces on their own merit, rather than as part of ‘Issue 14’, will improve their searchability and chances of finding the right audience.

Freshness and reach

Often, the biggest audience for editorial content is the one you have on the first day of publication. Google prefers ‘freshness’ in editorial, demoting forgotten-about blogs and stagnant news pages. So you might find your magazine ranking well in search for the first day or two – boosted by its freshness – before dropping off.

All of which means that the more publication dates you have, the more audiences you have the potential to reach.

To put that in perspective, surely it’s better to publish lots of articles over the course of the month to many different audiences, than release 10 articles in one day to one audience?

How to do it digitally

  • Try breaking your publication up and serialising it throughout the month
  • Post articles as soon as you can, or in time to coincide with an event
  • Edit each article so that it stands alone – don’t refer to ‘as above’ or ‘on page 6’
  • Do away with jargon-y publication titles that don’t tell the user much – ‘Issue number 6’, ‘Newsletter 12’, ‘Horizon’, etc
  • Find the best distribution mechanism – push your content out through LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, and let it find its audience. Don’t wait for them to come to you.