Get Free Email Updates | Have an Account?
  • Free email newsletter
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS Feed

8 Online Magazine Design Best Practices

When planning out your online magazine design, consider these strategic best practices that go beyond font and color to create a subscription website that will drive the most revenue.

Online magazine design has taken a number of steps forward in recent years, starting with the launch of the first-ever web magazine in 2014 called I Like Crochet. An online magazine, also known as a web magazine, is a premium publication that is read through a magazine subscription website. In our definition, it is not the same as the homepage of a magazine, where content is freely distributed, unless that content is metered by a paywall.

Below, we share our current best practices for online magazine design.

1. Test a Metered Paywall.

One of the biggest moving targets in Mequoda best practices is the metered paywall. This is a rather new addition to our list of online magazine design best practices, but nearly all of our publishing partners are having success with this business model in comparison to the model of separating free and premium content. Your goal is to establish a sampling mentality. When the guy at the supermarket gives you a sample of cheese on a cracker, he’s not trying to feed you dinner; he’s trying to get you to buy cheese. So, your question is how much access you need to give in order to obtain a subscriber. Read 10 Tips to Convert Metered Paywall Visitors into Subscribers to learn more.

2. Use a Tier 1 Processing System.

If you’re not on a tier-one payment processing and fulfillment system, you’re leaving money on the table that’s incredibly easy to pick up if you make the best choice for your business. I Like Crochet moved its fulfillment and payment processing to Strategic Fulfillment Group (SFG). This was a massive upgrade based on the success of our other publishing partners who have seen an increase of 20 points from a retention rate of 50% to 70%! This represents a 40% lift over the base in year one and a 121% lift by year five. This is the easiest money you’ll ever earn.

Consumers are telling us loud and clear what they want—are you listening? How much would you pay for that information? Download a copy of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study for FREE instead, to find out how you can improve your digital magazine rapport with subscribers.

3. Create a Robust Library.

A web library is an archive of your content going back many years, likely since the beginning. By digitizing your magazine into a library, you can upsell a substantial number of would-be magazine subscribers to a higher-end and higher-priced product that requires a relatively small amount of additional time compared to an investment in creating the original content that’s being leveraged.

4. Use Six Sigma to Test Offer Copy Regularly.

Even our best-performing publishing partners—who publish on multiple platforms, run several subscription websites, and have helped define our pricing best practices—will see a drop in subscription sales when they stop testing.

A standard Six Sigma email spotlight program focused on selling more magazine subscriptions might include a schedule of sending magazine spotlights 5 times per week, with a combination of editorially-driven creative alternating with offer-driven creative.

The email campaigns are planned and measured in a 2-week cycle, where we identify the 5 best performing spotlights and the 5 worst performing spotlights in a given 2-week cycle. We keep the five winners and include them in the next 2-week email cycle, and we replace the 5 losers with brand new creative.

I Like Crochet takes advantage of SFG’s “FlexPage” system. SFG sets the standard on allowing our partners and agencies to create new subscription order pages that easily facilitate testing. The faster you test, the more you learn; and the more you learn, the more money you make.

5. Publish Special Collections.

Curating special collections is something that all of our publishing partners are adopting. It involves creating pages within your web magazine where you curate many articles from your archive.

Special-interest articles are often entirely evergreen, and even those that show their age are often of interest as they reflect tastes and styles from an earlier time. You can create a collection around themes and take advantage of the depth of your library content to create collections that focus on coverage that is no longer part of the current magazine.

Under a tab called “Collections” on the magazine website, subscribers to I Like Crochet get more than a dozen new collections per year. If you are looking for baby blanket patterns, it might be overwhelming to search through their large library of patterns, so the editors picked seven of the patterns they deem the “best” to showcase in their collection called The Best Baby Crochet Patterns Collection: 7 Little Designs. Learn more about creating special collections here.

Additionally, visitors can now buy access to a single collection or be upsold to the collections club.

6. Enable Single-Copy Subscription Pricing.

If your online magazine design includes single-copy subscription pricing, you are truly committed to selling subscriptions, and while this might not be your most popular product, it gives you the opportunity to upsell more easily.

If you create single-copy pricing, you create parity around access so that a subscriber to a single magazine issue can get it for 12 months, just like an annual subscription. However, when users see that they can access three or more years’ worth of back issues in the web library for just a little more (example: $8.97 vs $34.97) they may do the mental math and decide that if they read just four issues in the next 12 months, it’ll be cheaper to get an annual subscription. When bundling the archive into that higher price, it is this overwhelming value creation, a phenomenon from economic behaviorism, that dramatically increases consumer adoption and response rates. We expect the single-copy sales to generate less than 10% of all your transactions, but they will create a tempting comparison value that will increase annual subscription sales.

7. Create Club Memberships.

There’s a new trend happening in the multiplatform magazine world, and it’s the magazine club model. Publishers everywhere are adopting magazine clubs, an all-inclusive membership revenue model that can offer access to multiple editions of your magazine, video courses, special collections, library archives, discounts, and VIP event access.

I Like Crochet has recently adopted this model and now offers different levels of membership.

I Like Crochet Bronze Membership is free and allows users access to free crochet patterns, crochet alongs, and other helpful crochet tips.

I Like Crochet Collections Club Membership, $1.97 monthly and billed annually, includes access to their carefully curated collections of stunning crochet patterns for scarves, blankets, and more. These collections include 50+ gorgeous designer patterns.

I Like Crochet Magazine Club Tablet Membership, $2.97 monthly and billed annually, includes web access to the next year of bi-monthly digital magazines; with 25+ exclusive patterns, expert tips & step-by-step techniques in every issue. Plus, access to the library with 700+ patterns & articles for free on your computer.

I Like Crochet Magazine Web Membership, $2.97 monthly and billed annually, includes web access to the next year of bi-monthly digital magazines; with 25+ exclusive patterns, expert tips & step-by-step techniques in every issue. Plus, access to the library with 600+ patterns & articles for free.

The Gold Club, I Like Crochet‘s most popular product, includes just about everything they create. It includes full access to everything— Magazine Club web & tablet editions for a year; plus the library of 700+ patterns & articles and all the special collections in the Collections Club. It’s billed monthly at $3.97.

This approach has been successful so far. Any time someone tries to subscribe to either the Collections Club or the Magazine Clubs, they’re presented with the Gold Club as the best offer. This is causing the majority of orders to upgrade to the Gold Club.

Note: The prices above are for the full-price offer. At any given point in time, you are likely to find a special offer that is being tested for 30 days as part of their Six Sigma offer testing program, like the one below.

8. Publish Library Previews.

I Like Crochet has always published some content for free as part of their online magazine design, but now they are releasing informational Library Previews. These are posts, also distributed through email, that preview content from the library in an effort to shed light on what’s available for those who aren’t subscribed and curate content for those who are. Many of our publishing partners use the preview format to tease collections on their sites, while I Like Crochet focuses its previews on one crochet pattern from a past issue or collection, highlighting the item and the designer.

Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.

Meet Us in Plymouth and Learn
How to Double Your Publishing Revenue

Join other senior publishing executives at the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop—where you’ll learn how to plan, execute, and optimize a profitable magazine-driven membership marketing system. And how to double your publishing revenue!

Secure your registration now, while seats are available and Early-Bird Registration is open.

Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

May 20-21, 2020
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Plymouth, Massachusetts

This two-day membership marketing secrets workshop is intense—it’s not for the faint-of-heart, and it’s only for magazine publishing senior executives who have the vision and resources to grow their businesses.

This event is also for curious publishing executives who want the membership marketing secrets for publishers revealed—so that profits, growth, efficiency, and total transformation will power a magazine business that leads the industry and is the envy of competitors and collaborators alike.

You’re familiar with the growth and prominence of the emerging membership economy—you can see it daily as you interact with Amazon, Netflix, or even your local gym. And luckily, magazine publishers can learn a lot from others who have “paved the way” to condition consumers to buy memberships.

This is no fad, it’s a bona-fide trend that you should know about, understand, and latch on to membership marketing secrets for your own business’ purposes.

You should first know what isn’t a secret—having a metered paywall at your website. Yes, thanks to many news-oriented publishers, metered paywalls have become commonplace and are a powerful way to showcase your premium content and convert website visitors into buyers.

But having a metered paywall is not a secret. Who doesn’t know about metered paywalls or already have one for their content?

And simply having a website where you publish content is not the answer to staying competitive these days … let alone blowing your competition out of the water.

For that, you need to attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop! You’ll not only learn about the membership marketing secrets, but you’ll also discover all the online publishing myths that often distract or derail many publishers from keeping their eyes on the prize—growth and profits!

When you attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll be among the publishing industry’s elite—those who are ahead of the trends and will know exactly how to optimize your publishing efforts, based on the latest business intelligence. There will be plenty of time for networking, too, so you can get to know your fellow publishing professionals!

The 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Magazine Publishers

So that you don’t have to wait until our event, here’s a list of 7 membership marketing secrets:

  1. Web Magazine
  2. Web Magazine Library
  3. Curated Special Collections
  4. Leveraging Existing Content Platforms
  5. Content Previews
  6. Email Marketing Frameworks
  7. Landing and Offer Page Frameworks

And of course, much of the “secret” is not just having a list, but fully understanding what’s behind these secrets and learning what to do about them, so that your own publishing system is in alignment with all these secrets.

When you come to the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll learn about all of these in detail—and you’ll learn how to plan, execute, measure, and optimize your very own magazine-driven membership marketing system.

I promise you this now, too—when you register and attend our event, you’ll get 3 bonus membership marketing secrets. And while my colleagues prefer me to hold these bonus secrets back until you register, I can tell you they involve growing your audience, growing customer engagement, and growing revenue.

You’re probably wondering how I can make the claim that you’ll double your revenue when you register for our Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop. Well, Mequoda has been around for more than 15 years—and we’ve helped many magazine publishers over that time, including Prime Publishing, Yankee Magazine and Hearst Magazines … and we’ve counted AAA Northeast and the Biblical Archaeology Society as clients (non-profit membership organizations that both have magazines!).

The Agenda for Discovering the 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Publishers

You’ll leave this event with a clearer vision and plan for transforming your magazine publishing business. Here is the agenda for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

Wednesday, May 20

  • Creating a New, Successful Membership Product
  • 3 Ways to Build Your Audience Marketing Database
  • Offer- & Price-Testing Strategies for Maximizing Revenue
  • How to Organize and Outsource Your Business Processes

Thursday, May 21

  • Building an Integrated Membership Marketing System
  • 4 Key Metrics for Measuring Your Success
  • Modeling and Budgeting Your Five-Year Plan
  • 3 Bonus Membership Marketing Secrets Revealed

For a full description of all the sessions, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

This entire membership marketing secrets event will be led by me, Kim Mateus, as Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems. In 2004, I started with Mequoda as employee #2, and have since overseen strategic planning for many of Mequoda’s publishing partners. Having guided the development of more than 20 subscription and membership marketing systems, my team and I monitor and maintain a robust best-practices database of marketing techniques and business processes that helps power all Mequoda partner marketing programs. My focus on client content strategies is a natural extension of my journalism education and background.

And here is a high-level summary of the entire Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

WHO: Besides senior executives like you from magazine publishing companies, the Mequoda Systems team who will join me at this membership marketing secrets event are veteran publishing professionals themselves—you’ll have plenty of time for networking with your fellow publishing executives and with the Mequoda Systems team:

  • Don Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer
  • Bill Dugan, Chief Copywriter
  • Nancy Horan, Chief Systems Officer
  • Eileen Shea, Content Marketing Director
  • Norann Oleson, Analytics Director

WHEN: May 20-21 (it’s NEVER too early to sign up!)

WHERE: Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Plymouth, Massachusetts

For inn room reservations at preferential rates for our attendees, click here or call 833-MIRBEAU (833-647-2328) for room reservations.

WHY: Because the magazine publishing world is fast-changing and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job—this membership marketing secrets event will help you focus on only the key initiatives that will help drive growth for your business.

For a full description of all the sessions, speakers, and the venue for this event, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

I’d tell you to “mark your calendar” for this event, but if you only do that you might miss out—we only have a limited number of seats for this exclusive event, so sign up right now.

I hope to see you in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, in May 2020!


Kim Mateus
Chief Strategy Officer, Mequoda Systems
Program Leader, Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

P.S. If you already know that this event is for you, sign up right now while seats are still available (this is a small event—we really only have space for a few dozen people). Register now for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop!

P.P.S. Prefer not to wait until 2020 to benefit from all these membership marketing secrets? If you have a sizable team at your organization who should hear all about this, email me at and let’s chat about accelerating the process for you and bringing this membership marketing secrets workshop on-site at your company.

Posted in Digital Magazine Publishing

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *