What is a web magazine compared to a digital magazine or a magazine’s website?
The answer many people give to the common question, “What is a web magazine?” is often incorrect.
You’ll often be told that a magazine’s website is a web magazine, but strictly speaking that’s not correct.
Others believe a web magazine is the same thing as a digital magazine, and they’re partly right, but perhaps not for the reasons they think. We do use the term online magazine interchangeably with web magazine, though.
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A digital magazine, can reside on any digital electronic device, whether it’s a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. It could be an app, but it doesn’t have to be. That makes the term “digital magazine” a catchall phrase with several different, more specific terms underneath it.
Digital magazine apps, also referred to as “tablet magazines” and “mobile magazines” are two of these often-used specific terms, referring precisely to magazines viewed via an app on a mobile device. But because consumers can now access different kinds of mobile magazines on a tablet or smartphone – as I’m about to explain – and because they can also access what is commonly called a “tablet” magazine on a smartphone, Mequoda gets even more specific, referring to “app” magazines.
So app magazines are just that – magazines accessed via an app on any mobile device.
So what is a web magazine, then?
Well, this is the fun part! Mequoda helped Prime Publishing (and several others since then), launch what we believe to be the first-ever web magazine, and it’s a specific type of digital magazine, just like app magazines. But as I said up front, it’s not a magazine website.
Prime’s web magazine, I Like Crochet, is a linear, finite edition of a magazine, just like the app edition. Readers can turn the pages and progress through the magazine the same as they would an app or print magazine.
Unlike the app edition, however, it’s accessed on the Internet through a web browser, meaning it’s accessible on any device and any platform, without restrictions. And unlike print magazines, it also delivers access to a library of all past articles, instantly available with just a click.
And it’s built using responsive design, so it functions well on a tablet, as featured below, or on a mobile device, or on a desktop computer. There is no app download required.
And though it’s a magazine on a website, it’s not a “magazine website,” which is not a magazine at all, but rather a collection of posts that are derivative and/or identical to content found in the magazine, but not ordered in a linear fashion like a magazine.
Unlike a website, the I Like Crochet website is designed to be experienced exactly like a magazine. At a website, or in Mequoda-speak, a portal, the user generally arrives as the result of a question she wants answered. Once at the page her search for answers led her to, there are also related articles available by hyperlink that she may also read.
But having answered her question, the portal user is usually done with the website after only a few minutes.
At Mequoda we think of this as an “instructional” or “how-to” experience. But at I Like Crochet, a reader finds the issue date and a table of contents, and is invited to enjoy a linear “discovery” experience like any other magazine, in which there is a table of contents, and she can navigate page by page, instead of by topic, to find out what’s next.
If you’re thinking of flipbooks, we agree: Those were early versions of the exciting new web magazine launched by Prime.
Flipbooks were, as Mequoda’s Founder Don Nicholas explains, “certainly a good first effort by publishers to use the Web as a magazine platform.” Unfortunately, flipbooks tend not to be particularly reader-friendly, offering a poor user experience that is not responsive to the size of the viewing device, which is reflected in reader engagement data showing readers usually only stick around for 8-10 minutes with a flipbook edition of a magazine (versus 50-70 for a typical print magazine).
But more importantly, flipbook content can’t be reformatted into an associated library, as I Like Crochet’s content is. “Flipbooks were the first generation of digital magazines,” says Don. “This is the second generation, and a big step forward.”
And this, we hope, is a clear and distinct explanation in answer to the question, “What is a web magazine?” More than a digital magazine, not an app magazine, and not a magazine website. Pages of the magazine are open to the public, and searchable like other pages of the website, but there’s a paywall, and the main magazine navagation is consistent throughout, signifying which content is for magazine subscribers and which is not.
Other web magazines in the wild
Another web magazine you may be familiar with is TIME. The table of contents is neatly organized on the left-hand side of the page, and this is what you’ll see no matter what device you’re on.
Their table of contents used to be viewable by non-users, and had a paywall like I Like Crochet on each article page, but they’ve recently switched to paywalling the entire magazine, including the Table of Contents.
We also love Metro Parent’s web magazine, especially how they take advantage of native ad opportunities. Their web magazine is formatted much like I Like Crochet, and they keep their table of contents to the right of each article. The consistent architecture and table of contents makes it very clear that the user is still within the magazine, and the benefit is that they don’t need to download or launch an app to view it.
Even though their magazine is free, they require registration to view the articles in addition to the free print magazine. This is a best practice we recommend so that you don’t cannibalize your content without converting users.
However, native advertorial content is placed in front of the firewall, so that unknown, logged out users can still access the native ad content. For every issue of the web magazine, you can see the index on the right hand-side of every “page” of this web edition, with a section for “Sponsored Content” and labeled as “Advertising Sections” on the page itself.
Even better for their sponsors, sponsor content can be promoted in social media and in email newsletters because it’s on the web, and not contained to the box of a newsstand app.
Mequoda Best Practices
As with app magazines, Mequoda’s Best Practices for web magazines will continue to evolve. However, here are what we currently consider Best Practices for web magazines:
- Readable design with reader-friendly type
- Easy to navigate with table of contents always available
- Readable from cover to cover by using hyperlinked table of contents
- Images and video used to enhance experience
- Free content included in front of the paywall
- Native advertisements placed in front of the paywall
- Access to a library of all past articles instantly available with just a click
- Scrolling text and images
- Hyperlinks to other products
- Sharing tools available for all content
We’re eager to hear what you think of web magazines, and hope we’ve answered the question, “What is a web magazine” clearly, so you won’t be confused by the wrong answers.
Let us know if you’ve seen another web magazine, or if you have any questions about what constitutes a true web magazine!