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7 Great Web Magazine Libraries We Love

How these innovative publishers built web magazine libraries that are comprehensive, user-friendly and make an easy up-sell from print.

A web magazine library is an archive of your content going back many years, likely since the beginning. When done right, you can upsell a substantial number of would-be magazine subscribers to this higher-end, and higher priced product that requires a relatively small amount of additional time, compared to the investment in creating the original content that’s being leveraged. Typically, a web magazine comes packaged with a web library, so when someone subscribes to your web edition, they get monthly HTML issues, and access to everything published prior through the library.

Subscription marketers must relearn and rethink how they promote content in the age of the Internet. Instead of promoting the next 12 issues, you can promote back issues, special collections and categories of content that can span decades. This provides many, many options for launching a diverse marketing program. One empowering a content marketing frequency that would be unthinkable if you’re only promoting the next 12 issues.

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When looking for mentor sites, there is no shortage of online magazines, but many are poorly done. A web magazine that’s truly user-friendly follows three rules:

  1. Offers scrollable HTML articles (not a PDF)
  2. Issue-based (so you know if you’re in the November issue or the December issue)
  3. Table of contents, preferably staying with the reader on every page of the issue OR has some other way to make clear what issue they’re in and how to easily visit other articles from the same magazine.

The HTML articles is where most publishers miss the mark. For example, National Geographic really does a nice job in all of their digital realms, even in their current web magazine. However, their library is an exception. A Nat Geo Plus subscription includes access to their web magazine library, an archive of over 130 years of issues, over 1400 issues in total, since 1888. Unfortunately they’re all flipbook-styled, not scrollable or easy to search and read.

Web magazines should be designed to be responsive, so they can be viewed on any device. It doesn’t look like your print magazine, and it doesn’t look like your tablet magazine, but it contains all the same content, and in order to remain linear and digested as an “issue,” it follows the three rules above.

Below are seven web magazines and libraries that we think are doing a great job:

1. I Like Crochet

I Like Crochet was the original web magazine, launched in 2014, and although we may be biased because they are a client, they are also a highly user-friendly example with an easy to search and use archive. Considering their focus is on crochet patterns, offering an archive for subscribers amplifies the value of their bi-monthly web magazine.

Their magazine library is accessed on the Internet through a web browser, meaning it’s accessible on any device and any platform, without restrictions. It delivers access to all past articles and special curated collections, instantly available with just a click. Recently, they also added the functionality to purchase subscriptions to a single copy of an issue from their library, however this strategy ultimately leads to more people subscribing to the library instead. All of the articles on I Like Crochet are premium, but visitors can access three per month before they are asked to subscribe.

Articles within each issue of the library include an ever-present table of contents on the right-hand side below the issue cover so there is never any confusion as to what magazine you’re in, or where you are. This is where most publishers fail, as their premium content blends into the free content and it makes it difficult for users to digest an “issue” on the web.

If you’d like to see other examples of best-practice web magazines we’ve built that use the same platform as I Like Crochet, check out Yankee Magazine, Pottery Making Illustrated, Your AAA, and Countryside. Even as you peruse the rest of this list I think you’ll agree this is the most user-friendly web magazine and library you’ll find online.

2. Time

Time has the highest domain authority of a web magazine, and we’ve featured it several times here on the blog as a best practice example. Visually, the web magazine looks as close to a magazine as it gets without being a flipbook. The table of contents remains on the left, while the article appears on the right. You are always aware that you’re inside of an issue, and can easily jump from article to article, where the TOC remains on the left with the issue number at the top, and the article you choose appears beside it.

Time‘s subscription library is called the TIME Vault, where you get access to over 90 years of issues, including photos, ads and stories. The library archive is formatted differently than the web magazine, but you can search articles, and even covers going back to 1923. Below is an example from an April 1948, you can see the cover, and the table of contents below it. E

Each title opens to new page with a scrollable article on it, which may be broken up into different pages, navigated by “next page” buttons. The library is comprehensive, easy to search, and easy to read.

3. Scientific American

Scientific American offers a massive 150,000-article archive, dating back to the magazine’s first issue in August 1845. An archive like that is rare – Scientific American is the nation’s oldest continuously-published magazine. Only through their all-access bundle do you get access to the full archive, and the ticket costs $99. Access to the web magazine and the prior four years worth of archived issues is just $39. Each issue can be downloaded, or read in HTML, starting with an easy to understand Table of Contents which links to scrollable HTML articles.

The archive is searchable by month and date, and features the covers of the magazines as a way to select an issue. The newest issues are completely digitized and in HTML, and they are chipping away at having completely HTML versions of every article in the original issues, but offer a scrollable HTML table of contents for each.

4. Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review has an engaging library with functionality that allows you to peruse magazine issues and articles in their archive, and save articles you like to your personal library using a red folder icon.

The archive includes everything going back to their 1956 November/December issue. The older issues like this one have a table of contents that only includes the feature article of that particular issue, but the newest magazine issues have complete tables of contents with all featured content.

web magazine

This is one of the most attractive magazine libraries we’ve perused and love that HBR has taken the extra step to help customize the subscriber experience with a personal library of clippings.

5. The Atlantic

The Atlantic has another robust archive, dating back to 1857 to present, and we like that they’re transparent about what’s been digitized in their archive. For example, from September 1995 to the present, you’ll find all the articles in each issue, excluding articles where online rights are held exclusively by the authors. Older issues, like those from 1857 only include the feature articles.

Articles in the web magazine and archive are bold and attractive, featuring a large main image, and always citing the original issue at the top of the page, which makes it easy to navigate.

web magazine

6. Biblical Archaeology Review

There’s nothing quite as robust, though, as the Biblical Archaeology Society library. For $29.97 per year, subscribers to their BAS Library can search over 7,000 articles from 40 years of Biblical Archaeology Review (1975 to present), 20 years of Bible Review (1985 to 2005 complete) and 8 years of Archaeology Odyssey (1998 to 2006 complete).

BAS does a great job at promoting their library by creating “special collections”  where they break up their best content into individual pages that summarize some of their best premium content in the library. These collections are excellent navigational tools within the library and double as marketing tools where they can re-use the copy in email promotions for the content.

Articles within the library feature the magazine cover to the left, and a clickable breadcrumb link at the top displaying the issue month and year which brings users back to the table of contents.

The library itself is indexed by year, so you can pick which year you’re looking for and it will display all the covers and all the featured articles below it in each issue.

The BAS library is a comprehensive multi-publication library that stands out for the depth of it’s archive, easy of reading, and also has a library of videos paired with it that is accessible to any library subscriber.

7. Fine Woodworking

Wrapping up the list, Fine Woodworking follows a lot of our best practices when it comes to a web magazine and library, and can even be compared to I Like Crochet above in design in many ways.

Subscribers to Fine Woodworking can either subscribe to get print and digital issues for $34.95, or choose a membership subscription for the same price which includes digital issues and access to everything in their library which includes digitized HTML issues going back to 1975. The articles in the archive feature 500 words of content before asking the user to download the article.

New issues of their web magazine have a familiar interface with the table of contents consistently displayed in the right-rail, making it easy for the user to peruse the issue how they please. The Fine Woodworking library also includes videos, over 700 project plans and a reference of downloadable books.

Having a web library and collections allows you to dramatically increase your promotional frequency which leads to even higher online revenues. When building your library consider how you can make it a true resource. Read more about all the good reasons why it’s worth developing and selling a web library subscription and if you’d like to talk more with our team about making a comprehensive web magazine library a reality, schedule a free consultation.

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