Digital-Only Magazines: The Latest Publishing Trend

The rise of niche magazine publishing, plus tips for how to start a digital magazine


The latest publishing trend isn’t just about magazine publishing in general. It’s a digital publishing trend: Launching digital-only magazines without legacy print publications behind them.

Mequoda has a client who is doing just that. Prime Publishing is a company that began with free websites but no print publications whatsoever. Now the company is launching digital-only magazines such as I Like Crochet and I Like Knitting as premium products to enhance their associated websites, and

And there are other examples out there, too. TRVL, for example, is a rebellious publication that shatters the boundaries of magazine design. Its founders’ aim is to “make print feel stupid,” and it doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of pages, the backbone of a magazine – photos and text simply exist on one long band that must be scrolled horizontally, or if you will, it’s actually one giant page from front to back.

Another digital-only magazine is aw!, focused on the French art scene and launched in December 2014.

Like TRVL, it’s an artsy publication, which seems to be a publishing trend by itself – artistic types finding a new outlet in digital-only magazines, unencumbered by the need for printing and distribution of a traditional print magazine.

In fact, all but one of the digital-only new launches we know of are niche magazines rather than general interest publications, and the exception, Atlantic Weekly, is more of a spin-off of a traditional print product than it is a brand-new, fresh-out of-the-box digital-only magazine such as TRVL and aw!

Indeed, if you Google “digital-only magazines,” all of the articles are about failing legacy publications with existing digital editions that have decided the only option for survival is to drop the print product, making the digital edition “digital only” – but not in the way we’re discussing here.

We’ve uncovered a few other true digital-only magazine ventures in the past few years, all of them strictly niche magazines: sisterMAG “for digital ladies,” LOOP on general aviation, and WOD Talk, a magazine about cross-fit training (WOD stands for “Working Of the Day”). WOD Talk, however, is no longer digital only; because of reader demand, it recently completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough funds for the new print edition it now publishes.

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Digital, print and profits

That’s one way to go backwards, so to speak, and many a new venture is founded on Kickstarter these days. But let’s look at a more conventional way to become a new multiplatform publisher – what you might call the Mequoda way.

Digital-only magazines may be few, but they’re still a digital publishing trend we consider important, and not just because Prime, one of our favorite publishers, is launching I Like Crochet, I Like Knitting and other digital-only publications with our assistance.

If you’re a fan of digital-only magazines or publish one, be sure to let us know. And if you disagree with our position that they are a significant new digital publishing trend after reading this post, talk to us in the comments below!

Here’s how we look at it:

How to start a digital magazine, Step 1:

Build a portal website to support your digital-only magazine, launching the website first or both at the same time. As you may know, Mequoda always teaches its clients to recycle content to be used on all of your platforms, including your magazine, your website, your email newsletters and in other premium products such as books. That makes it much easier and more economical to publish both a magazine and a website. No huge editorial staff required!

How to start a digital magazine, Step 2:

Build an email list using SEO and email capture as outlined in the Mequoda Method, used by all successful Mequoda Gold Members. This includes optimized posts to drive traffic, free reports to exchange for email addresses, and all the right conversion architecture to make that offer of free reports to random website visitors.

How to start a digital magazine, Step 3:

Promote subscriptions to your digital-only magazine and other ancillary products to your new email subscribers. Email newsletters – not just your portal or your magazine – are also a swell place to sell advertising. Publishers who use email newsletters, such as Rodale, Meredith and all our clients, know that a consumer publication can generate about $7 per subscriber, per year, selling subscriptions, advertising and ancillary products.

You can potentially supplement audience-building efforts via direct mail, such as postcards driving traffic to a rapid conversion landing page or RCLP (one of those conversion architecture elements mentioned above).

How to start a digital magazine, Step 4: 

Bask in your new revenues. A digital-only magazine with 10,000 subscribers paying $30 per year is a solid base for a $1M business when you’re also able to sell sponsorships/advertising, single copies, books and/or events. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Now you have the funds to add a print edition of your digital magazine if you want to establish traditional newsstand distribution. Mequoda doesn’t recommend a print edition at the launch stage because it adds unnecessary risk and expense.

In short, the Internet and the tablet have provided entirely new, more economic and navigable pathways to multiplatform publishing success. And that’s why we consider digital-only magazines to be a significant new digital publishing trend. Niche magazine publishers have always been more nimble and forward-thinking than the big players, after all, and as these publishers take advantage of the smoother path to publishing success offered by digital-only magazines, we believe they may eventually change the traditional magazine publishing landscape in ways we can’t yet predict.


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