What Are Online Magazines? 3 Digital Magazine Archetypes Every Publisher Should Know

Not all online magazines are built the same – and they all come with different business models

Digital Magazine History and the Best Digital Magazine Publishing Software You Can Use to Launch Your Digital Magazine

Do you run or contribute to an online magazine?

Most of our readers would consider themselves in the magazine publishing industry – that is true. But when it comes to your digital magazine strategy, do you think you run an online magazine, a tablet magazine, or a magazine website? You might have chosen two or all three of those, or you might think they mean similar things. However, to us, these digital magazine archetypes have different meanings and different business models.

Online Magazine, or Web Magazine

What are online magazines, or web magazines? They’re magazines that are read online. They aren’t formatted for a tablet (they don’t need to be, they are HTML) and they cannot be bought in an app store. They are available through a magazine subscription website, where the user can view an issue of a magazine – one that is linear and periodic, has pages and a regular frequency, and can be viewed in responsive HTML on any desktop or mobile device at any time. There’s nothing to download. Publishers of online magazines, also referred to as web magazines, usually generate their revenue through subscribers and may also take advertising.

Additionally, when you’ve digitized your magazine into an online magazine and have organized an online magazine team, it’s remarkably simple to create an online magazine library or archive. This is available through your magazine subscription website just like the original online magazine. Users have access to previous magazine issues and ideally, special digital collections that are curated from the magazine archive.


Tablet Magazine, or App Edition 

Although a digital magazine could rightly refer to any magazine read digitally, most would agree that a tablet magazine is an app edition. In other words, this is the magazine that you read via an app on your phone or on your iPad, Kindle, or other tablet-like devices. It can still be held in your hands, but it can’t be paged through. Tablet magazines require a dedicated app that is separate from your web browser. They’re also interactive. Ads may link to web pages, and articles may include videos. We break the tablet magazine app down further into three platforms:

  • Apple edition
  • Kindle edition
  • Google edition

The most popular tablet magazine app archetypes, in order of least interactive to most interactive, are digital replicareplica-plus, and reflow-plus. A digital replica is typically a PDF of your magazine that has been formatted for a tablet reader, whereas a replica-plus offers more interactivity (the videos and ads previously mentioned.) Magazine publishers who create a reflow-plus tend to add new functionality to the magazine that makes it act uniquely from any other digital magazine, and more like an app.

Magazine Websites

We’ll sometimes see publishers referring to their free website portals or blogs as magazine websites. These are websites that are using a magazine brand, but the content on the website isn’t linear, or periodic, and it doesn’t have a table of contents. From our perspective, these magazine websites don’t meet the criteria of the online or web magazine described above and leave money and opportunity on the table for publishers looking to successfully monetize their magazine content digitally.

Are you looking to launch a digital or online magazine? Mequoda can guide you through the process. Sign up now for a 60-minute no-obligation call to discuss.  What other questions do you have? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2016 and is updated frequently. 



    This article is great for everyone who wants to start a journey with digital publishing. Reading articles like yours is the first step to being a great online publisher! 🙂 I think that it’s also good to join some digital publishing course (e.g. PressPad offers free email course for content publishers and bloggers) to improve digital skills.
    Thanks for this article!


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