In 2019, all major publishers and most independents have a website portal. What 95% don’t have is a web magazine. However, those who do are flourishing.
What makes a web magazine a web magazine instead of a free portal?
A magazine on any platform is, most importantly, linear and finite just a like a print magazine—but do users know the difference between your portal and your premium membership website that features a web magazine? It certainly gets confusing for some sites that mix the content in one place, typically news outlets, where premium and paid content can be found in the same place.
I was talking to one of our publishing partners about this recently, and I told him that of all the characteristics of a magazine, the thing the user likes most about a magazine is that there is a package of content that can be consumed and allow users to experience the zen of completeness.
You can never say that you have finished exploring the Forbes website. There are millions of pages of content, and even indie publishers have thousands. Web portals are designed so that consumers never feel like they’ve finished.
Human beings have a desire to finish things, and books, magazines, and movies give them that sense of completion. When you receive a magazine, there’s a table of contents, a cover, the first page, and the last page. It’s familiar, and there’s a human intellectual principle that humans are uncomfortable with things that are infinite, which web portals are.
Thus, if you’re wondering why people come to your web portal and only spend 1 or 2 minutes per visit, that’s why. It’s normal. People don’t spend a lot of time on your site because they don’t try to. There’s no “end” or goal to reach, so they come and then leave.
However, according to MPA’s Magazine Media Factbook 2017/18, readers of a magazine’s digital edition spent 49.2 minutes on each issue (and 51.7 minutes with the print issue), so if that isn’t a reason to create a digital edition, I don’t know what is, especially now that you can offer advertisers more advanced analytics on usage, which is what they’re craving.
There are three online business models we think all publishers should consider: a web portal, a web magazine, and a bonus if you offer books is a web bookstore. All three have unique user experiences:
The relationship users have with a web portal is as visitors, and they may spend just two minutes on your site reading free content, or they may stay longer. The fidelity of a portal is low, but the convenience is high. Users do not retain any ownership of the content, but they are actively engaged and are paying attention.
The relationship users have with a web magazine is as subscribers. They may spend up to sixty minutes with a magazine and read it to completion. The fidelity is moderate, and so is the convenience. Subscribers feel like they own the content, so they may sit back to read and enjoy the material in a more leisurely way.
The relationship users have with a web bookstore is as buyers. They may spend 300 minutes or more in a web bookstore or with a book. The fidelity is moderate, and so is the convenience, but buyers feel like they own the content, so just like the magazine, they can kick back to read.
The regional New England magazine Yankee is one great example of a publisher getting this right, after unleashing its old magazine archives and bringing them online through recycled content in the web portal with paid content in a new online magazine library. Yankee has added value to its subscription by including an all-access pass to its web edition and archive, which has dramatically improved conversion rates.
Another is Pottery Making Illustrated, which offers a free portal with web magazine archives with issues going back to 1998. By adding a web magazine, the publisher can now upsell print subscribers from a price of $2.49 per month to $3.97 per month for an all-access subscription.
A final example is Prime Publishing, which was a 100% advertising-driven business before it launched I Like Crochet. Now, its business model includes a significant amount of subscription revenue that is generated by its premium subscription web magazine and is branded entirely independently of its advertising-driven website portals.
Having two or all three business models completes a multi-sensory experience for consumers. The modern multiplatform publisher uses a website portal to create an initial low-friction relationship with the customer. From there, the publisher will upsell customers to premium content like a web magazine or a book in a bookstore.
The best part? Having multiple digital products to sell allows you to be creative with pricing and bundling, which almost always increases profits.
The digital upgrade process is reasonably seamless as links from free content, searches, and social media can lead to a real-time purchasing experience that grants the user immediate access and gratification when compared to a process that requires a physical magazine or book to be shipped or uses the more complicated process of selling premium access to a web magazine or book that requires a separate application.
The simple truth is that a browser-based website portal creates the perfect path to a browser-based online magazine or book that can be read on any device, including tablets and mobile phones.
Consider the power of your existing free web portal and how it may be able to create new revenue streams that are subscription-based and utterly independent of advertisers and sponsors. A web magazine offers publishers who have a web portal the opportunity to diversify their revenue mix, leverage their brand, and create a highly profitable continuity revenue stream. If you want to learn how we can help you do that (as we did for Yankee, Pottery Making Illustrated, and I Like Crochet), schedule a FREE consultation with a member of our executive team.