Subscription Website Publishing

The Anatomy of Modern Magazine Website Design

We noted a couple of weeks ago that the folks at Yankee magazine had passed the 25,000 mark on their new all-access membership program. This program features their amazing digital media library with more than 1,500 articles, 7,500+ photos, and perhaps most importantly, more than 25 carefully curated collections. We think their website can serve as a prototype for anyone wishing to create a magazine website design that will perform well in the 21st century and beyond.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the architectural elements that make up the anatomy of this successful magazine website design, and its free and premium components.


Free SEO content: Job one is attracting organic traffic from search and social media sources plus referring traffic from other related websites. This section of the website accounts for more than 80% of all website arrivals from organic sources and is a key driver in building a loyal base of free email subscribers.

Registration Incentives: Specially-selected free guides that are available as both downloadable PDFs and native HTML for registered members, are responsible for dramatically increasing email capture rates, which measure the process of turning website visitors into free email subscribers for New England Today, the website’s lead companion newsletter.

Premium Content Previews: These content marketing efforts are designed to engage premium members by encouraging them to use their premium membership. They’re also meant to engage free subscribers encouraging them to upgrade to the premium membership. Both free and premium members receive three previews per week which get open rates that are consistently north of 60% for premium members, and 30% for free subscribers. These derivative minimum information units are aligned with special collections, and individual magazine issues to which free subscribers have limited access, and premium subscribers have unlimited access.

Carefully Curated Collections: Online editors and content marketing specialists use keyword mapping and Google keyword research to create and update thematic collections of content that detail the most popular content available in the Yankee magazine archive and make it available as a linear collection that can be read as if it were a book or magazine. This linear reading experience emulates how readers have engaged with magazine content over the decades and is borrowed from a successful newsstand strategy employed by many publishers, often called a bookazine or magalog format.

Magazine Archive: The magazine archive begins with the most current issue and again offers the reader a familiar linear experience with a persistent table of contents and navigation that allows the reader to easily move forward and back from article to article in a given issue. With almost 100 issues in Yankee’s archive, users can also search on keyword terms to find information about topics that don’t rise to the level of popularity that would cause the editors to spin out a new carefully curated collection.

Conversion Architecture: The magazine website design offers users a contextual experience with dynamic content and offer management so that unknown visitors, print-only subscribers, registered users, and all-access members all get unique treatment. Conversion architecture is optimized around both free and premium offers, depending on user state and current website usage.

Companion Newsletters: In addition to New England Today, both registered users and premium members are offered numerous content-driven companion email newsletters depending upon their member status, geographic location, and personal preferences.

It’s worth noting that this approach to the complete magazine membership website experience is one of two methods with which we’ve seen great success. 

Alternatively, you can find all of the same features and functionality split into two different websites that serve crochet enthusiasts. All Free Crochet, an audience development portal, handles all of the attract and capture functionality for this audience group. I Like Crochet, a premium digital media library, handles all of the premium functionality associated with the magazine and its premium collections.

If you’re a legacy magazine publisher with a deep archive of content, a great brand, and the desire to create a 21st-century magazine website and get all the benefits that accrue from it, Don and I would love to schedule a 60-minute chat to discuss the possibilities.

By Don Nicholas

Founder & Executive Publisher

Don Nicholas serves as Executive Publisher for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. He is responsible for all creative, technical, and financial aspects of these multiplatform brands. As senior member of the editorial team, he provides structural guidance, sets standards, and coordinates activities with the technology and business teams. Don is an active gardener whose favorite crops include tomatoes, basil, blueberries, and corn. He and his wife Gail live and work in southern Massachusetts surrounded by forests, family farms, cranberry bogs, and nearby beaches. Don is also the Founder of Mequoda Systems, LLC, which operates and supports numerous online communities including I Like Crochet, I Like Knitting, and We Like Sewing.

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