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Designing Your Web Magazine “Above the Fold”

You have heard the term “designing above the fold,” and this is even more important when you have a metered paywall on your web magazine because it can dramatically increase conversions from visitors.

Twenty years ago, “above the fold” only referred to the upper half portion of a newspaper. Now, above the fold can be applied to many things, especially a website or web magazine, and the first screen of content a user will see when they go to your website.

Several years ago, we heard a case study of Men’s Health where they were able to increase their pages per visit by 78% by putting story navigation above the fold, in a table of contents style. The following year, they saw another 64% jump. They still follow this internal best practice, but now they feature five click-worthy stories at the top of the page, which remains prominent no matter where you go.



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Failing to lead visitors from point A to point B is a major usability error most websites make, and one we focus on especially hard when building magazine membership websites for our publishing partners. Increasing page views on a web magazine with a metered paywall is a major job of the site’s design, to run the user through their credits quickly, in order to get them closer to the subscription page.

Let’s take a look at the web magazines of two major players from our list of web magazines we love, ad-driven Time, and subscriber-driven I Like Crochet.

On TIME’s web magazine, the table of contents remains on the left-hand side of the page, while the article remains on the right-hand side. Subscribers can easily flip through all of the articles at will without losing their place. Two other elements that remain above the fold for non-subscribers: the subscribe button, and two ads, which benefit their advertisers. As an ad-driven publisher, this is a great blend of a user-friendly interface for both of their customers: advertisers and subscribers.

Designing Your Web Magazine "Above the Fold"

Our next example is I Like Crochet, subscriber-driven web magazine that caters to a large community of avid crocheters looking for patterns and ideas.

We think they’re doing a great job designing “above the fold” and we are certainly also biased, because we designed the site and business model behind I Like Crochet with Stuart Hochwert, President of Prime Publishing.

I Like Crochet offers free “Preview” content, which are editorials that point to articles and issues within their Magazine Library, however once you get inside, you’ll find a metered paywall for their bi-monthly web magazine, so visitors get some limited access to the content.

As an unregistered visitor, you’ll first see your desired article for a few seconds, before meeting the paywall for the first time, which tells how many of your three complimentary articles you’ve viewed this month.

New visitors can exit the paywall and access their free article,  but not without some free and paid conversion architecture designed to convert them into subscribers, including a button to subscribe to join the Gold Club, their all-access offering in the top-right corner of the content.

To increase page views and use up the visitor’s monthly allowance so they arrive at the subscribe page faster, they have “next” and “back” buttons above each article, and a table of contents for the whole issue on the right-hand side of the page at all times.

Subscribers of I Like Crochet have a positive experience above the fold, as well. They, too, can click through the articles in the issue by hitting the “previous” and “next” buttons, but the Table of Contents rises to the top, making it easy for the user to peruse each issue, and also take note of which issue they’re in.

i like crochet web magazine

Having a web library is not the end of your task list as a magazine publisher. We have run into more publishers than not, who have beautiful web editions on the free side of the paywall, and once you enter their library archive, it’s all PDFs and the navigation completely disappears so that you have no idea where you are.

Designing a better “above the fold” experience in your web magazine is not just great usability for subscribers, but also increases conversions from your metered paywall and retains subscribers longer when they know how to find the content they paid for.

Having a web library that you can bundle with a magazine subscription 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.

Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.

Meet Us in Plymouth and Learn
How to Double Your Publishing Revenue

Join other senior publishing executives at the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop—where you’ll learn how to plan, execute, and optimize a profitable magazine-driven membership marketing system. And how to double your publishing revenue!

Secure your registration now, while seats are available and Early-Bird Registration is open.

Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

May 20-21, 2020
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Plymouth, Massachusetts

This two-day membership marketing secrets workshop is intense—it’s not for the faint-of-heart, and it’s only for magazine publishing senior executives who have the vision and resources to grow their businesses.

This event is also for curious publishing executives who want the membership marketing secrets for publishers revealed—so that profits, growth, efficiency, and total transformation will power a magazine business that leads the industry and is the envy of competitors and collaborators alike.

You’re familiar with the growth and prominence of the emerging membership economy—you can see it daily as you interact with Amazon, Netflix, or even your local gym. And luckily, magazine publishers can learn a lot from others who have “paved the way” to condition consumers to buy memberships.

This is no fad, it’s a bona-fide trend that you should know about, understand, and latch on to membership marketing secrets for your own business’ purposes.

You should first know what isn’t a secret—having a metered paywall at your website. Yes, thanks to many news-oriented publishers, metered paywalls have become commonplace and are a powerful way to showcase your premium content and convert website visitors into buyers.

But having a metered paywall is not a secret. Who doesn’t know about metered paywalls or already have one for their content?

And simply having a website where you publish content is not the answer to staying competitive these days … let alone blowing your competition out of the water.

For that, you need to attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop! You’ll not only learn about the membership marketing secrets, but you’ll also discover all the online publishing myths that often distract or derail many publishers from keeping their eyes on the prize—growth and profits!

When you attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll be among the publishing industry’s elite—those who are ahead of the trends and will know exactly how to optimize your publishing efforts, based on the latest business intelligence. There will be plenty of time for networking, too, so you can get to know your fellow publishing professionals!

The 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Magazine Publishers

So that you don’t have to wait until our event, here’s a list of 7 membership marketing secrets:

  1. Web Magazine
  2. Web Magazine Library
  3. Curated Special Collections
  4. Leveraging Existing Content Platforms
  5. Content Previews
  6. Email Marketing Frameworks
  7. Landing and Offer Page Frameworks

And of course, much of the “secret” is not just having a list, but fully understanding what’s behind these secrets and learning what to do about them, so that your own publishing system is in alignment with all these secrets.

When you come to the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll learn about all of these in detail—and you’ll learn how to plan, execute, measure, and optimize your very own magazine-driven membership marketing system.

I promise you this now, too—when you register and attend our event, you’ll get 3 bonus membership marketing secrets. And while my colleagues prefer me to hold these bonus secrets back until you register, I can tell you they involve growing your audience, growing customer engagement, and growing revenue.

You’re probably wondering how I can make the claim that you’ll double your revenue when you register for our Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop. Well, Mequoda has been around for more than 15 years—and we’ve helped many magazine publishers over that time, including Prime Publishing, Yankee Magazine and Hearst Magazines … and we’ve counted AAA Northeast and the Biblical Archaeology Society as clients (non-profit membership organizations that both have magazines!).

The Agenda for Discovering the 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Publishers

You’ll leave this event with a clearer vision and plan for transforming your magazine publishing business. Here is the agenda for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

Wednesday, May 20

  • Creating a New, Successful Membership Product
  • 3 Ways to Build Your Audience Marketing Database
  • Offer- & Price-Testing Strategies for Maximizing Revenue
  • How to Organize and Outsource Your Business Processes

Thursday, May 21

  • Building an Integrated Membership Marketing System
  • 4 Key Metrics for Measuring Your Success
  • Modeling and Budgeting Your Five-Year Plan
  • 3 Bonus Membership Marketing Secrets Revealed

For a full description of all the sessions, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

This entire membership marketing secrets event will be led by me, Kim Mateus, as Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems. In 2004, I started with Mequoda as employee #2, and have since overseen strategic planning for many of Mequoda’s publishing partners. Having guided the development of more than 20 subscription and membership marketing systems, my team and I monitor and maintain a robust best-practices database of marketing techniques and business processes that helps power all Mequoda partner marketing programs. My focus on client content strategies is a natural extension of my journalism education and background.

And here is a high-level summary of the entire Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

WHO: Besides senior executives like you from magazine publishing companies, the Mequoda Systems team who will join me at this membership marketing secrets event are veteran publishing professionals themselves—you’ll have plenty of time for networking with your fellow publishing executives and with the Mequoda Systems team:

  • Don Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer
  • Bill Dugan, Chief Copywriter
  • Nancy Horan, Chief Systems Officer
  • Eileen Shea, Content Marketing Director
  • Norann Oleson, Analytics Director

WHEN: May 20-21 (it’s NEVER too early to sign up!)

WHERE: Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Plymouth, Massachusetts

For inn room reservations at preferential rates for our attendees, click here or call 833-MIRBEAU (833-647-2328) for room reservations.

WHY: Because the magazine publishing world is fast-changing and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job—this membership marketing secrets event will help you focus on only the key initiatives that will help drive growth for your business.

For a full description of all the sessions, speakers, and the venue for this event, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

I’d tell you to “mark your calendar” for this event, but if you only do that you might miss out—we only have a limited number of seats for this exclusive event, so sign up right now.

I hope to see you in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, in May 2020!


Kim Mateus
Chief Strategy Officer, Mequoda Systems
Program Leader, Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

P.S. If you already know that this event is for you, sign up right now while seats are still available (this is a small event—we really only have space for a few dozen people). Register now for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop!

P.P.S. Prefer not to wait until 2020 to benefit from all these membership marketing secrets? If you have a sizable team at your organization who should hear all about this, email me at and let’s chat about accelerating the process for you and bringing this membership marketing secrets workshop on-site at your company.


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