Start an Online Magazine with WordPress.com

Sarah Peterson / March 12, 2019

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When seeking out information, fewer and fewer people are turning to print resources like newspapers and phone books. However, there is one type of print media that is weathering the digital storm: magazines.

Magazines remain successful as they tend to focus on niche topics. They also feature content written by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts. Although they’re still in-demand, if you want to start a magazine, it’s not always practical to print and distribute every edition.

The substantial upfront investment in a print magazine can ground your high-flying aspirations, but it doesn’t have to. With the democratization of digital publishing, anyone can start an online magazine without breaking the bank. Here’s how to get started, and why using WordPress.com to create a website, manage your contributors, and even monetize your content is the best way to go.

How to start an online magazine

The first step toward creating an online magazine is defining your niche and target audience. Ask yourself what the magazine’s content will be about, and who will it be written for.

Your target audience and niche can help to inform the medium that you use. For example, an indie music magazine would benefit from a podcast component. Alternatively, a visual art publication should be accompanied by image galleries and text. Knowing these specific details can help to position your online magazine and website for success.

Once you commit to a niche and research your audience, start creating a website. Whatever topics or themes that you decide to feature in your digital magazine, WordPress.com has the tools, flexibility, and community to support it.

Design it

Once you register for a WordPress.com account, the next step is to pick one of the professionally designed online magazine themes.

Explore other online publications for inspiration, and take note of any features you like and want to use. There’s no wrong way to lay out your magazine, but it’s a good idea to choose a theme that lets you feature more than one story above the fold (the area of your website that visitors land on before they begin scrolling).

WordPress.com offers customization options to align your site and brand. Within your theme of choice, you may consider making the following customizations:

  • The amount of content displayed on your homepage

  • The layout of your content and any accompanying images
  • Color options to reflect your magazine’s palette

  • The header area, including a logo, menu options, and more

Configure it

The next step is preparing to publish.

Because online magazines require a lot of content, you probably won’t be creating it all yourself. WordPress.com offers many features that are helpful for online publishers, empowering them to manage teams and editorial calendars.

  • Assign roles (such as editor, author, or contributor) so that team members can upload their content directly to the WordPress.com dashboard without granting them too much access
  • Encourage authors to submit content for approval before it’s published
  • Promote new content using Publicize

Monetize it

Once you’re publishing regularly and amass a following, you can think about monetizing your magazine.

As with a printed magazine, one popular way to subsidize your content is by featuring ads. If you have a WordPress.com Business website, you can do this with a plugin like Jetpack. Jetpack requires no approval process, and offers the only ad service that is optimized specifically for WordPress.com sites.

You can also monetize your site by adopting brand sponsorships, becoming an affiliate for brands featured in your magazine, or using Patreon to solicit donations. For Premium or Business users, there is also the Simple Payments option as another way to collect payments from readers.

Get the print magazine benefits without the big investment

With a WordPress.com website, you can launch a digital magazine without investing in an initial print run. Unlike a physical magazine, you’ll also have the resources to distribute your content and grow your website along with your brand.

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