In the ongoing debate between print and digital content, one thing is certain: The e-reader isn’t going anywhere. Even those who swear by the weight and feel of a magazine in their hands are succumbing to the convenience of digital content. Magazines such as National Geographic -- once confined to yellow-spined sections of readers’ bookshelves -- now offer online archiving with their digital subscription packages. Whether the big push of traditional print magazines to offer digital content means good news or bad business for online-only magazines is yet to be seen.
Print magazines know the importance of grabbing a reader’s attention. A lot of thought and effort goes into the cover to make it stand out on a newsstand so someone will buy it. Unlike traditional magazines, online magazines aren’t static. If a cover or story isn’t grabbing readers, online magazines can adapt in real-time and find something that works.
Interactive content is a huge advantage for online magazines. Not only can they course-correct content after it’s published, avoiding those sometimes lengthy retraction notes in their paper counterparts, they can include live polls, videos and comments sections. The down side to this interactivity is that trolls and hackers are a fact of online life. While these features add value for readers, they require vigilant monitoring.
Online-only magazines pose some tempting start-up advantages -- such as no printing and distribution costs. Limited only by server space, online magazines don’t have the page restrictions of print magazines, which may or may not work in their favor. Without the rigid editorial guidelines vetting content in traditional magazines, online-only mags inherently have something to prove. More content doesn't have to mean lower standards.
Magazines make the bulk of their money through advertising. According to a Worldwide Magazine Media Association survey, advertising revenue for newspaper and magazine print editions is expected to decline at an annual rate of 2 to 3 percent, while online revenue climbs. As more readers cozy up to the idea of viewing their favorite magazines in digital format, online mags can take full advantage of the stats to attract more ad revenue -- although getting perfume samples to their readers might be a little trickier.
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