Pointers for a Publisher Planning to Launch an Online Magazine

It sounds glamorous doesn’t it? Publishing content that will keep people at the edge of their seat waiting to read the next post. Even better, they will pay to consume your content. Imagine it: The publisher is sitting on the beach with a laptop and making profits when sleeping.

Yeah, well, it’s not quite like that. But being an online publisher can be rewarding and fun. Here are the pointers to know before quitting the day job:

Related: How Do I Start a Magazine?

1. Publish content that people can't get anywhere else.

Now that the information age is here, readers can consume all kinds of content with just a few keystrokes. But the challenge is to offer something different and choose a niche that's currently ignored or underserved. If the online publication merely pursues the editorial path taken by others and publishes content that has already been well discussed, that’s called a blog and it might not earn any money because people won’t pay for it.

2. It’s all about the data.

Contrary to what many think, it's not the content that will make an upstart company valuable. It’s the data. That is, the identity of the publication's followers. The first step is to have them reveal themselves by asking them for basic nonthreatening information like their first names and their email addresses. This generates a list of people to market special offers to and builds a following.

As the publication's online relationship with this following grows, ask for more information and build a profile of all the readers: How soon will they buy a car? What is their median income? How many kids do they have? These are all questions an online publisher can receive answers to by asking and being careful in the approach. The more information gleaned over time, the more valuable this data becomes. And here is the payoff: Advertisers will pay handsomely for it.

Related: More Online Publishers Ought to Try A/B Testing

3. Have a complete value proposition for the publication's clients.

Potential advertisers are a savvy bunch. They have more choices than ever before as to where to spend their advertising dollars and can cut through the noise to reach their exact target audience. In the early days of the Internet, web publishers could charge a flat rate for a static banner ad and call it a day.

That's not true anymore. A fledgling publisher probably cannot compete with the likes of Google and Facebook, but there are still some ways it's possible to beat these online giants at their own game.

4. Use the online platform to position clients as subject matter experts.

The pen (or keyboard) is indeed powerful. The publication's clients have an expertise that when extracted and packaged as editorial content can be very valuable. I'm not referring to a thinly veiled sales pitch to readers either. This concerns content that provides some nuggets of knowledge and adds value to the online publication's pages. If a client has a product, offer to review it as part of an advertising solicitation. Most times, well-placed content can be more effective and valued than a traditional advertisement.

5. Find multiple revenue streams.

Don't just charge for ad space on a webpage or make use of Google AdSense. Through those methods it's possible to earn enough to offset expenses, but it won't be possible to make any real money. Consider these additional revenue streams:

Every email sent out should make the company money. Concentrate on adding value. Clients can sponsor this more direct form of communication.

Stage live or prerecorded webinars. Either the company or a client can host them. And if they are good, people will pay to attend.

Look for upselling opportunities with related products and services. Offer products or services that readers need or desire.

5. Invite others to contribute and don’t pay them.

Writing for fun about a subject enjoyed can be just that: fun. But when readers expect to receive something brilliant on a regular basis -- and by a certain deadline, running an online magazine can become be a grind. Here's a solution: Nearly all writers and subject matter experts want an audience. They all have an agenda, and that’s OK. They can provide the content that gets them closer to their goals, and the publication can provide an audience. It’s a perfect marriage and everybody wins.

It’s the same reason the NFL gets big-name entertainers to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show. The entertainers don’t get paid because they get billions of eyeballs on them through the television show. It's the largest audience any entrepreneur will ever have and a perfect platform in which to showcase their work.

Here is the exception: True professional writers expect and deserve to be paid for their craft. If payment is not an option, assign them to produce the most important content that will serve as your signature pieces. 

Related: Strategic Tips for Writing Contributed Articles