How to Start a Profitable Digital Magazine
✍️ Emily Gertenbach
If you're comfortable writing content, and already have an audience of blog readers or email subscribers, a digital magazine can be a great monetization opportunity. It's easy to get started, too! In just a few simple steps, you can use MemberSpace to sell unlimited digital magazine subscriptions on your existing website.
Why Start a Digital Magazine?
Digital magazines let you offer exclusive, paywalled high-quality content to paid subscribers without the cost and logistics of printing and mailing a physical magazine. Your audience will enjoy the freedom to read their magazine on any device or print articles out if they prefer a tactile experience.
The Challenges of Launching a Digital Magazine
Because digital magazines aren't displayed on a newsstand, it's necessary to have a marketing and distribution plan that gets your new publication in front of readers' eyes. Typically, digital magazine publishers use one of three avenues to distribute their content:
A custom, branded app just for your magazine certainly looks nice, but it's the most expensive option of the bunch. You'll need to hire a custom app developer, closely follow App Store guidelines, and forfeit between 15–30% of your subscription revenue to Apple and Google as payment for distributing your app.
Magazine Distribution Platforms
Using an established magazine distribution service is another option. These companies offer individual publishers a way to get their content out via an existing channel, but they are often costly. Issuu is one such service that does provide a free tier, but you're limited to two publications per year. If you'd like to publish one magazine per month, you'll need to upgrade to Issuu's $40-per-month paid tier. In addition, publishers must pay a standard Stripe processing fee of 2.9% + $0.30 on every transaction.
Distributing a magazine through your website comes with a lot of benefits. It's easy to control, you don't have to pay fees to app stores, and you can let your readers download issues in a universal PDF format. With MemberSpace, you can publish as many magazines as you'd like and have an unlimited number of subscribers — starting at only $25 per month, plus transaction fees.
One of the unique things about MemberSpace is that, as your magazine subscription revenue grows, we reduce the MemberSpace transaction fees you pay (Stripe fees remain standard). This way, you get to keep more money out of every sale — ideal for creators who are ready to scale their businesses!
Should You Start a Digital Magazine?
Starting a digital magazine could be an ideal choice for you if:
- You're comfortable writing or have access to content creators who can help
- You have experience using a basic digital publishing and design program or can hire someone else to do it
- You can commit to a specific publishing schedule
- You have a network of associates who could be interested in cross-promoting your magazine
- You have an existing website for your business or brand
- You're comfortable creating new pages and uploading files on your site
- You have an audience of some size, whether on your blog, podcast, social media pages, or email list
If this all sounds like you, then let's get started!
Creating Your Digital Magazine
Step One: Content
The first step to creating a digital magazine is deciding on, and creating, all the content for your inaugural issue.
- Ask your network for guest posts (bonus: if you feature someone, they'll probably promote it to their followers and connections!)
- Repurpose an existing blog post into an expanded, feature article
- Do a social media roundup of your best posts
- Conduct an interview with an associate and transcribe it into question and answer format
- Hire a writer to help or lead content creation
Step Two: Design
Once your content is ready to go, you'll need to lay it all out into a final, stylized form.
- If you're designing the magazine yourself, Canva has several free article and cover templates that you can customize and combine into a complete issue.
- Use royalty-free image sites like Burst, Pexels, and Unsplash to find stylized photos for nearly any purpose.
- Export your finished product into a "standard" or "web" PDF, not print format.
Build a Digital Magazine Website
You'll need to build three new pages for your digital magazine launch. Be sure to use one of MemberSpace's compatible CMS integrations.
- A live sales page that displays subscription options:
- A "secret" member-only page to display your latest edition — where subscribers will be redirected after they sign up or log in:
- A "secret" archive page for all your back issues — also only accessible subscribers:
Setting Up MemberSpace
Step One: Protect Member Pages
Log into your MemberSpace account and click "Member Pages" in the top menu bar.
Next, click the big pink button that says "Protect Member Pages."
Go back to your website and grab the URL of the webpage that will display your current issue. Paste it into MemberSpace.
Click the pink &sdquo;add now" button at the bottom of the page to proceed and repeat with additional pages.
Want to make the process even faster? Organize every webpage related to this project under your primary magazine landing page — creating what's known as a subdirectory. For example:
- Public landing page: www.yourwebsite.com/magazine
- Secret current issue page: www.yourwebsite.com/magazine/welcome
- Secret issue archive page: www.yourwebsite.com/magazine/all-issues
To protect all your "secret" pages at once, copy the portion of the URL that's framed by two slashes. Follow the steps above and paste it into the URL field — slashes and all. Finish it with an asterisk. This lets MemberSpace know to automatically protect every page that is part of the same subdirectory, while leaving your top-most level sales landing page visible to the public.
Every time you add a new page to your website's digital magazine area, it will be protected!
Step Two: Set Up Your Member Plans
After you have your member pages added to MemberSpace, it's time to build the plans.
Click on the "Member Plans" link at the top of your dashboard to start:
Next, click on the pink "Create Member Plans" button and then select a frequency from the drop-down menu. In our example, we're offering a monthly subscription and an annual subscription, so we'll start by selecting "recurring payment."
Give your plan a name and fill out some details about the cost and billing frequency.
You'll also have the opportunity to select which member pages can be accessed by subscribers on this plan. Tick the boxes for the pages you'd like to protect:
Put your current issue page URL in the "After Sign Up" and "After Log In" fields to automatically redirect all subscribers.
Finally, make sure you turn on "Enable Plan" and "Make Plan Public."
If you'd like to offer an annual subscription tier, create a new recurring member plan and set the annual payment amount at a yearly interval.
Each member plan you create has a unique sign-up link associated with it. Click the gray button that says "get sign-up link" and copy the URL.
Use the sign-up link URL you just copied and add it to your magazine subscription sales page so visitors can join a plan.
Step Three: Upload Your Magazine PDF
MemberSpace uses a feature called Content Links to keep your content protected behind a membership paywall.
Click back to the "Member Pages" area in the top menu bar.
Next, click the gray "Manage Content Links" button on the side.
Click on "Add Content Links" and upload your magazine PDF file. (You can protect just about any kind of content this way, so you can provide your subscribers with videos, audio files, or images too!)
After uploading, click on "edit access" next to the file name.
Here, you can change specify who gets access, when they can access it, and how. Because this is our first issue, we've selected immediate availability.
If you'd like your magazine to launch on a future date, just select "specific day/time" instead:
Select the magazine member plans you created in step two and click "Update Now" to save your settings.
☝️Before launching your new digital magazine website, we recommend setting up a temporary 100% off coupon or free test plan so you can subscribe to your own magazine and make sure it works.
If everything looks good, it's time to start getting magazine subscribers!
Selling Digital Magazine Subscriptions
There are tons of ways to market your new digital magazine and build subscribers. So many, in fact, that we've put together a complete guide on it!
Don't shy away from leveraging your existing audience — they already like what you have to say and will probably be interested in a new offering.
If you have another membership product for sale on your website, like a private podcast or a paid newsletter, you can offer those members an upgrade plan that includes magazine access. To do this, create another member plan that provides access to both items and price it accordingly. If an existing member opts to upgrade and sign up for your new plan, MemberSpace will automatically convert their old one.
We've collected some great tools to help you make the most of your new digital magazine business — dig into all the goodies in the membership toolbox, and check out the rest of MemberSpace's use cases for more ways to monetize your content!