5 ways to monetize your online magazine


By: Niraj Ranjan Rout

Have you written off magazines because they remind you of the doctor's office? Take another look. Digital publishing has opened up a new realm of possibilities for magazines.

And now is a great time to get into the industry—the percentage of magazine readers in the U.S. has more than quadrupled since 2013, and reports suggest that digital magazine subscriptions now outsell single issues three to one.

Related: 14 magazine layout design ideas for your inspiration

If you're creating an online magazine, you'll need to understand which revenue model to work with. In this post we'll cover 5 ways you can turn a profit with your online magazine.

1. Use display advertising

As with traditional magazines, ads play a big role in funding e-magazines. Display advertising means showing an ad (text, video or audio) on a website.

How to make money with your magazine

A display ad on the New Yorker website. It does a good job of targeting New Yorker readers who are, theoretically, into art.

Display advertising can take the form of banner ads or short-form video ads, both of which are viable options for bringing in revenue. Remember this:

  • Decide on ad size. You may want to have a full banner ad or a smaller square one depending on what fits best into your website design.

  • You also need to decide on ad position. Do you want the ad at the top of you website or to the side? You can also position the ad in between the article, as a "break" in the article. If you try that position, make sure to put a footer saying "article continued below."

  • Have an "Advertise with us" section. This will help potential clients get in touch with you easily. You can have direct ad sales or use a middleman like AdSense or BuySellAds.

2. Try native advertising

When an ad is integrated into the content, it becomes a native ad. The word "native" here signifies that it blends in with the website content, meaning it doesn't look like a traditional ad. Native ads are viewed 53% more than banner ads.

How to monetize your magazine

It's easy to forget that the most common native advertisements are found in every Google search.

Remember this:

  • Have a label clarifying that the ad is sponsored content. This solves the ethical dilemma for publishers.

  • Make sure the content blends well with your website. This is the crux of native advertising.

  • If the brand wants you to publish a story that doesn't mesh with the character of your website, don't do it. If you do, loyal readers will call you out as a phony and it will hurt your magazine's reputation.

  • Be creative while looking for native advertising topic ideas. Make sure the content is entertaining or educational.

3. Make an app

Right now, 45 of the top 50 lifestyle iPad apps are magazine brands. This year, the number of mobile-only internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only internet users in the U.S. A native app could add a lot of value for your readers, and if you're ready to commit to making one, you can make it yourself using a tool like Adobe Digital Publishing Suite or hire someone to do it for you.

That's a fairly big investment, though. If you'd like to prove out the concept first, you can use Lucidpress to create a digital magazine with interactive content and then publish it on a unique URL with password protection. This way, you can simulate the app experience and see how your readers respond. If it takes off, then you may want to invest in a native app. Remember this:

  • Have ads for the app, just like you would for the website.

  • Instead of having a paid app, offer a premium account that offers benefits to users.

  • Ask for readers to rate and review your app.

4. Become a subscription service

If you become a trusted source for quality content that's providing a unique perspective, you have a good chance of gaining a loyal following of subscribers. Subscriptions are a particular helpful source of revenue because they are more consistent than a one-time ad deal.

The New Yorker has found success here, attracting a loyal fanbase by consistently putting out fantastic content. Subscribers receive unrestricted access to all the articles and blogs on The New Yorker along with 90 years of archives. Tools like Lucidpress will let you place content behind a subscription paywall. Here's one simple way to do it:

  1. Publish your magazine to the web.

  2. Set a password so only certain people can access the content.

  3. After readers pay for a subscription, email them the password.

Remember this:

  • Price the subscription competitively. Readers expect online subscriptions to be cheaper because there are no printing costs involved.

  • Give away a few free articles so that readers can test the waters. Have a plan where readers gain access to, say, 5 free articles in a month. After 5 articles, they will have to pay a subscription fee for unlimited access.

5. Ask for donations

Some magazines depend on the goodwill of their readers to increase revenue. An online tip jar gives readers the chance to contribute to what they consider a worthy cause.

BrainPickings does a great job with this model. It's a well-designed site that presents quality content for free while asking for donations. Offering incentives for donating can also boost your cash flow. JoshReads and Loading Artist are two websites that provide reader shout-outs for big donors.

How to monetize a digital magazine

The BrainPickings' appeal for donations.

Remember this:

  • Use trusted payment apps like Patreon or PayPal on your website. These apps are designed for this purpose. They are easy to use and familiar to most web users.

  • Make the donation button visible on each page. Don't seem pushy, but write copy that strongly shows why readers should donate.

Ready to get started? Create & customize your own digital magazine with these free magazine templates in Lucidpress.

Free magazine templates

Get Started

Niraj Ranjan Rout

Niraj Ranjan Rout is the founder of Hiver, a company making software that turns your email into a simple, powerful collaboration tool.

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