The Online Magazine Business Model – Part 1 of 2

Today I’m going to share with you an overview of an online business model. I’m talking about the online magazine model. This particular model worked so well for me, it led to interviews with the Wall Street Journal and CBS News in New York.

Now, before you get too excited, let me tell you a little bit about interviews with the mainstream media. Although it sounds great to say you’ve been interviewed by publications or stations that are household names, they no longer carry the same weight they did 25-years ago. That said, you know your online presence and presentation are top notch if they do contact you for an expert interview.

You really don’t need world class graphic design to make money online and be considered a “professional.” You can take a minimalist approach. That said, it’s easier to attract the attention of well-known media outlets when you look the part.

THE BIG PICTURE

Before getting started, consideration the big picture. For me, that meant having my content sources and plan already in place before taking the first step. I’d already identified a pool of writers who were looking for an online outlet. Some of these writers already had their own sites and were looking for ways to expand their existing audiences. Others didn’t, but really enjoyed writing about certain topics. Last, but certainly not least, an editor was on board.

For that project, I dedicated my time to SEO and site management. As the site grew, we eventually attracted a few celebrity writers in the niche. It was a great learning experience.

My second online magazine was virtually a solo-effort right out of the gate. I wrote about a topic I really enjoyed. My heart was 100% into it and it was a blast doing the work. With that project, I worked with a few other writers and did the editing myself. I received a ton of publicity in that niche and I’m told they still tell my story around campfires on occasion.

Just kidding.

Getting started with anything is easy. Even online publications. The hard part is one, two even three years later when you hit a wall.

At that point you have to either invest money to take things to the next level, or sell it to someone else who has the money to take things to the next level. A third option is, you’re happy with what you have and keep the site going until you decide to move on.

HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY?

Online magazines basically make money the same way offline magazines do. First, there’s advertising. If you make a big of enough splash, the advertisers will find you. I’ve actually had people pay me to insert their link at the bottom of one of my articles. I don’t recommend doing that more than a few times for SEO-related reasons.

There are also CPA (cost per action) networks you can join (if you have the traffic and the numbers) http://mthink.com/top-cpa-networks-2015/ . When someone clicks on a link or takes action, you get paid.

AdSense used to be a good option several years ago, but it rarely generates the big numbers anymore for most people.

You can also promote affiliate offers and information products. There is no such thing is a single method that out-performs the others in every case. Each site is different. One thing to remember, generating income through different channels is usually safer than generating it through a single channel. It’s much easier to adjust if something goes wrong.

For example, if your site depends on a single ad network and that network fails (for whatever reason), your entire business can sink like the Titanic – literally overnight. That happened to many businesses when Google algorithms started changing with greater frequency and the penalties for trying to “game the system” became increasingly severe.

THE PLATFORM

Every online magazine that I’ve ever been involved with has been built upon WordPress. That said, most of newspapers and TV stations I know of (here in Florida) use the BLOX CMS system. Here’s a link if you want to check it out. http://www.townnews365.com/en/solutions/blox_cms/

The people I know who use it tell me it’s a system that’s fairly easy to use. Even so, you’re not going to want to set up BLOX CMS on a reseller account or even a VPS. You’re going to want to have your own server for that kind of setup so you have root access. If your eyes just glazed over, don’t worry about it. The support you’ll need is available if you to the Blox route. I’m just letting you know what’s out there as far as the tools go.

THE ENDGAME

Your magazine may become very successful within a short span of time. A “short time” meaning – 9 to 12 months. If it does, you can scale this business fairly easily. There are plenty of writers and editors out there to connect with. If the publication’s growth is slower, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can keep things simple. Just know up front, you’ll have to focus on marketing as much as you do content creation. You don’t have to develop a huge enterprise to make money with online magazines. You just need a hungry audience.

Whatever level of success you ultimately achieve, you’ll probably be looking to sell the site somewhere down the line. Even if you only make pocket change from the endeavor, you shouldn’t have any problems finding a buyer on sites like flippa.com. The point is, you should never hit the delete key and call it a day. There’s a market out there for almost anything if you’re willing to make the effort to find a buyer. Positioning your creation as an “online magazine” has a unique appeal in and of itself. You may be surprised by how much easier it is to attract investors and potential buyers down the line by creating a “media presence” in your niche as opposed to the more traditional alternatives.

For example, if you have a local magazine site, your local newspaper is an option if you’re looking for a potential buyer. Keep in mind, you need traffic. Some publishers get decent traffic, but they just can’t connect with advertisers. Let’s say you’re getting ten thousand unique visitors a month but you’re only making nickels and dimes in ad revenue. Local media outlets might not think twice about making you an offer and adding your site to their existing portfolio. Things like this happen all the time, they’re just not publicized.

The point is, whether you build on WordPress or a system like BLOX, never plan on walking away from a site empty-handed. Either way, look to cash out when all is said and done.

WORDPRESS BASED MAGAZINES

WordPress has come a long way since I first started with it. You can hire talented designers and coders from around the world on an as-needed basic if you’re just getting started. That said, WordPress will probably be your best option if you’re just getting started.

There are plenty of magazine styled themes on the market. Recently, I bought a newspaper styled theme for a new project. Here’s a link to it: http://themeforest.net/item/newspaper/5489609

CONVERTING AN EXISTING BLOG INTO AN ONLINE MAGAZINE

Here’s another option, you may want to consider turning an existing blog into an online magazine. For example, you can either change the theme and the logo (which is fairly simple to do). Or, you can export your posts and import them into a new website/url.

For images, consider the $99/year subscription at https://www.dollarphotoclub.com/ to get things off the ground.

If you have great content at www.yourname.com, instead of letting it go to waste, repurpose it for your new project. Also, don’t forget, you can also curate content from other authority sources. Here’s an example of a liberal online publication that does this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Here’s an example of an alternative media site: http://www.amtvmedia.com/

You don’t need to be a big organization to operate an online magazine. You just need to have all the basic pieces in place. After that, you need to create interesting content for your readers on a consistent basis to keep the traffic flow alive and well.

THE BASIC PIECES

Your niche.
Your writers.
Your Editor.
Your Photo Source (Dollar Photo Club).
Your CMS System (WordPress).
Your Design/Theme

Next week, I’ll go over a concept I call “seed traffic.” In other words, rather than start from scratch… use your existing connections and the connections of others to get off to the fastest start possible.

Of all the projects I’ve been involved with – mine and client projects (now over 200 since 1998), building online magazines rates all the way up there as the most enjoyable.

Can you see yourself doing something like this? If so, let me know in the comment section below.

Jim Galiano

Jim Galiano is an online consultant and author who began doing business online in 1998. His consulting, marketing and publicity services are focused in the area's of SEO and website publicity. Jim has been interviewed by variety of media sources including the Wall Street Journal and CBS News in New York.

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2 thoughts on “The Online Magazine Business Model – Part 1 of 2

  1. I love the idea of having a magazine or media type of website. It seems like it has the potential to take blogging to the next level. Is there anything to watch out for or any beginner mistakes people make when trying to build this kind of website?

  2. Hi Joe,
    I think the biggest mistake is not researching the niche well enough before getting started. In other words, you have to see who your competition is, what they’re providing their readers and so forth. In some cases, you may feel that you’re able to do the same thing – only better. In most cases, though, it’s wiser to determine what THEY’RE NOT PROVIDING and fill that particular need. In some cases, providing the same information in an more entertaining manner can be enough. But that’s a real gamble. It’s better to target a specific audience with a specific taste/desire right out of the gate and give them what they’re looking for.

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