Learn how to create an online magazine like a pro

Learn how to create an online magazine like a pro

Ever wondered if you could become the next CNN, HuffPost or Wall Street Journal? Want to share current events with the world or be the first to break a big story?

All these outlets started small at some point.

There’s nothing stopping you from doing the same.

You can easily create an online magazine like any of the big names because you have the power of WordPress in your hands.

It’s no surprise that WordPress powers one of the world’s largest online publications, time.com.

Would you be surprised to hear that we aren’t that far away from making a professional looking online magazine of our own?

Yes, we’re serious, and the most extraordinary thing is you don’t need any special skills!

All you need are some simple tools, a little time and this walkthrough from your friends at Astra.

We will guide you through the entire process of creating a stunning magazine website your readers will fall in love with.

And that’s not all.

If you are a beginner and need to know how you can generate revenue from an online magazine, worry not.

We will also explain some proven ways to help you make some money from all your hard work.

Essential components every online magazine should have

To ensure your online magazine website takes off, it needs to have the following components:

Design

Magazine website design is different in several aspects from blogs. Magazine websites have to fit a lot of content onto the page while remaining easy to navigate and to read.

Maintaining a balance between lots of content, styles, banner ads, and white spaces can be challenging.

You need a page design that can accommodate a variety of elements but still provide a great user experience.

For example, The Los Angeles Times occasionally welcomes its readers with a full-page video ad.

Users can scroll down to see a layout that nicely blends the header menu, images, titles, ads, subscription buttons, and many more elements on one page.

bbc homepage design grid layout

The BBC adopts a different approach on its homepage by showing a grid layout for stories under the header area. It looks clean and engaging but still manages to feature plenty of content.

Ideally, your online magazine design should be flexible to mold layout according to your editorial needs.

Sujay Pawar

Hello! My name is Sujay and I’m CEO of Astra.

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Responsive and fast

A responsive website design helps deliver flawless experiences to visitors regardless of their device.

With people using a wide variety of screen sizes, your website has to work seamlessly with all of them. That’s responsive design.

Speed is also key.

For a good user experience, your website needs to load fast, which Google considers a vital metric for ranking websites.

Typically, online magazines rely on images to help tell stories, which can slow down pages.

A fast WordPress theme and a powerful image optimization tool can make or break the user experience.

Photo/video gallery

Reuters website

Reuters has separate pages for pictures and videos where they create an emotional link with the audience through graphical content.

Images often tell stories quickly and give depth to articles, which significantly increases user engagement.

You can use images and videos inside articles, but you can have gallery pages that can drive more traffic.

CNN website

CNN’s video page is a great source of information where they present video stories arranged in gallery style.

They run an ad at the start of each video which is good for revenue.

Many online magazines run images in a slider on the homepage and inside stories for quickly passing on information and compelling users to click on them.

Both images and videos promote social media sharing.

There are several good photo gallery plugins you can use for displaying images and videos.

Membership/subscription

If you focus on creating authority in your industry with quality stories and a take that differs from others, you will likely gather a loyal audience from your content.

With an online magazine, you have a chance to build a community that can provide you with multiple opportunities.

If you deliver what they want, they might be willing to pay a subscription fee and become a part of your community.

It will help you create exclusive content for them, which you may not offer to general visitors.

Ad inventory rotation module

Ads are a huge source of revenue for online magazines. As your magazine gets viewers’ attention, advertisers will look for a spot on your website to market their products.

You can also display ads from Google Adsense and other sources. Unfortunately, WordPress cannot manage multiple ad positions by default.

You will need an ad management plugin to handle that.

Newsletter

With 1.139 billion websites on the internet, you have to work hard to attract and keep attention. This is where newsletters come in.

Newsletters are a popular way to consume articles and news worldwide.

You may recall Quora or Medium sending out stories to your mailbox. Just by looking at your browsing history and interests, they know what kind of stories will bring you back to them.

People exchanged 319.6 billion emails worldwide in 2021. They will likely cross 376.4 billion by 2025. In 2020 email marketing value stood at around $7.5 billion worldwide, with newsletters being the primary format.

That’s how important a newsletter is.

Polls and surveys

Polls and surveys are two different tools, but they are highly effective in learning what consumers think.

You can develop great content such as graphs, charts, and infographics from the results.

It is also helpful to gather information from your readers to know their opinion about your performance.

polls for news

For example, Reuters has a permanent feedback form where users can tell them about the quality of content, any bug on the website, or any other thing they want to give feedback about.

The New York Times monthly poll

The New York Times monthly poll keeps every political party informed about what people think about their performance.

Not only can you use these great tools for creating valuable content for your online publication, but you can also generate revenue by conducting paid surveys on behalf of brands.

You can use any of the popular survey plugins to include polls and surveys on your site.

Create an online magazine website with WordPress

Now you know what a magazine should offer, it’s time to learn how to create an online magazine that matches your vision.

Find a niche

Before you learn how to create an online magazine, we suggest you pick a niche for your publication.

You wouldn’t want to spend energy on broader topics and compete with popular magazines that have established their authority over the years.

It would be challenging to take them on at this stage.

Think about a specific audience and create your content for them. This way, you will be able to dominate the segment without having to fight for space with big players.

For example, think of a broader topic of your interest. It could be anything, such as mobile phones.

If the niche already has big players doing mobile reviews and covering launches, you can narrow it down to something more specific.

How about reviewing mobile phone cameras in depth and talking about related accessories to use them like a pro?

If no one is working in this domain, you have a better chance to be the leader in this niche.

Select perfect name

Once you have selected the right niche, it’s time to select a name for your online magazine.

It’s better to use a name that reflects your niche, for it would be easier for your audience to remember.

Unlike blogs and small businesses, it’s uncommon to use a personal name for the name of a magazine. But there are always exceptions.

Huffington Post is a well-known website co-founded by Arianna Huffington.

As a general rule, try to keep it short. An abbreviation can also work.

Did you know CNN stood for Cable News Network?

People are more comfortable with shorter names in daily use. So you can think along those lines.

Get domain and hosting

Now that you have picked a name for your online magazine, it’s time to register your domain name.

Your magazine name should ideally be available as your domain name. If that is not the case, try a slight variation, as in the case of The Economist, where the domain name is www.economist.com.

With billions of domain names already chosen, finding an exact match may be challenging.

You can try different abbreviations or brainstorm again for another magazine name whose domain is also available.

You can buy a domain through a domain registrar such as domain.com or namecheap.com.

Your web host can also register a domain for you when buying a hosting plan. Most of the time, they offer it for free for the first year.

hostinger webhosting plalns

If you select web hosts such as Bluehost or Hostinger, you can claim a free domain name with an annual plan.

For this tutorial, we will continue with SiteGround as our web host.

SiteGround has a global presence with servers in different countries, an added benefit if you’re targeting a specific audience.

If your online magazine publishes local content for California, you would probably like to host your website in SiteGround’s Los Angeles data center.

This way, you can give the local audience a speedy website loading time.

To buy a hosting plan, choose WordPress Hosting under the Hosting menu from their homepage.

WordPress Hosting

We recommend selecting the GrowBig plan on the next page because you will have good resources at your disposal for your website right off the bat.

You can always upgrade your plan as you grow.

siteground hosting plan for how to create online magazine

On the next screen, register the domain if you haven’t done it already.

siteground domain registration

Proceed with the process and enter the required information on the next screen, including the payment information.

Select the duration of the hosting service and make any selections you want.

siteground hosting period and extra services

Press the blue Pay Now button and wait for the system to process your payment. Once successful, you’ll see a confirmation message and a welcome email in your inbox.

Install WordPress

Inside the SiteGround dashboard, click on the Websites page and the Add New Site icon.

Alternatively, you can press the New Website button in the top menu.

install add new site on siteground

Select Existing Domain and enter your domain name if you already have the domain registered.

select existing domain

Press the Continue button to point the domain to the SiteGround server.

You can also register a domain at this stage by selecting New Domain on this screen.

On the next screen, install a new application by pressing the Select button inside the Start New Website box.

install new application

You will further see a couple of applications underneath. Select WordPress.

add login information

Add your email address and set a password for your WordPress application on the same screen.

Wait for a few seconds before you see the message You Are All Set!

installing wordpress status

You can either press the Log In Admin button or type www.yoursitename.com/wp-login.php to access your new WordPress admin panel.

wordpress starter exit link

SiteGround offers users a WordPress theme library to select a theme. You will come across the library wizard on your way to WP admin.

Ignore this section for now as we’ll show you how to install a theme in a short while.

wordpress starter wizard exit link

Press the Exit link to skip the wizard and reach inside the admin area.

customized dashboard siteground

SiteGround has customized the WordPress admin area and added a number of shortcuts to core WordPress functions. There are also some useful tutorials accessible through its built-in plugin SiteGround Central.

You can deactivate the plugin from the plugin area to see the original dashboard if you prefer.

deactivate plugins

Don’t worry. We will install better alternatives shortly.

Install the Astra theme

If you want an excellent WordPress theme for your website, Astra is the one to beat.

We selected Astra because it’s our own WordPress theme. It also checks all the boxes for setting up a professional website.

It is super fast, fully customizable and works perfectly with all popular plugins you will need on your website.

Another advantage of choosing Astra is its extensive Starter Templates library, offering over 280 predesigned templates, including several for online magazines.

Let’s install Astra!

Go to Appearance > Themes and press the Add New button.

press add new button for theme

Search for Astra and press the Install button.

Press Activate when the option appears.

install astra theme

Astra should now be active on your site. You can visit the homepage and see the default website.

To turn it into an online magazine, install the Starter Templates plugin.

install starter templates plugin

Go to Plugins > Add New and search for Starter Templates.

Install and activate it on your website the way you just did with the Astra theme.

access starter templates library

Next, go to Installed Plugins and click on the See Library link under the Starter Templates plugin.

astra magazine templates

Select the Elementor page builder on the library page and search for templates relevant to what we are looking for, a magazine template.

The library offers a good number of templates that you can consider for a magazine-style layout.

These magazine templates come free with the Astra Essential Bundle or Growth Bundle.

Business Magazine

astra business magazine template

Business Magazine is the ideal template for magazines that aim to cater to business, the economy, or finance.

Thanks to powerful customization tools, you can use it for any niche, including politics, social, sports, or any other category you want to cover.

Tech News

astra tech news template

If your content is about technology or gadget reviews, the Tech News template is highly interactive and features many cleanly designed segments to serve your readers.

You can put ads, subscription boxes, social widgets, or any other element anywhere on the website.

select logo and continue

Once you have finalized the template, click on it and follow the import wizard that will walk you through a step by step process to set up your magazine layout.

Note: The Astra theme and its templates are fully customizable. Even if you are a non-coder, you can still change existing layouts and create new ones by just dragging and dropping elements wherever you want them.

Essential plugins

Every WordPress website needs plugins to provide specific functionality, including speed, security, SEO and others.

Here are a few essential plugins we recommend:

Ultimate Addons for Elementor

Ultimate Addons for Elementor

Ultimate Addons for Elementor is a powerful plugin that extends Elementor features significantly.

In total, you get 40+ widgets and extensions, 100+ website templates, and 200+ section blocks. They are more than enough to customize and improve your magazine’s design.

With Ultimate Addons for Elementor installed, you will hardly need Elementor Pro on your site.

SureMembers

sure member plugin

With SureMembers active on your website, only your subscribers can read locked content. You can limit it to specific articles or apply restrictions to the entire site depending on how you set it up.

If someone isn’t a subscriber, they can be easily redirected to a payment page to proceed further or to the content you keep for free users.

Yoast and Schema Pro

Yoast for SEO

Ranking a website higher on search engines is everyone’s dream. It requires lots of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) knowledge, effort, and budget. This may become a challenge, especially in the early days as a website owner.

Yoast SEO and Schema Pro are two great companions for making the entire journey painless from the start.

With these plugins, you’ll have the tools you need to implement on-page SEO effectively.

Starting from integrating your website with search engines to making every post and page optimized, Yoast has everything you need.

Schema Pro defines the structure of every post and page so that search engines understand them well.

Above all, Yoast’s premium extension provides a specific tool for news websites to help your articles rank better on search engines.

Wordfence for security

Wordfence security plugin

It’s important to harden the security of your website and neutralize unwanted login attempts through real time firewalls and other techniques.

The plugin monitors traffic and allows you to block a specific IP range or region likely to cause security problems for your site.

Wordfence also includes a malware scanner. Essential if you plan to allow user-generated content or use multiple contributors.

Updraftplus for backups

Updraftplus for backup

One of the few plugins that you need after installing WordPress is UpdraftPlus. It backs up your entire site and ensures you have a stable copy should you ever need it.

You can store the backup on the cloud service of your choice, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon, UpdraftVault, or several others available in the list of options.

While you can hope that nothing ever happens to your website, you have to plan for the worst. A backup can help with that.

Marketing your website

Who doesn’t want more eyeballs on their website? The more traffic a site gets, the better business prospects there are.

As soon as you start your online magazine, you will need a marketing strategy to help you on your journey to success.

Here are some proven techniques for your marketing master plan:

Interview influencers/celebrities

Magazines interview celebrities, influencers, and public figures to help tell readers about their lives and points of view.

Celebrities can shout out on their social networks about your online magazine, which can quickly give you a flood of visitors.

It’s a great marketing tool for increasing your readership.

It may be challenging to approach celebrities initially, but you can grab an opportunity with a bit of work.

Attending events

There is always something happening around you. A workshop, an exhibition, a movie premier, or a product launch.

A press release isn’t always enough. People want to know more about what happened. They want updates in real time. That’s where you come in!

You can always announce on your social media before attending an event, and your audience will wait for your coverage.

You can run a live session on your magazine’s website and integrate your social media on the page to get maximum exposure.

Social media marketing

atlantic social media followers

The Atlantic magazine has over 2 million followers on Facebook and Twitter and enjoys over 600K subscribers on YouTube. They are also active on LinkedIn, Instagram and Flipboard.

They didn’t achieve this milestone overnight, but it’s a great market strategy to reach millions of people through multiple social networks.

A publication as big as theirs can afford multiple social media channels as it requires lots of resources.

Beginners can start small, with two or three social platforms.

Figure out where your target audience lives and deliver them the best content.

Initially, a few low-budget ads on social networks can help you get subscribers. The campaign will also help you plan for the future.

Marketing emails and ad campaigns

Email marketing is the oldest but still most effective way to reach out to people.

It is more like a one on one discussion with your target audience that is more convincing than a generic social media campaign.

First you’ll need to build an email list with an opt-in form or popup. Then write engaging emails with a compelling offer to grab people’s attention.

To expand your email list quickly, you can create an email signup form on a landing page and bring traffic to it through a targeted social media campaign.

If you always offer something of value, your email marketing should be a great success!

Google ads can be a cost effective option for ad campaigns. Just remember to integrate them into your site where they are in view but don’t interrupt the user journey.

Use giveaways

Who wouldn’t want to win a giveaway?

You can conduct contests and ask your audience to participate in the prizes, or you can make your fans happy on special occasions. You can even offer subscription plans as a giveaway.

With this, you will not only win hearts and make lifelong fans, but you will also introduce your magazine to a whole new audience.

Set your goals and make a consistent policy and carry out giveaway activities. This will give you an edge over others.

How to earn from an online magazine

There are several ways online magazines can generate revenue, the most widely known Google Adsense is just one way.

Here are some popular ways to generate revenue from your efforts:

Display ads

Display ads are the most lucrative revenue earning model for online magazines, blogs and news sites.

In contrast to print magazines, you can rotate a massive inventory of ads on a number of different positions on a website.

Headers, footers, and sidebars are just the typical positions. The possibilities are immense.

The online advertising industry expects a 7.91% growth in ad spending in the next five years, with a forecasted market volume of $226.80 billion by 2027.

You can multiply your earnings on similar ad slots with quality content, better marketing, and the right audience.

For example, if you run an online food magazine and your audience is likely a food lover. Therefore, food brands will have you on their top list for their campaigns.

You can charge them premium rates for your exclusivity.

Subscriptions

The subscription model is a huge opportunity that can provide a viable income option.

Want to know which of the news outlets is ranking at the top for grabbing maximum subscribers?

It’s the New York Times with over 7 million.

Readers value great content. They will certainly pay for it if you ask them nicely.

The US is the most promising market where digital readers are willing to pay for what they like to read.

If your content is what users are looking for, you can promise them similar high quality content for the future for a nominal fee.

You have to be creative. When people pay for content, they expect to get their money’s worth!

Publish sponsored content

Online magazines with loyal audiences in a specific niche will have immense opportunities to benefit from sponsored content.

Even a low traffic site can start publishing sponsored content provided it has an engaged community and someone willing to pay.

Generally, you can pitch to brands once you cross 5,000 unique monthly views. It gets better with your popularity.

As you grow, you can start pitching proposals for paid content.

Just make sure your readers know about which content is sponsored. Too much promotion or lack of transparency around promoted content can jeopardize your magazine’s integrity.

Ask for donations

Donations for websites

Asking for donations has become an industry norm. Several big publications, such as The Guardian, have adopted this policy.

You will find their message at the bottom of every article on their website. In 2021, The Guardian US exceeded its yearly donation target when it collected $1.6 million after a 43 days donation campaign.

There are certain benefits to raising funds through donations over the subscription model.

You can rely less on subscriptions and deliver more free content to users.

You can ask for donations from the public on your website. But you can contact several platforms where people and organizations crowdfund projects.

Generate affiliate income

An affiliate income comes through a partnership between you and the brand where you talk about their product or service on your site and leave a purchase link within the article.

You get a commission if your readers buy the product through the link.

Affiliates can become a huge source of income for your online magazine. You can deal with brands directly, or you can work with affiliate networks.

Final thoughts

If you have dreams of becoming the next CNN or BBC, it’s not as far out of your reach as you might think.

Thanks to WordPress and the Astra theme, you can shape your website any way you want.

You could emulate your heroes or create something truly unique. With a little time, effort and will, you could create something spectacular!

And how can we not mention how easily you can market it and generate revenue from it?

If this article helped you set up your online magazine, would you share which part you liked the most? You can share your feedback in the comments below.

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