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Courtney Dercqu

Starting an online magazine can be an incredibly easy — and rewarding process — especially once you know how to begin. Below, we will answer the most commonly asked questions about how to start an online magazine, including how they work, which platforms you should use, how much it’ll cost, and everything in between. Do you have a specific question in mind? Feel free to jump ahead with our helpful table of contents listed below.

Table of Contents

What is an Online Magazine?

Start an online magazine

An online magazine is a magazine that’s published on the internet as opposed to a traditional print publication you’d pick up at newsstands or have delivered to your door. Online magazines are distributed and read online through various mediums like desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Like print magazines, online magazines often follow the same editorial structure seen in traditional magazines i.e. identifying which types of content work and helping the author improve his or her content before publishing.

What is the difference between an online magazine and a blog?

An online magazine contains words, links, and pictures that are posted and read online, so how is it any different than a blog? Are you able to just turn your website’s blog into an online magazine? The short answer: no. We explain why below.

An online magazine is one that is published on a routine basis (either monthly, bi-monthly, or annually) and typically only accessed by someone who has an active subscription. Blogs, on the other hand, can be published at any time and read by anyone who lands on your website. While blogs may have a publishing schedule, they don’t go through the same editorial process that an online magazine does. Online magazines have strict style guides that must be adhered to such as how long posts should be and the tone of voice they should have. This editorial process also involves a rigorous fact-check process to ensure the accuracy of the information being published. Blogs are much more informal and can be written in any style, have a casual tone, and be any length.

Types of Online Magazines

Starting an online magazine website

There are three common types of online magazines you’ll most likely be choosing between. These include:

  • Flipbook magazines
  • PDF magazines
  • HTML5 magazines

Before you start a digital magazine, you first have to identify which type of online magazine best fits your needs. I explain more below.

What are flipbook magazines?

Flipbook magazines are PDF documents embedded on a website that help simulate the act of flipping pages as you would if you were holding a magazine in your hands.


  • They’re easy to publish
  • Users don’t have to download them before reading
  • They typically appeal to sponsors and advertisers


  • Due to their size and formatting, they do not look good on mobile phones
  • They don’t rank high in internet search engines (meaning fewer people will see them)
  • They’re not easily shareable on social media

What are PDF magazines?

PDF magazines (also known as portable document format magazines) allow you to create an online replica of your printed magazine. PDFs enable users to view their content electronically. Many forms of software including Microsoft Office and Google Docs allow content to be downloaded as a PDF, meaning you don’t have to do a ton of extra work to get your content digitized.


  • PDFs are quick and easy to make
  • They do not require a ton of prior knowledge
  • You have more control over how your online magazine looks


  • They don’t look good on mobile phones
  • They require users to pinch and zoom to read articles if they’re viewing it from their mobile phone
  • They have limited capacity to be interactive
  • They require users to download the PDF before reading it

What are HTML5 magazines?

HTML5 magazines utilize the same technology as most websites thanks to their use of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS — basically the powerhouse of a website. HTML provides the structure of a website and is enhanced by CSS and JavaScript, which help control formatting, layout, presentation, and various other elements on the site. An HTML5 magazine is designed to work in any internet browser.


  • They will work on both desktop computers and mobile devices
  • They can easily keep track of and measure your reader’s behavior to help customize your content strategy

You’ll notice that there aren’t any cons for the HTML5 magazine. That’s because those who want to start a digital magazine often cite these as being one of the most affordable and easiest methods to use.

Types of magazine apps

There are two types of magazine apps — native apps and magazine subscription apps.

Native app magazines allow publishers to create their own app for current and future subscribers to view a copy of their magazine online. Native apps are developed specifically for a particular mobile device. Because of this limitation, an app developed for Apple iOS will not work on Windows OS or an Android OS. These types of apps give online publishers complete control over the style of their online magazine and how they distribute content. Additionally, native apps are designed to look good across their desired operating systems and on social media.

Unfortunately, native apps are quite costly to develop and often require hiring a skilled developer to get the job done. In addition to cost, developing these apps is time-consuming, not to mention that Google or Apple will take a cut of how much you earn through the app’s usage.

Magazine subscription apps, on the other hand, are apps that are designed to pull in content from various publishing sources. An example of this is Apple News, which allows users to view the latest news from a variety of different sources. The good news is that users will be able to read your content. The bad news is that you’ll be competing with a slew of other publishers just to get found.

How Do You Start an Online Magazine and Make Money?

how to start an online magazine

In most cases, an online magazine is able to generate money through affiliate programs, paywalls and banner ads. I’ve provided an overview of some of the most popular ways digital magazines make money below:

What are affiliate programs?

Affiliate programs are those that are designed to refer products and/or services to visitors that are most likely to use them in exchange for profit. Let’s say for example that you’re visiting a website about guitars when an advertisement about guitar strings catches your eye. After you clicked on the link and purchased the guitar strings, the website you were initially on just earned a commission. This is an example of affiliate programs and they can reward online magazines with a hefty income, too. According to a 2016 survey conducted by VigLink, researchers found that 65% [of merchants] said they were making between 5% and 20% of their annual revenue from affiliate marketing.” Unsurprisingly, the investment in affiliate marketing is growing in investment and payoff. The rise in expenditure on affiliate marketing is predicted to reach $8.2 billion by 2022.

What are banner ads?

Banner ads are a form of brand advertisement heavily focused on imagery rather than text. The goal of a banner ad is to draw someone’s attention enough that it drives them to click on the image and visit the advertiser’s website.

What are paywalls?

Paywalls are the equivalent of allowing users to get a sneak peek of content before they subscribe. Many sites will allow readers free access to a certain number of articles per month; once they’ve reached that limit, they will have to either wait until the next month rolls around or subscribe to have full access to the content. While this is a popular way for online magazines to generate money, it’s important to make sure your content is informative and engaging enough that people will want to pay money to access it.

In addition to the three methods mentioned above, online magazines also utilize a combination of links and email lists to help generate revenue. The first step to knowing how to start an online magazine business plan involves identifying the various methods you can use to generate income.

How Much Does it Cost to Start an Online Magazine?

how to start an online magazine business plan

The cost of starting an online magazine website all comes down to where you choose to build and host it. WordPress, for example, not only comes equipped with templates specifically designed for online magazines, but remains an affordable option for both beginners and seasoned publishers. WordPress is one of the world’s most popular content management systems due to how easy it is for people of all skill levels to use.

If you want to start an online magazine with WordPress, you’ll first need to create and register your domain. Registering your domain will cost on average about $14.99 per year. Once you’ve registered your domain, you’ll need to secure hosting. In other words, the platform you use to host your website will be where your online magazine lives. Fortunately, many hosting packages like the ones at WP Super Host are incredibly affordable, starting at only $17.50 per month.

WP Super Host can help maintain your online magazine

Running an online magazine is a lot of work, which is why handling the technical aspects of it is the least of your priorities. That’s where WP Super Host comes in. All of our pricing packages come equipped with features that are designed to keep your WordPress online magazine up and running. These features include everything from automated daily backups, site speed reports, easy migration, and much more.

Tips for Starting a Digital Magazine

If you’re ready to start an online magazine, make sure you do some preplanning to refine your vision:

  • Define your niche. Who is your target audience and why? If you were reading your online magazine, what types of content would you be interested in? Defining your niche is the first step of developing a comprehensive content strategy.
  • Determine who will write, edit and advertise your content. Who will be responsible for writing content and how often? Who will be responsible for working with advertisers? Remember, the success of your magazine isn’t solely based on the content you produce but the experience and reliability of the people you have working there.
  • Determine the best way to make money from your online magazine. Remember, the advertisers on your site should be designed to market to your specific audience.

Final Thoughts

Start an online magazine with wordpress

Starting an online magazine is a rewarding process, especially once you know how to get started. With the information we provided above, you’ll be able to set up the online magazine of your dreams in no time. Personally, we can’t wait to read it.

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