10 delightful examples of digital publishing

Three mobile phones showing different digital stories against a white background.
A black and white portrait in a circular frame of a person with shoulder-length wavy light hair, dark eyes, and a bright smile.

By Claire Deane — Contributing Writer

For the last two decades, content teams have been charged with recreating the experience of reading a physical book or magazine on the web.

The results have been... mixed. Many teams are still embedding Adobe PDF files or using those difficult to read yet strangely omnipresent flipbooks. If you’re on a mobile device for either of these solutions — which is the case for over half of most publishers’ target audience — you might as well forget it.

Happily, former print publishers looking to invest in digital media have come to acknowledge that the web requires a different, more user friendly reading experience. They’ve also recognised the need to design for it accordingly. The result is plenty of delightful digital publications — native to the web in HTML5 and fully responsive — including the 10 examples we’ll explore in this article. 

Read on for inspiration for your next digital publishing project! In this guide, we’ll cover:

What do the BBC, Tripadvisor, and Penguin have in common?

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What is digital publishing?

Digital publishing (sometimes referred to as e-publishing or online publishing) is the process of publishing in digital formats. These formats include online content on the web, mobile apps, e-readers, and many other digital channels.

These days, most digital publishing is relatively routine. Anyone involved in content today will publish posts on social media, articles to their blog, and new pages to their website.

Many content teams, though, are still working through the problem of how to convert formerly print media assets — including online magazines, brochures, and more — into a digital format. Most vanilla Content Management Systems (such as Wordpress) are extremely inflexible, making it difficult for non-developers to create anything but the most basic web layouts.

In order to preserve the design of their print publications, content marketers and other content professionals would resort to uploading PDFs (shudder). Or, they would embed ‘flipbooks’, a form of web publication that produces content that is typically very difficult to read on the web.

Thankfully, those days are over. With online publishing platforms like Shorthand, anyone can create digital content that is interactive, multimedia, and optimised for the web.

The benefits of digital publishing

These days, most folks don’t need convincing that digital publishing is worth the investment. But in case that’s you, here’s a quick roundup of the benefits!

It makes it easier to tell a better story

Great digital publishing allows content creators to tell a better story through a variety of tools that immerse the reader in ways a printed publication just can’t do. Video, interactive maps, infographics and other tools increase engagement and make this type of content much more shareable.

It’s more cost effective than print

The cost of producing readable and beautiful digital publishing (that doesn't leave mobile out in the cold) has also fallen with the rise of no-code platforms like Shorthand. 

It’s trackable

Digital marketers understand the importance of being able to track content using tools like Google Analytics to prove a return on investment. There are great examples of catalogues and brochures that have embedded ecommerce functionality, allowing customers to shop directly from the piece.

Even if you’re not selling something, there’s power in knowing who is reading, for how long, and what actions they take next.

It’s not one-and-done

Content marketers all know the pain of sending a piece to print, then finding a spelling mistake. Digital publishing allows for an infinite number of versions (although don’t tell that to the chronic over-editors in legal). This is important for publishers whose pieces include data that may need to be updated often.

It’s an opportunity to tell more stories

Digital publishing allows a far wider variety of stories to be told. Promotional content is typically a glossy catalog designed to sell. However, as you’ll see in some of the examples below, online magazines give content creators the opportunity to dig deeper into the stories behind the stories.

It’s a way to reach more people

It’s not called the “world wide” web for nothing. Content marketing means your stories can be consumed by anyone with an internet connection.

It’s boostable

Digital publishing assets are very sharable on social media, increasing their readership and reach. Search engines also love in-depth content, which digital magazines offer in droves (providing they aren’t in flip-book format or uploaded as a PDF!)

It’s easier on the environment

No trees were harmed in the making of this story.

How to do digital publishing well

In order to create digital content that readers want to consume, there are a few things that publishers need to consider. 

1. Go beyond the flipbook

The best digital publishing examples don’t just try to jam a printed publication or embedded PDF onto the web. Given that 60% of web traffic comes via mobile, digital magazines need to be designed to allow for responsive reading on smartphones and other devices.

2. Make it interactive

Interactive content keeps the reader engaged, increasing the amount of time they spend on your website. A higher dwell time not only improves your SEO, using maps, sliders, infographics, quizzes and more will help you convey important information to your audience.

3. Make a bang without breaking the bank

Video and photos will make online magazines and digital publications much more compelling to read, but you don’t need to splash too much cash to make it meaningful. In some of the examples below, stock multimedia content is used in a cost-effective way that contributes to the storytelling.

10 stunning digital publishing examples

Here are some of our favourite examples of digital publishing that take high-quality content to the next level with Shorthand’s digital publishing platform.

1. The Life and Career of Yayoi Kusama by M+ Magazine.

Right off the bat, this piece pulls you in with high-speed video that makes you want to scroll. It feels dynamic, setting the tone for the rest of the article.

The piece creates a storyline of the artist’s work, complete with noteworthy quotes, photographs from her life, and snapshots from her diaries.

This article also focuses on specific, standout works by the artist, digging deeper into the meaning behind each one. As the reader scrolls, we zoom in on a piece of art, highlighting its complexity.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from M+ Magazine

2. Fomos de uma ponta à outra do Tejo e chegámos a uma conclusão perigosan by Expresso.

Maps, striking landscape imagery and graphics all combine to help this article take the reader on a journey of the region.

As the reader scrolls through the map, it really feels like you’re traversing the coastline, honing in on spotlighted areas. The maps are broken up by strong, immersive imagery that helps the reader visualise what they’ve just seen on the map.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from Espresso

3. Arabic calligraphy: Ancient craft, modern art by Arab News.

This piece sucks you in from the get-go, with striking animations that move across the screen. Before you’ve even started to scroll, you get a clear idea of the tone of this article, which is a celebration of an ancient art form in a modern context.

The piece is made richer with video and imagery of ancient texts, alongside the more modern graphics that move just enough to keep the reader scrolling.

A beautifully drawn interactive map reveals itself as the reader scrolls, bringing what could be a static image to life.

Screenshots from digital publishing example from Arab News

4. Treating Cancer by University of Oxford.

What could easily be a very serious topic starts out in a way that convinces the reader that this story is a positive one. Brightly coloured images that take up the full screen are your introduction to an article that then dives deep into the revolutionary ways cancer is being treated.

Readers can explore data with infographics that showcase highly technical content in an easy to digest format.

No longform content piece would be complete without video, which this piece integrates seamlessly. And who doesn’t love an up close and personal microscopic view of a cell, especially one that moves dynamically as you scroll.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from University of Oxford

5. Queen Elizabeth II and Northern Ireland by Belfast Telegraph.

There’s no shortage of great shots of HRH. Photos and grainy footage of the Queen’s many visits to Northern Ireland help the creators of this piece paint a vivid picture of a specific time in history.

The highlight of this article? The Queen’s face as she inspects the iron throne from the Game of Thrones series in Belfast.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from the Belfast Telegraph

6. Fire and Fury: Who’s driving a violent and misinformed New Zealand, and why by Stuff.

The video used at the start of this piece sets the tone for the rest of the content. The creator hasn’t actually had to film anything new, but has used stock footage to help tell the story. The publication hasn’t had to break the bank to film something specific for this story, but can still make use of strong visual content.

This article is a collection of other articles the publication has written on this topic, but it doesn’t feel like a list of links. Each connecting piece of content is shared with strong imagery and a clear and compelling introduction designed to communicate to the reader why they need to click ‘read more’.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from Stuff

7. Dirt in Their Veins by the University of Utah.

This text heavy piece doesn’t feel arduous to read. The content is broken up by full-width imagery and callout quotes designed to give the reader a visual break.

This piece makes use of an interactive map that reveals locations as the reader scrolls, alongside more information about each place. It’s visually interesting, while telling a clear story about the remoteness of the locations described in the article.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from the University of Utah Health

8. The Bicycle Boys: An unforgettable garden tour by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Maps and imagery are cleverly used in this article about two Americans who decided to explore England’s gardens by bike.

In a story about a bike journey, a beautiful map is practically a given. Historic images are used alongside the map to add layers and richness to the piece.

The imagery used in this piece of digital publishing isn’t just static — it is revealed as the reader scrolls, keeping them engaged as the story progresses. Certainly more compelling than a PDF!

Screenshots from digital publishing content from the Royal Horticultural Society

9. Built to Keep Black from White by NBC News.

This story combines text with interviews and videos to help readers really understand the impacts of a segregation wall built in Detroit that still stands today.

An interactive map gives the reader a birds eye view of the wall, before zooming in on where the wall is located, before ending on a moving image that takes the wall from a line drawing on a map to a reality for Detroit’s residents.

An important part of the story is the history of the wall, and imagery of the past is overlaid with shots from today, a clear demonstration that this wall still stands and is a reminder of racist policies.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from NBC News

10. Sydney Opera House at Rest by the Sydney Opera House.

Capturing images during the COVID-19 lockdowns, this article shows readers a rarely-seen side of the Opera House.

A static, printed piece couldn’t do justice to these eerie, beautiful images. Shots like these might never have made it into a printed publication, yet they’re an important part of a very strange moment in time that needed to be recorded.

The article is a combination of quotes and images from the photographer, as well as a number of artists whose performances were cancelled. The quote text adds richness to the story, but the format allows the imagery to speak for itself.

Screenshots from digital publishing content from the Sydney Opera House