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:
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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.
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.
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.