Common pitfalls for magazine websites

I love magazines and have worked with them for years.  I have a particular respect for magazine editors and their instinctive knowledge of what readers want to read and how to grab their attention visually.  Yet when it comes to creating a website alongside their print brand magazine publishers often struggle to create a strong proposition.  Here are some common pitfalls and how to avoid them:

1. Putting every magazine section on line

Web users don’t behave like magazine readers (even when they are the same people).  A web user has one or maybe two clear objectives when they visit a site, and rarely has the patience to work methodically through a dozen tabs.  Pick the one or two (at most three) things your mag does well and do them outstandingly online.  When todaysgolfer stopped trying to compete with PGA on tour news and focussed on gear reviews and video tips, its traffic grew significantly.

2. Thinking it’s all about content

Content is of course your strength, and it helps with SEO initially.  However, web users are more interested in tools – a quick search, a finder or calculator, the ability to buy the stuff they have researched, an interactive gallery.  Understand the activities your readers are engaged in and how your site can make their lives easier.

3. Targeting your readers

A magazine website has to complement print and enhance its reader relationships, for certain. However, the value of a web presence is being able to reach new people who may become readers in future, so think about who your prospects are – beginners, youngsters, or just people who don’t spend Saturday morning in WH Smiths – and how you can appeal to them.

4. Keeping the web team separate

It’s tempting not to trouble the mag editorial team with the web, and appoint a young, keen web editor to run the site.  But this way lies disaster.  Without the respect of the mag team the web ed will struggle, and without the continual drip of content from the mag team the site will lose relevance.  Integration from the start is painful and means lots of training, but it’s the only way..see my other blog on editorial teams for more hints and tips

5. Under investing in design

It’s easy to think of your website as hidden, and not put as much thought and love into the design as you do your front cover.  But just consider the impression that gives of your brand to a new prospect.  Use your magazine skills to think through what the user is looking for, and make it easy and pleasant to find it.

Do share your experiences – and let me know of any magazine sites you think do it particularly well.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy business helps media brands grow in a digital world.  To find out more visit