Five tips for editing a digital magazine

A digital magazine is a very different beast to its print equivalent, demanding a new editorial approach.  I’ve just learnt this the hard way, having just created a digital magazine for the Specialist Media Show, using Pagesuite’s technology.  There’s a sampler at the bottom of this post: click here to register for your free copy.  It’s packed with practical tips and inspiration for niche publishers. But here are my thoughts on the process of creating a digital edition that isn’t a print replica:

1.Keep it short and sweet

Attention spans are short, so a long publication may not be read in depth.  We went for 20 pages; enough to have 5 or 6 meaty articles, but not create fatigue.  We were aiming for a 3-5 minute reading time.  Most software will provide analysis of time spent and which were the most popular articles: invaluable feedback.

2. Plan editorial in tiers

Readers hate to zoom, so plan no more than 300 words a page.  Consider your digital edition as a way to help readers navigate a subject, and include brief summaries of each topic, with links to more depth on your website.  Even 300 words a page can be too much on smaller screens.  To get the quality in a small quantity of words, a top class sub editor is essential.  If the ultimate aim is to drive web traffic or encourage an action, then the copy must be attention-grabbing.

3. Plan the reader’s journey

Think about how the reader might travel through the magazine and the linked web articles.  A joy of digital is the ease of creating internal page links.  No more hunting through for the article that links to your coverline.  And great for making connections between features in the same issue.  If a reader clicks to a web page, remember to prompt them back to the mag for more ideas and inspiration.  Most software will provide stats so you can see which links are most clicked on.

4. Build links into the design

Many systems like Pagesuite’s are based around uploading a PDF and then adding links.  However it pays to become familiar with the system before the design is complete, and working out the  style you want to adopt for internal page links and external web links.  There’s no point being too subtle about highlighting links.

5. Include multi-media

This adds the wow factor for digital magazines.  We included a video, and one advertiser provided an animated ad, but next time I’d love to include audio tracks as well.  The Pagesuite system we used made it easy to add video and audio and add animation.

I’d be interested to hear your experiences in creating digital magazines and how you have found it different to the print edition.  We’d also like your views on our magazine: we want to make the next edition even better.  Register to read your free copy here.  Please comment below, or join  the Specialist Media Network on Linked in, and connect with around 500 other specialist media people.

About the author:  Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, providing practical digital media and marketing strategies with a focus on media businesses.  Contact us if you’d like an informal chat about your digital publishing strategy.  Carolyn is also MD of the Specialist Media Show.