Online magazines trade paper for pixels

Nothing beats a magazine that you can hold in your hand, flip through pages or set down and pick up later (wait, isn’t that the argument for physical newspapers?). A digital version of your magazine, however, is sure to attract online readers who are not subscribers and who can’t or don’t pick it up at the local bookstore.

Many magazines offer a large amount of their content online, either for free or through paywalls. But very few offer a physical copy of the magazine online. Seems like a no-brainer right?

A digital magazine can be as simple as a PDF of the final layout, which most mags have lying around anyway. Or it can be jazzed up with Issuu, which takes a boring PDF and spices it up with interactivity, animation and a user friendly layout. Issuu also has a lot of interesting magazines that can be browsed for free, including 20 Minuten which looks great in its digital form.

An online version of Fortune Small Business, powered by Olive Software, lets users zoom and flip through its pages, using a Flash-based navigation. (The company also does newspapers.) Space Magazine has made use of the Google Maps API to create an interactive magazine that functions much like a Google Map. I’m still not sold on the tiling effect or the odd navigation, but it sure does look good and is very avant-garde. has an impressive collection of about 175 magazines that are both online and free. A list of its offerings reveals that it is comprised of mostly niche magazines, but still impressive nonetheless.

Traditional magazine readers/ citizen journalists are taking the web 2.0 route and creating online magazines that, like my fave CRAM Magazine, are really impressive in both writing and design. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Putting an entire magazine online for free is the next step in online journalism, but is sure to tick off more than a few subscribers who are paying for exclusive content. It is up to your company to decide whether such a commodity should be free, an online bonus, or available for a fee.