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Why choosing web-based over digital magazines is the way to stay ahead in the online age.


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It’s common knowledge that the printed magazine, which was the main method of reading material for centuries, is under increasing threat from online publications, which are easily accessible and can be constantly updated.


When I heard the Solicitors Journal had closed after running for 100-plus years, I knew that to continue producing purely print magazines was a risk, as web-based products were only going to improve as a more convenient alternative.


At a waiting area in any station or airport you can see the ratio between those reading a magazine and those reading on phones or tablets is about 10-1. When we approached the local Law Societies we work with to discuss the growing appetite for digital products, there was still a desire to keep the printed magazine, but also a recognition that web-based products were a good idea.


Junior lawyers were particularly keen to move more online and this encouraged them to write articles.


The one reservation was that a blog or web-based magazine would require constant updating, which would mean far more work than a printed magazine: under this process, society administrators worked to a copy date, were emailed content, then sent it to the designer, who would set the magazine. This could then be posted onto the website of a digital magazine provider like issuu, and made available to members online.


Almost every magazine publisher will claim to have online presence through this method. But is this the answer to combating the decline of printed magazines?


Digital magazines


It’s not that easy to read digital magazines on phones or tablets as the font size has to be constantly adjusted. They are sequential in the same way as a printed magazine, but even on a laptop or desktop it’s more cumbersome to flick through the pages, and find what you’re looking for than with a printed magazine.


These magazines can be updated, but it’s not the easiest way of keeping readers up-to-date with latest news and developments. They do serve a purpose and, as you can relatively easily put a PDF on issuu free of charge, they’re a great way of promoting your printed magazine.


You can instantly email a sample rather than have to rely on snail mail. For a number of years, some of our journals were posted on top law blog, Charon QC, and raised our company’s profile.


They’re a very useful tool, and certainly should be part of your media portfolio. But they’re not a silver bullet to engage more readers.


Web-based magazines


The web-based version of a magazine, often referred to as a blog, is proactive and completely accessible on phones and tablets. It can be analysed for visits so you can develop methods to engage readers more effectively.


Articles can be posted out through Twitter, and you can select hashtags to post out to your desired audience. Any changes in circumstances can be instantly put on to the web magazine.


Through this medium you can ensure news is always up-to-date. If you want further promotion of an event after an advert has been placed in the printed magazine, you can post reminders on the blog.


The web-based magazine has its own domain so no invasive adverts etc can find their way onto the site. The society has full control.


The magazine is designed to grow organically and can be adapted according to how members wish it to run. Even if you don’t want extra work in terms of more articles, this is an excellent way to improve your profile as it shows you are up-to-date with the latest media technology.


As a publisher, we invite both solicitors and barristers to contribute hard law content to our web-based magazines, and combine that with details of upcoming social and educational events, and reviews of events that have taken place.


As technology changes, the web magazine is there to meet the challenge. It will not necessarily replace, but will cover the limitations of, the printed and online magazine, so that engagement is maximised.


With web magazines, you can go out into cyberspace and hunt your audience down.


Here’s an example of one of our digital magazines we produce for Northamptonshire Law Society. And here is the equivalent web-based magazine we also produce for them. Try both links on your phone or tablet and see the difference.


Simon Castell is sales manager at East Park Communications. We specialise in providing free on- and off-line magazines to the legal profession.

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