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The 17 Most Important Things to Consider When Starting an Online Magazine or Membership Website

Updated on May 22, 2013

The 17 Most Important Things to Consider When Starting an Online Magazine or Membership Website

This HubPage features a checklist of features based on the experience of building hundreds of content websites for a wide range of clients.

How Can I Benefit From This HubPage?

If you are planning on starting an online magazine or membership / subscription website, getting things right from the very beginning can save you a lot of time, money and heartache later.

This HubPage should tell you everything you need to know, allowing you to make the right decisions and plan well.

An Online Magazine is More Than a Blog

An online magazine is much more than a blog, which is simply a chronological list of posts.

An online magazine should be focused on publishing different types of content, building long-term relationships and, most importantly, generating multiple revenue streams.

Feature 1 - Excellent Content Management

A content management solution/service (CMS) enables you to add text articles, video clips and images to your website.

As a publisher of an online magazine you must have complete control over adding, editing and removing your content, preferably without having to know any HTML or have other technical skills.

Content management MUST be at the heart of your online magazine's platform

Feature 2 - Enable Multiple Revenue Streams

Successful online magazines, like there offline counterparts, have multiple revenue streams. These should include:

* serving adverts

* adding affiliate links

* charging for subscriptions to premium content

* selling stuff via your own online shop

* promoting offline events

Feature 3 - Member Database

Every online magazine, whether they are free or paid subscription, needs to have a way of collecting visitor's names and other personal details.

The database should be searchable, exportable and simple to customize.

Feature 4 - Integrated Payment Processing

Payment processing is often added as an afterthought. It shouldn't be.

It is essential to have the capability to process credit cards tightly integrated into your website so it can be used to charge for subscriptions, product sales and generating income from other services.

Adding payment processing is much easier to do when setting up a website than adding it to an established website.

Feature 5 - Flexible Design Interface

You will want to continually tweak and change your websites design.

You, or your designer, should have access to a graphical design interface where tweaks can be easily made, or a completely new design can be added.

Feature 6 - Flexible Functionality

When you start an online magazine you can never be sure of how it will develop.

Therefore you should start with a website that can easily be upgraded and have new functionality added.

Feature 7 - Search Engine Optimization

A lot is said about search engine optimization, but the truth is very simple.

You must have a website that is very easy for the search engines to index. If it is easy to find and you keep adding great quality content, the search engines will include you on their results pages.

Make sure that the search engines can index every page, including the pages in the password protected member areas. This means avoiding a website with frames and flash.

Add a sitemap to your website to make it easy fro the search spiders to index.

Feature 8 - Multimedia Content

Specialist information websites should have content in multiple formats including text, images, audio and video.

Even if you don't plan on using these formats today, make sure your website is enabled to use them in the future.

Multimedia content is one of the most important advantages that an online magazine has over its print competitors.

Feature 9 - Image Library

Images are an important and often overlooked part of a good online magazine.

Your platform should have the capability to manage photos so they can be inserted into any page, with clear labelling (alt-tags) and the ability to make them links to other content or websites.

Feature 10 - Download Library

Most online magazines provide their readers with downloads. These could be reports, ebooks, software programs, video clips or audio files.

Your website should make it easy to upload downloads so they are accessible to your readers.

Feature 11- Relationship Building Applications

Once you get visitors coming to your online magazine you need to start building a relationship with them to encourage them to return.

The most important applications for building online relationships are:

* email newsletters * RSS feeds * forums * comment fields under articles

Feature 12 - Integrated Login and Password Access

Most publishers who launch an online magazine build the website first and then try to add login and password protection later. This is a recipe for disaster.

Password protection, which gives members access to premium content, needs to be seamlessly integrated with the member database and content management service to ensure it is secure and seamless.

Feature 13 - Management Information

You should be able to easily access all the information about how your website is performing in a single web statistics management report. This should include the number of visitors and pageviews; the time spent on the website and most popular pages; where your traffic is coming from and much more.

Only when you have this information at your fingertips will you be able to understand the needs of your customers.

You can integrate a web statistics service on your server, or plug-in a service like Google Analytics (

Feature 14 - Monitoring, Security and Backup

Publishers often overlook the importance of having secure flexible hosting, with automated backup.

Most websites, including the leaders like eBay and Amazon have downtime. You need to minimise the risk of failure by regularly backing up all your content.

Feature 15 - Simple Control Panel

As you will see from the above list of features a good online magazine is made up of lots of different applications.

If possible the service you choose should have all (or most) of the applications run from a single, easy-to-use control panel.

Feature 16 - Future-Proof

You need your website to grow with your business so the design, functionality and scalability should be flexible enough to change to meet your target audience's changing needs.

Feature 17 - Support

I have put support last, but it should be amongst your highest priorities.

When you are running an online magazine your time is very valuable. You need to be able to focus on creating content, marketing and managing your clients, not worrying about bandwidth, hosting, backup, upgrades and fixing bugs.

Good support by people who really understand both the technology and online publishing is vital.


Online publishing is one of the most exciting business opportunities on the internet today. It is still in its infancy, but established enough that you will not have to reinvent the wheel. Everything you need to be successful is available and accessible to novices and experts alike.

This checklist may appear daunting to inexperienced entrepreneurs, but a good online publishing platform, like SubHub should have all this functionality integrated and ready to use.

For an example of a good online membership website take a look at PhraseHQ.


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