An Online Magazine: Why Now is the Perfect Time to Start One

Become an online publisher to earn a second income

One great way to earn a side income is in creating your own online magazine. In this post, I’m going to tell you why that’s the case right now.

The world of publishing is going through a massive transformation.

In years past, our parents would rely on just a few core subscriptions—the local paper and selected magazines—to read the latest news and commentary, and stories on the topics they love. Hard-copy magazine subscriptions were once a thriving business.

Magazines have dramatically changed from the past to the present

Today, online destinations from Medium to Flipboard and others have burst onto the scene. They provide us with new ways to get our news or learn from numerous sources in one place. Countless niche online magazines have also emerged to cater to specific industries or topics. Meanwhile, at least in the U.S., traditional newspaper and magazine readership is rapidly on the decline.

Fact: We just don’t rely on a short list of magazines for our information any more, the way previous generations did.

We’re willing to accept that there are credible and smart folks out there writing for sources other than the New York Times, USA Today, Time, Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, or whatever other old-school magazine you’d like to insert.

Here’s the opportunity that comes from this tidal wave of new online magazines

This tidal wave of new, online-only magazines has opened up incredible opportunities for anyone who know things. Contributing to these sites gives you a writing outlet and a chance to share a slice of your expertise—with an existing readership built-in.

And the reality is, these new online-only publications dominate search results when people are looking for answers to their questions. Especially in niche industries or with niche topics. Check out these very random examples:

  • Do a search for “how to use a torque wrench“. Look at the sources of the first-page Google results. Outside of Wikipedia, which is a story for another day, and Popular Mechanics, you are likely unfamiliar with any of those sources.
  • Do a search for “accounting careers outlook“. You’ll find a similar lineup of results. A couple you’ve heard of, and several you haven’t.
  • Do a search for “workplace safety best practices“. Aside from the ads and state government resources, you’ll see primarily niche online magazines in the results.
  • Do a search for “homeschooling resources“. Right there, within the same list as articles published by PBS and Parents.com, you’ll see several niche magazines in the results.

Side Project Plan - Start an Online Publication

The point here is that it’s not just the traditional, big, multi-million- or multi-billion-dollar magazines that are providing news, answers to peoples’ questions, or satisfying their curiosity.

It’s magazines started by people like you and me. Publications that in some cases are still bootstrapped by a single person (like mine have been) or small team of people.

Don’t limit yourself to writing for someone else’s online magazine

Writing for an established online publication seems like a no-brainer if you want to share or capitalize on your talents, skills, knowledge, or experience.

I once answered a question at online Q&A site Quora. Here’s the question:

Quora Question - Brandon Hull

I’m not active on Quora and have only submitted a handful of answers ever. But that one measly answer to a 25-year-old who was unsure of what he wanted to do in life has garnered over 7,000 views. Quora is unique as an online destination that way.

I’ve also written several guest posts on a site that gets hundreds of thousands of visitors each month. Those guests posts generated some social followers but not really any noticeable lift in traffic to my own site, because of how the original site is designed.

But why limit yourself to someone else’s platform solely on the basis of views?

Why not start your own online publication? Why not create your own destination online where people can catch up on industry news, digest new ideas, and/or learn new skills?

You want examples? I have 30

Here’s a short list of niche online magazines that didn’t exist just a handful of years ago. This list could run into the hundreds. Some have become household names in their niches:

  1. Social Media Examiner
  2. Bleacher Report
  3. TechCrunch
  4. Trail to Peak
  5. The Art of Manliness
  6. The Intercept
  7. Stratechery
  8. Foodable
  9. Abernathy Magazine
  10. Make Something
  11. Street Fight
  12. Uncrate
  13. Helene in Between
  14. Everything Everywhere
  15. Daring Fireball
  16. Cool Hunting
  17. The Cooper Review
  18. Making Sense of Cents
  19. Show Me the Yummy
  20. Rage Against the Minivan
  21. Keep it Simple DIY
  22. Cool Material
  23. City Leaper
  24. SurvivalLife
  25. Irish Around Oz
  26. Gear Patrol
  27. NextRestaurants
  28. Spectrum
  29. Man vs. Debt
  30. George Hahn

This is an eclectic, somewhat random assortment of online magazines. You’ve probably adopted your own favorite publications over time.

All of them get sufficient traffic to generate revenue. Some get massive traffic—millions upon millions of visitors every month. Some generate revenue in the obvious ways—through advertising or affiliate clicks. Others through membership programs or subscriptions from their readers. And still others generate revenue in creative, behind-the-scenes ways.

Some live on as you see them today, though they’ve since been sold by their original founders. Some have become mini-enterprises.

The difference between a blog and an online magazine is this: When you visit the home page of the sites above, you are presented useful or entertaining content. These are not simply blogs attached to company websites, where the focus is on selling you a product. The emphasis is on news, education, or entertainment.

What’s important to know is that some of these started as one-man (or one-woman) blogs that ultimately took on a life of their own. People like you and me who had no background in journalism, no experience with creating a website.

Sure, some started with an entrepreneur who had plans (and the money) to create a multi-channel online magazine on-par with any traditional magazine. But most didn’t.

There is no reason why you can’t become an online publisher like this

All it takes is a willingness to put the big four to work—your talents, skills, knowledge, and experience—and a willingness to learn a few new skills, while collaborating with others to fill the gaps.

Those sites have writers who occasionally grapple with spelling problems and less-than-perfect grammar. Those sites have founders who didn’t and couldn’t build a website to save their lives. Some of those sites were started by people who, even today, can’t focus long enough to write an article longer than 500 words or so.

Yet they have thrived. You can do this, too.

Becoming an online publisher and thinking bigger than just “doing some blogging,” can be fulfilling creatively and generate a side income that’s honorable, credible, and professionally rewarding.

Now is still the perfect time to do this.

What it takes to start your own online magazine

Here’s the full list of what it takes to start your own niche magazine.

  • A website.
  • Someplace to host that website.
  • The ability to collect email addresses.
  • Sufficient expertise in a topic or theme.
  • A little research on your target audience.
  • A willingness to collaborate with others.
  • A willingness to consistently share your expertise and others’ in written and other formats.

Your website doesn’t have to be complex in design to be credible, let alone costly. Free or less than $40. Your web host can be $10/month, maybe less. An email service provider can be free (Mailchimp, up to 2,000 subscribers) or as little as $9/month.

I can’t encourage you enough in your investigation of side projects to dive into this approach. Create a side project that is noble and rewarding.

It is the right time to do this for you and for those you want to serve.

First things first: Choosing your magazine’s theme.

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