What Is a Digital Magazine?

Alex Newth

A digital magazine, also known as an electronic magazine or ezine, is very similar to its print counterpart, but it is published in a digital format rather than being printed on paper. It can be read on a computer, so a digital magazine can take advantage of digital technology and add animations and links within the magazine to make it more informative or aesthetically better. The cost of printing is eliminated and the publishing price is greatly reduced, so most digital magazines do not require the same amount of advertising that print magazines do. Some digital magazines come with a one-time print license for those who prefer paper magazines, but this is not always true, and someone can unknowingly break copyright law by printing the ezine.

A digital magazine may be accessed on a tablet computer.
A digital magazine may be accessed on a tablet computer.

Digital magazines and traditional print magazines are not all that different. Both types typically have a team of writers, editors and designers; both usually follow a certain topic, which can be just about anything; and both can make money by pulling in a loyal readership. The biggest difference between the two is the medium through which the magazine is delivered. From this difference, many other smaller differences also manifest.

Digital and print versions of magazines employ staffs of writers and editors.
Digital and print versions of magazines employ staffs of writers and editors.

A print magazine cannot include a link that a reader clicks to visit a website, but a digital magazine can. Digital publications also can include animations and other file types, such as source codes or image files for download, that its print counterpart cannot reproduce. This allows ezines to be interactive, but some ezines do not include these features, either because the designers are not knowledgeable enough to make animations or because they want to focus on being similar to a print magazine.

Digital magazines does not have to be printed, which is one of the main costs associated with running a magazine, so ezines usually have much lower overhead costs. This can provide a forum for many writers and editors who want to make a magazine but cannot get the financial support to make a printed version. At the same time, designers might require a higher pay, because more work can be needed to prepare the digital magazine for publication.

Many readers prefer to feel a piece of paper in their hand and might want to print the digital magazine. Just like many other digital publications, an ezine might offer a one-time print license or permit a limited number of prints. This information usually is located within the first few pages of the ezine. If someone prints the magazine without this license, it breaks copyright law, and the magazine owner could file a lawsuit.

Digital magazines may include more in-depth information about material found in the print version.
Digital magazines may include more in-depth information about material found in the print version.

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Discussion Comments


What are the different types of digital magazines. Weekly, monthly, realtime? Can anyone compare the pros and cons of various types?


Are most digital magazines free? If so, how do they manage to make money and stay in business? Is there any precedent for having a digital magazine subscription service? I know that most major media outlets and the former print giants especially are still struggling with ways to monetize their online content. The internet is so much about openness and getting things for free but reporting is an expensive business.


I like digital magazines but one consequence of them is that it is now so easy to start a magazine that anyone can do it regardless of how good their writing is or how probing their analysis. Basically, there are a lot of really bad digital magazines.

If they had to operate in print they would be out of business in no time but the low start up cost associated with online formats means that anyone can give it a whirl. The consequence of having a low bar for entry is that anyone can get in.


I think the best thing about a digital magazine is that they can stay current with the days news. Most print magazines come out only once a month or at best once a week. If a big story happens there might be a long stretch of time before they are able to comment on it. That is frustrating for both writers and readers.

One of my favorite online magazines is Salon and they have new content added every day. It is still more comprehensive than a newspaper and it maintains a magazine style but it can react to the days events almost in real time. That is a huge advantage for the truly curious.

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