In our digital publishing platform comparison, we'll be taking a look at the top tools for companies that publish digitally. This could be standard, blog-style articles (like the one you're reading) as well as digital "flipbooks" which are HTML5 e-magazines that you can flip through on any device.
Maybe you're starting a digital publication and want to begin with the right foundation. Or maybe you want to switch to something that offers a better navigation and reading experience while being easier to use for the editorial team.
Here are the topics and platforms we'll be covering in this blog post:
- What is digital publishing?
- Digital publishing for blog content VS digital magazines
- Best digital publishing platform comparison for blogs
- Best digital publishing platforms comparison for digital magazines
- Streamlining your digital publication workflow
What is digital publishing?
Digital publishing refers to the publication of content for consumption in digital formats, such as blog articles and the digital editions of magazines. In today’s world where content marketing reigns supreme, businesses of all sorts usually engage in some form of digital publishing.
Digital publishing for blog content VS digital magazines
Publishing a blog article is very different from publishing a digital magazine.
Blogs are typically published with a content management system (CMS) to store all media and articles in one place and to provide a user-friendly way for marketers and content creators to publish content without help from website developers.
Digital magazines, on the other hand, need to be formatted for easy consumption across phones, tablets, and desktops. They are not published with a CMS, but rather with a flipbook-creator or digital-magazine-creator.
For these reasons, we’ve split up our platform comparison into two categories:
- Best digital publishing platform comparison for blogs
- Best digital publishing platforms comparison for digital magazines
Now, let's dive right into our comparisons!
Best digital publishing platform comparison for blogs
When I say "digital publishing," you might think of Huffington Post articles, or you might think of lying down on a couch reading through the recent digital edition of Forbes Magazine on your iPad.
Digital publishing refers to both articles and flipbooks. Both of these are completely valid ways for readers to consume their favorite publications, and for their part, digital publishers need to adapt and serve their audience with the format that fits.
First up, let's look at your options for publishing digital articles (not flipbooks — we'll get to those next).
StoryChief allows content teams to create and publish interactive articles across multiple channels with one click. This allows businesses to generate more awareness and leads while saving up to 6 hours of time per story. There is editorial approval flow and SEO optimization built-in.
StoryChief acts as a layer above your existing CMS system (eg. Wordpress, Adobe AEM, Sitecore, Drupal, Webflow, ...) which keeps contributors away from the complex backend of the main website.
Let's have a look at two examples of StoryChief use cases.
Example site #1: Userpilot
Userpilot is a popular tool for user onboarding and increasing product-led growth. They use StoryChief to easily manage freelance writers and publish content to their blog. Userpilot’s content manager can brief and assign content, review and comment, publish approved posts, and promote them all in one place.
Example site #2: Hotelchamp
With Hotelchamp, hoteliers can increase bookings through their own website and digital advertising on Google, Tripadvisor, and Trivago. Their blog is full of resources on creating a conversion-optimized hotel website, improving ROI from Google Hotel Ads, and ways to drive traffic for more direct bookings. They use StoryChief to manage content collaboration and distribution.
The pros of using StoryChief for digital publishing
- Integrates with WordPress, Webflow and other content publishing platforms so your contributors don’t have to work in the backend of your website
- Overall Ease-of-use: the editor is made to create content-rich articles, not documents
- One-click publish to all your channels and to new channels provided by the system
- No formatting necessary afterward, the layout will adapt to the main website automatically
- Easy to use for non-technical team members (doesn't require IT involvement)
- Saves time on content promotion and distribution, not just collaboration
- Pre-schedule content for publication and promotion, and includes an editorial planning tool
- Very affordable plans for companies of any size
- Measure the performance across all the channels in one clear dashboard
- No digital asset management system. However, you can upload files into your media library as well as connect DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive or Bynder.
- May require use of another CMS (such as WordPress or Webflow) to make a fully customizable home page for content
Adobe Experience Manager allows digital publishers to bring their content management system (CMS) and digital asset management (DAM) in one central place that integrates to the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Example site #1: Hershey's
Yumm. Okay, let's try not to get distracted. Hershey's uses Adobe Experience Manager for all of their site content, including dozens of recipes. And with summer on the way, there's of course an entire section of their site dedicated to s'mores. The readability on each recipe is superb, and as a whole they are easy to sort through and discover.
Example site #2: American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society publishes treatment advice, support columns, stories, research updates, news, events and more on their website built with Adobe Experience Manager, which allows them to publish content across several categories while maintaining an easily navigable site.
The pros of using Adobe Experience Manager’
- Ease of use for nontechnical admins when product is already configured by the development team
- Robust digital asset management with tagging and sorting
- Perfect for companies using Adobe CC for content and design
- Allows for collaboration between authors and editors
- Requires adept development team to configure initially
- Requires editorial team to have ongoing interaction with the development team for ongoing training and help with commonplace technical issues
- Could necessitate external consulting if no one in-house is experienced
Weblow is a WordPress-alternative that’s growing in popularity because it allows designers to create attractive websites without having to learn how to code or asking a developer to help.
However, Webflow is still complicated to use, so you’ll need a talented Webflow designer to create your blog layout, individual blog style, and content categories so you can start publishing.
Example site #1: Showdigs
Showdigs offers software and services for property managers in large cities in the US. Their blog is designed with webflow, and they prominently feature one blog post in the center, while recent blog posts are displayed on the right-hand side.
Example site #2: Flowrite
Flowrite is an AI-powered writing tool that helps find grammar issues and generate content based on your simple commands. The main use case is for responding faster to emails. For this reason, the blog has tons of email productivity hacks and email templates.
The pros of using Webflow for digital publishing
- Integrates with StoryChief for streamlined content collaboration
- Offers beautiful, modern blog styles
- Content categories can be customized to create interesting blog layouts
- Can be hard to find talent who specialize in Webflow
- The user interface can be difficult for content marketers to learn
Example site #1: San Diego Tourism Authority
Built with Sitecore, Sandiego.org is the official website of the San Diego Tourism Authority. There's tons of content on what to do in San Diego, and everything can be sorted by city neighborhoods and surrounding areas.
Example site #2: ONYX Hospitality
ONYX Hospitality uses Sitecore to rapidly update website content and resources as needed. With the web content management system, non-technical site administrators can easily update existing website pages without the help of a developer and publish news items about their hotel brands.
The pros of using Sitecore for digital publishing
- Best-in-class for personalizing content to user groups
- Highly scalable for heavily trafficked websites
- Multiple users can share and access content in one place
- Well-received by developers, who are able to achieve whatever they set out with it
- Too high of a cost, in a world where profitability alludes even big-name publishers
- Involvement from internal or external developers is required, the editorial team can't configure the framework on their own
- Too complex for most needs
WordPress is a content management system that is affordable, relatively easy to use and setup, and extremely widespread. 75 million websites (approximately 27% of the internet) are powered by WordPress.
Example site #1: OkDiario
OkDiario is a Spanish digital newspaper that covers political news across Spain. The website categorizes news articles by department as well as by region. With WordPress, there are several different templates that make such news sites fairly easy to set up.
Example site #2: TechCrunch
Also built on WordPress is everyone's favorite place for tech news: TechCrunch. Startups, apps, and gadgets are among the top categories on the TechCrunch site.
The pros of using WordPress for digital publishing
- Easy to set up and configure
- Free to use WordPress.org, just pay for your hosting and any plugins you need that have a paid version only
- Because it's so widespread, many digital editorial team members are already skilled in it, and little to no training is required
- Most of the features you need like categorizing, tagging, different user permissions, author bios, etc.
- Requires content to be entered from other formats (Word docs, Google docs), which necessitates a lot of manual tasks, particularly with formatting content and uploading photos
- Requires you to give access to your main website in order to collaborate with writers and other team members
- Wordpress has a huge community of contributors, but this is both good and bad. Because they don't talk to each other this creates a lot of inconsistency and errors, meaning some plugins can't work together, the code can be poorly produced, plus it requires a lot of maintenance and its security is vulnerable.
Ghost is a website-builder that makes it easy to create content-driven sites. For this reason, it’s popular amongst content creators like YouTubers, bloggers, and podcasters.
However, large companies can use Ghost too. It has built-in SEO, making it a good fit for content teams across any industry.
Example site #1: Fastmail
The Fastmail blog is dedicated to content on email privacy and productivity. The tool offers email management where your data isn’t shared with advertisers (unlike Gmail). Their blog features 6 content categories which users can navigate to by selecting from the Topics drop-down menu.
Example site #2: Duolingo
As one of the most popular language apps in the world, Duolingo serves over 30 languages. Their blog uses a simple chronological layout, with different content categories, including learning, research, engineering, etc. for their hundreds of blog posts.
The pros of using Ghost for digital publishing
- Offers an alternative to WordPress for those who don’t like the UX
- Includes built-in SEO features
- Makes it easy to design a unique, attractive blog
- It can be difficult to find talent that knows how to use Ghost
- There are no plugins to add functionality that Ghost doesn’t offer
- Doesn’t integrate with StoryChief for content collaboration
Best Digital publishing platforms comparison for digital magazines and flipbooks
Next up: flipbooks! Unlike digital articles and blogs, flipbooks are entire magazines. Flipbooks improve upon standard PDF format with HTML5, allowing them to easily scale to multiple devices while making the "flipping" far more intuitive. With a PDF, you'd be scrolling down and up, but with flipbooks, you can move left and right as if you were flipping the pages of a magazine. Here's the digital publishing platform comparison for flipbooks.
eMagazines is the most-used digital magazine platform by magazine publishers in the US. The company offers mobile-optimized digital editions and mobile app development for magazines.
The company only operates as a service, however, meaning it might be too expensive for very small publishers who want to do everything themselves in house.
Example magazine #1: Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated parters with eMagazines for their digital magazine editions, their mobile app (which delivers digital magazines to subscribers), and for the landing pages for selling more digital subscriptions.
Example magazine #2: People
All of People’s digital editions are created with eMagazines. The company also delivers these digital editions to subscribers via email notifications and their mobile application.
The pros of using eMagazines for digital magazines
- Every aspect of creating a digital magazine is handled for you
- More cost-effective than managing it in-house, for large and medium publishers
- Ancilliary services are available, such as app management and landing page creation
- No do-it-yourself option (they only offer done-for-you or done-with-you technology and services)
- Too expensive for very small magazine publishers
Vertiqul is another option for creating and publishing digital magazines. The online publishing platform can also be used for digital newsletters, media kits, and brochures.
Example magazine #1: Bucknell University’s magazine for prospective students
Bucknell University uses Vertiqul to digitally share their prospective student magazine, which offers all of the benefits of attending Bucknell University, as well as answers to common questions.
Example magazine #2: LIV Sotheby’s
LIV Sotheby’s is a print and digital magazine devoted to covering high-end real estate listings in Colorado, as well as local restaurants and activities. LIV Sotheby’s makes use of Vertiqul to easily publish their digital edition for desktop and tablet reading.
The pros of using Vertiqul for digital magazines
- Affordable for small or infrequent publishers
- DIY software
- Optimized reader for tablets and desktops
- Not well optimized for mobile devices
- Doesn’t offer advanced reporting
- Doesn’t offer mobile app creation or management
- Jack of all trades (probably not a fit for major magazine publishers)
Issuu is the top digital publishing platform when it comes to magazines. Readers can sign up for an account and browse free publications and also buy individual magazines and subscriptions. From the publisher's perspective, one of the top features is being able to serve readers your content in a distraction-free setting. No tabs, no ads. Just your magazine content. Ready for the digital publishing platform comparison for Issuu?
Example magazine #1: Where Magazine Las Vegas
Where Magazine publishes monthly magazines in a variety of locales, not just Las Vegas, but Los Angeles, Sydney, Venice, London, and many others. If you're heading to just about any major city, sign up for Issuu and do a quick search to see if Where Magazine covers that city. If they do, you're in for a treat: all the best events and attractions happening that month. These magazines are free. They make their revenue from local advertisers in each city. That's why getting wide distribution with Issuu is so important for them.
Example magazine #2: Go Escape
Unlike Where Magazine, which specializes in each city, Go Escape by the USA Today Network covers top destinations by location. It's not only a travel magazine but is more of a lifestyle magazine as well. Published twice per year for each region, it is sold on newstands and available on Issuu.
The pros of using Issuu for flipbooks
- No distractions for readers
- Easy to manage payments and subscriptions for readers
- Access new readers in the Issuu ecosystem
- Pre-schedule content for publication
- Embed videos inside of magazine pages
- Affordable lower tier plans
- Can integrate with StoryChief to embed magazine issues in blog posts (such as for a post announcing the new issue is available)
- Easy to share on social media
- The only plan including their team collaboration tool may be too expensive for some publishers
- Small number of templates means that most publishers will need to do the heavy lifting when it comes to page layout and design
DCatalog is a digital publishing solution that is focused not only on digital magazines but also on other enterprise needs as well, such as catalogs, customer support guides, and other marketing- or business-related material. Let's take a look at the digital publishing platform comparison for DCatalog.
Example magazine #1: International Society of Aboriculture
DCatalog makes it easy for companies and organizations to gate their magazines on their site. For example, the International Society of Aboriculture requires a society membership to review each month's issue of "Arborist News," which allows them to incentivize new memberships and deliver exclusive content.
Example magazine #2: Lockton
Lockton is an insurance company that uses DCatalog to publish attractively designed books that review customers' benefits. It's an important reminder that flipbooks can be used not only for publications, but also marketing material, product catalogs and customer service as well.
The pros of using DCatalog for flipbooks
- Multiple-use cases: magazines, guides, catalogs, lookbooks, brochures, training & HR, online directories, newsletters, and more
- Content can be made widely available on the website, gated, or private
- Robust design tools that are great for businesses, like saving and applying custom branding and hosting in a custom domain
- Some features and functionality may be unnecessary for digital publications that are not intended for marketing purposes
- It may be too costly for many companies
Key takeaways from this digital publishing platform comparison?
If you've noticed, digital publishing may require multiple platforms. If you publish both magazines and digital articles, then it is a given.
Even if you only focus on one content type, you may need an additional tool to help streamline your workflow.
StoryChief lets you...
- 👉 Distribute content across multiple platforms (your Webflow or WordPress website, Medium, LinkedIn articles, and more)
- 👉 Promote content (social media, employee advocacy, influencer marketing, press lists, etc.)
- 👉 Embed podcasts and Issuu publications inside of blog post
- 👉 Save hundreds of hours collaborating with content contributors
Learn more about how to use StoryChief in conjunction with WordPress or any other digital publishing platform to save dozens or hundreds of hours on editorial content collaboration, distribution, and promotion.