Read all about it: new options for digital publications

A rundown of your options for digital publications, periodicals, and news sites

If you've known McGill for a while, you might remember magazines like Headway and Medicine Focus. These magazines were physical objects that combined excellent stories with beautiful print design. 

The rest of us must be content in our knowledge of the digital platforms that supplemented (or completely replaced) these treasures. One of the earliest was the platform, which has hosted a variety of publications over the past decade or so. Based on WordPress, it provided a simple mechanism for publishing news or magazine content, and a more magazine-like design (when compared to the WMS tools of the time). 

But the times have changed! And so, too, must our publications. In that spirit, here's a rundown of your options for news and periodical content - whether you're leaving or making a fresh start.

WMS articles

The Articles content type offers a number of advantages:

  • Content lives directly in your WMS site - consolidating your online presence and providing a more complete portrait of your faculty or unit's activities
  • Individual articles are designed for easy reading with a comfortable line length, larger serif typography, and all the features readers expect (like a byline and a "dek" or summary area)
  • Articles are easy to display with WMS blocks, and you can customize them with WYSIWYG tools like ghost buttons

Using Articles in the WMS also makes sense if you're short on time: they're easy to create and always look sharp. Need some inspiration? Check out the OSS site...or explore this one! This story (and the entire "Articles" section of our site) is made with the Article content type.

WMS Channels

Ah, the old standby. Channels news may not be the prettiest, but it's great if:

  • Your story might be interesting to users of multiple sites
  • You want to create customized feeds of content based on categories or tags
  • You need to share or syndicate content to other websites

Channels' main appeal may be its distribution options, but you can spruce up your Channels items using WYSIWYG tools* like heading styles, columns, and ghost buttons. For more ambitious users, HTML classes can also be a great way to add some visual appeal. Here's an example of what you can do using just a small selection of our existing tools. (Note that the overall look of Channels items and feeds will be refreshed as part of the service's transition to Drupal 9.)

* Unfortunately, images embedded in the WYSIWYG won't be transmitted through Channels - so you should still use the dedicated "image" field.

News magazine sites in WordPress

One site will always be easier to maintain than two - and as mentioned above, there are definite advantages to keeping all your content together in the WMS. Even so, you may wish to have a separate news magazine site if:

  • Your publication is a separate entity or has a unique brand (distinct from the unit that oversees it)
  • You have a high volume of story content (and little else!) to publish
  • Your faculty or unit is okay with splitting administration effort and user traffic/data across more than one site

If this sounds like you, then we'd be happy to consult with you about creating your own site based on the Reporter or Dossiers platforms.

The Reporter template was designed as a direct replacement for It works great as a standalone site or as a destination for users following links from email newsletters and social media. It's designed to offer an information-rich, reader-focused experience for news sites with a moderate to high volume of content. 

Dossiers works well for collections of stories around a theme, and for a low- to moderate-volume publications. This simpler platform isn't as satisfying as a standalone site; it works best when paired with a multichannel promotion strategy that drives traffic to specific articles or collections. 

A note on news

The halcyon days of blogging are behind us: your site probably won't attract a dedicated, regular clientele simply through scintillating journalism and frequent content updates. As you evaluate your options and objectives, remember that in most cases...

  1. Your users get their normal news content from other sites
  2. Your best strategy is to promote your content where your audience will see it (e.g. email, social media, other news sites)
  3. Most users (about 78%) will only read one story or article per visit to your site, and that's okay
  4. Email newsletters are a great way to promote targeted content to interested users (Email marketing is also a great way to annoy uninterested users with unwanted emails. Survey your audience and adapt the newsletter frequency, layout, and content mix according to their preferences!)
  5. Online marketing campaigns can be a good way to promote a specific cause or action, but it isn't a great way to promote content generally. 

And they all blogged happily ever after

Just kidding! If you're ready to level up your online publications for 2021, here's a rundown of the resources you need:

Learn more

Want to know more about the available options? Interested in email marketing, online advertising, or other strategies to promote your content? Request a consultation! We can help get the most out of your existing site...or give you more information about creating a separate news magazine site.

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