Five mistakes to avoid when starting a digital publication

From using the wrong software to overlooking key features, here are five tips to ensure you hit the ground running when you launch a new site.

1. Hiring an inexperienced web design company

Many publishers make the mistake of unwittingly hiring a web design company that has never executed a publishing site. Well-meaning web developers will do some googling for a template and cobble together a string of plug-ins and solutions. The result might seem OK on the surface but the infrastructure is often clunky, and in 12 months it will likely be worse when key features require upgrades or, worse, are no longer supported.

When things inevitably go south with a rapidly ageing site, the publisher is at the mercy of the availability (and hourly rate) of an IT agency. Many such websites end up in the too-hard basket, with publishers left lamenting the wasted resources and lost opportunity to get a foothold online.

Pagemasters Publish is more than just a CMS. Not only does our platform boast carefully selected and well-supported integrations, our team will help build your website for you and still be around to assist long after you launch.

2. Failing to capture reader email addresses (and not having a newsletter)


When Facebook temporarily shut down all Australian news sites in 2021, publishers across the country faced a stark reality: they had little idea who their readers were or how to reach them outside social media. It was a wake-up call that led many to realise the value of a simple mailing list.

Yet some who had this epiphany still aren’t building their databases as effectively as they could. For many free publications, a common approach to gathering contact information is using a landing page or pop-up ad to spruik the benefits of entering an email address – but in isolation, this method is half-hearted. Selected free content should be gated, requiring readers to sign up before they can continue. It’s a free and low-friction transaction for the subscriber, particularly if it’s content they value. Paid publications should likewise consider offering a selection of freemium articles to help capture email addresses.

Once a publisher has established a contact list, launching a regular newsletter is a must. Not only do newsletters help drive traffic to websites, they offer an opportunity to sell ads that will be delivered directly to individual inboxes.

The multipurpose Publish paywall helps clients grow their mailing lists through premium and freemium plans, and the platform automatically syncs sign-ups to a MailChimp audience.


3. Choosing the wrong paywall technology

A paywall is an essential tool for both free and paid publications. Even those that don’t charge for content need a way to acquire reader data, build mailing lists and accept donations.
Selecting reliable plug-ins is a challenge, and arguably no decision is more important than your choice of paywall technology. You may not have time to scope out every possible solution to optimise your strategy (shopping around will reveal a mix of basic and overly expensive options) and you shouldn’t necessarily rely on a web developer to make the correct decision for you either.
Pagemasters Publish couldn’t find a paywall solution that met the varying needs of our clients, so we built our own. Years of honing and evolving our technology with feedback from the front lines has resulted in affordable out-of-the-box functionality that allows you complete control over pricing, subscription length, metered options, additional users and free trial periods.

4. Treating digital advertising as a value-add

Display ads should be a big part of a content creator’s online strategy, not an afterthought. 
It is not uncommon for those revamping their website or entering the digital space for the first time to find themselves scrambling for a sponsor on the eve of their site’s launch, and some end up giving away valuable ad space for free.
The conversation with digital advertisers can begin before you’ve even bought your domain name. And when priced correctly, selling one or two prime slots on your website can go a long way to covering platform costs, making the site revenue-neutral from day one. 
Ads aren’t an afterthought with Pagemasters Publish. We’ll work with you to find the right mix of content and advertising in your site’s design, and show you how to utilise the platform’s ad manager to determine whether your slots are exclusive or rotating, or targeted to specific content. 

5. Remaining mired in old habits

When producing a print publication, a two-word headline can be a clever space-saving solution. 
But in the online space, short headlines hurt Google search performance and are not always ideal for attracting eyeballs. There are many such traps for digital newcomers.
Publishers who are used to working with paper and ink can be slow to adapt their content habits. A video can’t be published in print, so videos often don’t enter their thinking. An article may only warrant one image, so only one photo is taken, or uploaded.
A website and print product should complement one another – and cross-promotion opportunities abound. Consuming content both online and in print can be of value to readers, and they shouldn’t have to choose between them.
Backed by Pagemasters, a trusted brand for more than three decades, the Publish team understands the challenges of transitioning a business to an online revenue model. Whether you’re just getting started or ready to upgrade your digital presence, we’re here to help.
Having spent years creating websites for our clients, the Publish team knows how to avoid the common mistakes publishers make when starting a new site. We’ll get you up and running in no time, advising you every step of the way. Click here to get in touch. 

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