9 Plugins to Turn Your WordPress Site Into an Online Magazine
Now is the best time to build a magazine on WordPress. Seriously. All the tools are there. And WordPress is getting more feature-rich by the day. So, you have a real opportunity to create something stellar.
What I will do, however, is cover some of the best plugins out there right now that make turning a standard WordPress site into a real online magazine. Like a real-deal, totally legit publication you’d buy at a newsstand—if those still exist.
While there are plenty of plugins out there that let you create the look of a magazine on your WordPress site, there aren’t very many that actually let you structure it as such. That’s why IssueM is a real standout. This plugin allows you to create an issues-based structure for your WordPress posts and pages, effectively letting you create a real magazine.
The plugin works by creating a new post type that falls under an “Issues” category. You can create an Issue with several articles that remain in draft form until you’re ready to release the whole thing at once. And what I really like here is that you don’t need a special theme or have to compromise on the look of your site to implement this issues system. Rather, all you need is to insert the included shortcodes and you’ll have an issues-based magazine launched in no time, flat.
IssueM can be upgraded a bit thanks to a set of premium add-ons as well. One such add on is Leaky Paywall with Stripe and PayPal Integration, which allows you to charge site visitors to view your content. It costs $197 for a single site license. Another add-on is the Post Migration Tool, which allows you to convert your existing blog posts into Articles and Issues. It’ll set you back $19 for a single site license. Finally, there’s the Advanced Search Tool, which adds a more robust search system to your site that allows visitors to search for keywords within categories, tags, and issues. It also costs $19.
Now, if you want a more complete online magazine solution that gives you the all-in-one treatment, Aesop Story Engine is a worthy contender. This plugin is actually a collection of tools that lets you build any kind of publication you want. The emphasis here is on storytelling.
That is, this plugin provides you with all the tools you need to tell compelling stories online. That means presenting text in a beautiful and easy-to-read manner. It means allowing you to incorporate audio seamlessly into your posts. It means allowing you to add fullscreen videos from a variety of sources including YouTube, Daily Motion, Vimeo, and Kickstarter. You can even customize the background image/color or set up columns to provide a more traditional magazine layout.
You can insert galleries into your posts and you can setup different ones for each “story” you want to tell. These galleries can be displayed in a multitude of formats from thumbnails to a grid, to stacked, to sequential. And individual images can be displayed in a lightbox with a caption if you want.
Other features include the ability to configure stylish chapter headings, character avatars (if you’re creating a short fiction magazine, for instance), location maps with custom messages for each marker on the map, fullwidth quotes with customizable background and color controls, and parallax backgrounds and images.
Aesop Story Engine also comes equipped with a document viewer for including PDFs into your pages and posts, a timeline feature for displaying the chronology of a given story, and a collections feature that allows you to group a specific set of stories together on a page. This latter feature is perfect for assembling individual issues of your online magazine.
While Aesop Story Engine is a pretty comprehensive collection of tools, it’s not the only one like it on the market. In fact, another plugin designed to help you capture the magic inherent in long-form stories is called Storyform. You don’t have to input all of your posts into the layouts Storyform offers but you do have the option to create incredibly robust pages and posts as a result.
When sitting down to write a new post for your magazine, you can select which template to use. This allows you to turn what would have been a long block of text that would seemingly never end into a stylish article with a true magazine layout.
The real beauty of this plugin is that it incorporates many attributes that are typically ascribed to print publications. I already mentioned the numerous layouts from which you can select but you can also enable simpler pagination. This means that visitors to your site can use touch, mouse, or keyboard controls to page through your content rather than being forced to scroll down for days.
You can also configure multi-column articles and add typographic accents throughout like stylish pull quotes and drop-caps. Each page or post you create can be offset by large photography to add further visual interest. Plus, you can add animations, rich video, and more. This free plugin comes with plenty of documentation, too. We recently talked in-depth about Storyform, actually, so you might want to check out that post as well, if you’re interested.
If you’re looking for a simple way to turn your posts into mini-books, WP jQuery Pager may work out great for you. This plugin is incredibly lightweight and works by allowing you to add booklets to your posts and pages that contain a combination of images and text.
This is a good choice if you anticipate needing to feature more than just your magazine’s content on your site. The plugin relies on the standard WordPress gallery to upload the contents of each booklet you create, so there’s really nothing bulky added to the backend at all.
If you want to try out another option for adding a magazine page layout to your posts, Gridster is a good choice. With it, you can create draggable layouts that are easy to customize into columns. You can resize these columns, add (or remove) elements from the grid, and edit content right within the grid.
Once you create a grid for a post or page, you can drag and drop content via Gridster widgets straight into your post. These widgets cover things like custom post types, pages, and recent posts.
You can easily resize these widgets and create custom templates for widgets so you have the utmost control over your content’s presentation. Images automatically resize to fit within the widgets and you can easily insert a grid by using a shortcode.
I already mentioned that you can edit content right within the grid, but this is actually something that makes this plugin so unique. It relies on the Jetitable library to allow users to edit content that’s loaded within the grids you create. You don’t have to go back and modify the original posts – just make your edits right inline.
One thing that separates an online magazine from a standard blog is how the content is laid out. Often, online publications will try to replicate the layout and formatting of traditional print publications. This isn’t just for nostalgia’s sake. Rather, this effort can make for a more pleasant reading experience. The WP Easy Columns plugin makes implementing such a layout a snap.
It works by adding shortcodes into your theme that allow you to build magazine-style columns and/or a grid system for laying out posts and pages. Quickly and easily select between 1/4, 1/2, 1/3, 2/3, 3/4, 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, and 4/5 columns. This gives you the ultimate in flexibility when it comes to structuring your content.
And using WP Easy Columns ensures your site actually looks the part of a magazine. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping the standard blog format for a publication, using a column-based layout where you can be more selective about how you place body text, pull-quotes, and images gives you greater control over how you present your material to the world. And presentation is actually a major part of publishing in general – not just the online variety.
WP Easy Columns, as its name would suggest, is very easy to use. It features a “pick n’ click” interface that lets you select the type of columns you want within the post editor with just a single click. It’s compatible with any theme, too.
Sometimes it’s best to start out simple. And that’s exactly what the FD Footnotes plugin provides. If you plan on creating an online publication that includes a lot of academic or heavily-researched content, this will help you keep your sources neat and tidy.
Once installed, you can add footnotes to your posts with just a few clicks. The links to footnotes don’t distract from the flow of the text and the footnotes themselves can be clicked to take the reader back to their spot in the body. There’s virtually no disruption to the reading process here, only enhancement.
What I really like about this plugin is that you don’t have to do anything fancy to enable a footnote. Just put the text you want to be listed as a footnote in square brackets. The formatting couldn’t be simpler:
[1. Footnote goes here.]
You don’t have to keep track of accurate numbering here. Just so long as you include a number followed by a period, the plugin will recognize the following text as a footnote and number it accordingly. You can even add images and links within your footnotes to add further value to your posts.
If an article, story, or other feature in your online magazine doesn’t require footnotes, they don’t have to be displayed. Plain and simple.
If you’re looking for something even more straightforward than FD Footnotes, the WP Footnotes plugin is a good option for you.
It’s simply coded so if you decide to uninstall it one day, there won’t be lasting effects on the structure of your site. There aren’t much by way of features but who needs ’em when all you really need is a way to add footnotes that work?
The last plugin I’ll discuss here today is called WP-to-iPad and it’s capable of performing one simple, but very important, function: turning your WordPress site into an iPad magazine. After installation, you just need to click through a few options to configure and create a version of your WordPress site that is completely optimized for reading on the iPad.
I could see this being really useful if you’re new to the realm of online magazines and want to try it out a bit first before really committing with harder hitting, and potentially expensive, tools.
The option of building online magazines isn’t exactly a new thing. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make the process a little bit easier, right? And with so much emphasis on long-form content these days, it feels especially relevant to try and find the most effective solutions as possible.
That’s why I went with the plugin route here – because you can often create content that functions like a magazine while still preserving control over the design.
If you’ve ever dabbled in online publishing, what tools have you used to get your issues out into the world? Have you found any of these plugins useful? Did I miss your favorite? Please feel free to sound off in the comments.
Image source: John Martinez Pavliga
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