Recently, we opened a new series of articles on how ad-funded publishers can adapt through the COVID-19 pandemic. First, we examined its effects on advertising trends. Last week, we looked at the myriad benefits of having an affiliate revenue stream. In today’s third installment, we’re going to focus on digital alternatives to print. 

Print is taking a beating from a number of angles:

  • Brands are being forced to be extremely careful with their ad spend, as brands themselves are also suffering hits to their revenues. We elaborate on this in our aforementioned advertising trends study.
  • According to a recent survey by content experience platform BlueToad:
    • 77% of people are concerned about themselves or their family’s safety when handling mail or other deliveries
    • 70% of people reported similar concerns when reading a delivered print magazine, journal, catalog or newspaper
    • 54% of people are more likely to consume digital content over print while practicing social distancing  

“While print remains very relevant both now and long term, publishers must acknowledge the fact that consumers are perhaps more than ever leaning on other perceived safer, digital ways to consume content and connect with brands,” added Paul DeHart, CEO of BlueToad, in a press release.

BlueToad’s survey also revealed that 53% of people now want to hear more from the brands they trust during these uncertain times. Thankfully, there are many platforms offering convincing digital alternatives to print, which allow publishers to maintain the integrity and stellar reputations of their brands through an unprecedented crisis. Here are some of our favourites, and why they’re worth paying attention to.

The best digital edition platforms for publishers


Issuu enables any publisher to use PDFs to create exact replicas of their print editions that can be embedded anywhere. Once embedded, Issuu editions are incredibly simple to use, and advertising is interactive; readers can click through to a brand’s site from an Issuu embed. Here’s an example:

So Young Issuu edition with interactive advert

In a letter to clients in late March, Joe Hyrkin, Issuu CEO, wrote that the platform is currently waiving its commissions on sales of digital single copies or subscriptions made on the platform. He referenced a coronavirus-era trend in which “content creators who normally sell physical media are having to find new ways to sell their content digitally.” Combined with its interactive ad functionality, Issuu can be very beneficial for digital publishers. 


As Europe’s largest ‘all you can read’ digital magazine platform, Readly offers users access to over 4,000 digital-edition magazines for a £7.99 monthly fee. It hosts digital editions of TIME Magazine, Cosmopolitan, HELLO! and many other A-list titles.  

Publishers receive over 50% of Readly subscription revenue and receive data insights into their audience. Readership figures can be included in ABC circulation audits.

Around 8% of all magazines read by UK Readly users are foreign, and 16% are back issues.

Exact Editions

Similar to Issuu, Exact Editions uses PDFs to create true-to-print digital editions of magazine to be viewed through the Exact Editions website and app platforms. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Exact Editions opened up free access to its “Reading Room”: a tool which allows publishers to upload entire issues in PDF format and generate a link to a digital edition that expires after 30 days.  It’s “a free and emergency digital distribution solution to fill gaps in publishing schedules that may have been disrupted by the pandemic,” claims a spokesperson for the platform.


Magzter bill themselves as “the world’s largest digital magazine newsstand”, offering international readers access to 13,000+ publishers. Titles can be simply duplicated into digital editions using a one-click system that Magzter calls Orey Click Publishing. Magzter differs as it offers publishers individual branded apps that enable them to stay connected to their target audiences at all times.


The Tortoise-endorsed Pugpig describes itself as “the world’s favourite digital publishing platform”, and may have the credentials to substantiate this claim. Pugpig readers spend an average of 24 minutes per session and partake in over 15 sessions per month in the platform’s top-performing editions. 

Pugpig editions are optimised for desktop, mobile and tablet, and the platform has an impressive portfolio, including publications from Condé Nast.

Apple News+

News+ is the paid tier Apple’s flagship news aggregation platform. It allows readers to access digital magazines including Time, Vogue, People, National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal for a monthly fee of US$9.99. Total subscription revenue is split 50/50 between publishers and Apple, and each publisher’s share is assigned according to article dwell time.

Apple News+ is currently invite-only. If you’re interested in finding out more about this, we’d love to help. Get in touch for more information.

As tough as COVID-19 will be on publishing, we hope this will prove to be no more than a bump in the road. The above platforms offer elegant opportunities for print publishers with digital equivalents to continue to generate advertising revenue.

Click here for the next instalment in our article series aimed at helping publishers monetise through the COVID-19 crisis: Virtual Events