Intern Ellie blogs about why online magazines make sense.

With the Potomac Review moving to online-only submissions, one has to wonder what would happen if the magazine were to make the next step and become a completely online magazine. What are the benefits? Would it be worth it?

Online magazines are first and foremost an environmentally-friendly way to do literature, a paperless and cheap way for authors to be published and read by a general audience.

While paper literary magazines may publish new issues and stories only once or twice a year, online magazines have the benefit of being able to publish a new literary work whenever they wish. Many magazines will still publish work in issues, though less often, typically monthly or weekly. Another approach, a “Story of the Week” can be featured on the home page of the magazine with a link to the magazine’s own old or new literary work. “Hot Openers,” Potomac Review’s own story of the month, features stories with interesting and attention-grabbing first lines. Other online fora, especially essay and current event-focused magazines such as the extremely popular Slate Magazine will publish two or more stories daily.

Many literary magazines are free or non-profit, such as Perigree, which brags that it has provided free literature and art since 2003. It doesn’t cost nearly as much to publish online as it does to print on paper, so why charge? The cost for running the online magazine can instead be covered by reader donations and website ads.

The best benefit of online over print, however, is the ability to share quickly. When a reader finds a story, poem or piece of artwork they enjoy, with just a single click of the mouse on a blue and white ‘F’ or a little bird, the work is shared to all 20 or 2,000 of their Facebook friends and Twitter followers or emailed out to their contacts. With just one happy reader, the magazine and author can gain countless more views, which in turn become new readers. The cycle continues and spreads the magazine throughout social groups.

At the end of the day, though, while online magazines are a great place to start, there’s just something very rewarding about being able to own a printed book with your story or poetry in it.