How We Made Our Digital Magazine for Educators

This past Tuesday we launched the first issue of “The Best and Next in Education” – our digital magazine for teachers, leaders, and learners. A total of 294 School Districts have received the magazine and collectively shared it out to over 100,000 teachers!

Our magazine is different in that we asked the lead learners who signed up to share it out with their colleagues. Since it’s release we’ve received some amazing feedback from the lead learners who signed up and the teachers who it was shared with! We’ve also had a lot of people ask how we made the magazine, so this post is for you. It’s a bit long, but I hope you enjoy seeing the process, and how we made our digital magazine for educators.

If you want to sign-up for the magazine and get Issue 1.1 – go here and take 30 seconds to subscribe.

Planning Out The Magazine

There was really five steps to this entire process:

1. Putting the idea out their to the world (and getting feedback)

2. Tailoring the idea to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up

3. Finding and writing content for the magazine

4. Designing the magazine

5. Launching our first issue!

I’ll go over each in more detail below!

Putting the Idea Out to the World

I’ll start with the initial idea. I was basically scratching my own itch. I have wanted to get teachers and leaders that I know connected for a while. I documented my attempts in this post, but always left with a feeling that I was pushing too hard.

What I realized was that it was the wrong type of push. Instead of trying to get them to go online and see all the wonderful ways educators were communicating and collaborating, I should have been focused on bringing that experience directly to them. This is the reason our digital magazine exists: To push the best educational content out to our colleagues who may have missed it otherwise.

My initial post was titled, “Is it time we push the best educational content out to our colleagues?” I heard from many leaders and teachers who were having the same issues and 50 schools signed up right away! This gave the idea momentum and forced our team to really think about creating this magazine.

Tailoring the Idea

At this point it was about planning what the magazine would really look like, where we would get content, who would write it/choose it etc. The idea was simple, but the process of putting the magazine together was a bit daunting. I spoke with Anthony Gabriele about what he would be looking for and we both agreed it needed to be shorter rather than longer, easily accessible on any device, and filled with links for further in-depth reading and connecting.

We came up with a general layout for the magazine and used that to guide the process as we moved forward.

Finding and Writing Content for the Magazine

We wanted to make this magazine the “best” of what educational content was already out there. So to keep it current and up to date, we tried to find four posts that had already struck a chord with teachers and leader in the past two weeks. The four posts we choose for our first issue were actively shared on social media and discussed online. They also had a message about the new year, which we thought was perfect for January.

In the future, I know we want to build some type of system where readers can help send us potential articles and up vote choices…for now, it is our small team sifting through all of the awesome content out there!

The App and Web Tool section was fun to put together. We wanted to focus on an App and Web Tool that had already established itself as one of the “best” and then also offer up a new app and web tool for our “next” recommendation.

Our book recommendation was new book, but by an established author and educator. “Digital Leadership” was a perfect choice for our first issue, as our magazine is also digital. The themes and writing in Digital Leadership also allow a variety of educators to move forward in our current system.

It took a lot of time narrowing down the new studies in our “Research Roundup” and all of the information for our “Ed Tech Roundup” section. We added a place to find more information for each of these areas and hope to expand in future issues.

After researching, finding, writing, editing, and revising…the content was set, all we had to do now was create the actual magazine.

Designing the Magazine

We initially wanted to create various forms of the magazine. PDF, iBooks, Kindle, ePub etc. However, it became apparent that for our first issue we had to focus on the format that would be readable across as many devices as possible…and that was PDF.

I’ve had a lot of experience creating eBooks and making digital products. However, I knew the magazine had to “feel” different than an eBook, and also be easy to read on many different screen sizes. I looked at different magazine design templates, Adobe In-Design, and finally came back to my favorite tool for creating digital guides: iBooks Author.

What sealed the deal with iBooks Author was the template I found from Book Palette. This template was everything I envisioned the magazine to look and feel like. I drew a lot of inspiration from Marco Ament’s “The Magazine” in keeping the design simple, streamlined, and minimal. You’ll see pictures on many of the pages but they don’t overwhelm the reader. The text is what is most important.

Book Palette

Book Palette

Creating the magazine in iBooks Author took longer than anticipated. In hindsight I should have spent more time in the beginning creating a layout, but instead I was trying to fit text in while creating the layout at the same time. Yet, this process allowed me to look at it from a reader’s eye.

View of inside the magazine

A couple things I did on purpose while designing:

  • I kept the font at 16pt. Although that may look a little big on some computers and devices, it was important to have it viewable on phones and tablets.
  • The red hyperlinks. That color was inspired by “The Magazine” and Marco’s app “Instapaper”. They catch the reader’s eye and also are different than the usual blue web hyperlinks (showing some distinction).
  • The use of circles. They are my favorite shape, and they work well to showcase an individual.


In order to launch we had to collect sign-ups, create an email list, design an email, and host the magazine somewhere “in the cloud”.

I began using Wufoo forms to collect sign-ups, and because this magazine is different I made sure that those educators who were signing up understood that this was something we wanted to be shared with their staff and colleagues.

I’ve been using MailChimp as my email service for a while and think it is the best. MailChimp allowed me to set up a new distribution list and create the email template. After we launched I also made the signup form in MailChimp so you could receive your digital magazine immediately after subscribing (without me having to do any manual work).

The first issue will be hosted in our email “cloud” but as soon as it is released I’ll most likely move it to an Amazon server or Dropbox so anyone can have access to past issues.

The best part of the launch process was finally sending that email out with the issue and hearing the awesome feedback from teachers, principals, and other administrators!

If you are interested in signing up for “The Best and Next in Education” please go here to subscribe now and receive your copy within the hour!

PS- I’m debating between a few new book ideas and I could use your help. My purpose is to provide the most value to the readers of this blog, so if you could answer this one question survey, it will help me get the clarity I need!

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