Are Blogs and Online Magazines the Same Thing?

Yes and no.

While there are some major features that differentiate blogs from other kids of websites, these different types of websites aren’t exactly mutually exclusive. The lines are getting blurrier with each passing day, because different types and genres are borrowing features from other types and genres.

Into the Newsroom

If we were to look at the more traditional model for a newspaper, you get actual printed pieces of paper with articles and pictures on them. These get physically distributed around town and across the country so that people can read them. The audience doesn’t really have a public forum to respond back to the original columnists and journalists, much less the ability to engage in a discussion with one another about the issues in the articles.

But what about newspapers that have an online edition? Some of these still adhere to the more traditional model, so when you go the website for the newspaper, all you can really do is read the article and maybe share it via social media. There’s no area for an active discussion right on the article itself. Other newspapers have tried to keep up with the times and they have comments enabled on some or all of their content.

If we were to look at this latter category, you’ll find that these online newspapers are being updated on a regular basis, the newest content is shown at the top of the home, the websites use a content management system, and there is active reader engagement in the form of a comments section. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds a lot like a blog to me… except if you were to ask any of these serious journalists and publications, they’d likely shudder at the term. They’re a newspaper, not a blog, right?

Well, yes and no. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Big Business of Pro Blogging

Things have definitely moved in the opposite direction too with a large number of blogs taking on the professionalism and look of a “legitimate” newspaper or magazine. Early blogs might not have been much more than personal diaries where people just vented their frustrations and talked about their personal lives, but that has changed a lot over the years. So many blogs are legitimate businesses with real employees making real money, just like a real newspaper or magazine. Some will argue that that the print industry is dying or dead, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Even the way that blogs are designed and look these days can be entirely different. When you make your way around the various marketplaces and repositories where WordPress themes are available for purchase or download, you’ll find a growing number of so-called “magazine-style” themes or simply “magazine” themes.

The idea here is that while you still adhere to the basic philosophy of a reverse chronological order for the content on the home page, the layout isn’t just a simple list. Instead, it might look more like the website you’d find for a newspaper or magazine. If anything, magazine layouts are increasingly the norm among most blogs today.

There could be some bigger headlines at the top, highlighted with larger thumbnail images or article excerpts. There could be separate sections for the different categories of content. You could find a grid of thumbnail images from a number of the most recent blog posts. The possibilities, as with so many other things to do with blogs, are endless.

Breaking Tradition

If anything, there may be one critical distinction between a blog with a magazine-style layout and a website that would refer to itself strictly as an online magazine. Blogs are updated dynamically. New posts can go up at any time on any day, making for quite the organic and live website. People can come back multiple times a day to discover new content if the blog is updated that often.

Something that is strictly an online magazine would be different in that you’d have more of the traditional “issue” approach. Maybe a new “issue” of the online magazine is released once a week, containing several articles and other content. Everything is collected and packaged up into one issue rather than being spread out as an organic website.

A more traditional approach to the online magazine might also mean that you don’t get comments or you may need to download a PDF to “flip” through the “pages” of the magazine, instead of simply clicking through the different web pages via navigation links.

Realistically? Depending on the specific context and circumstances, the terms “blog” and “online magazine” or “online publication” can almost be used interchangeably.

Even though blogs have been around for some time and they may have even greater influence than their more traditional counterparts, there is still a certain stigma or perception that blogs are somehow less official, less professional and more amateur. As a result, many bloggers who take their websites more seriously may use an alternative term like “online publication” instead.

But that’s just semantics. Blogging is blogging, no matter what word you choose to describe it.

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