Magazines used to be the domain of big publishing houses like Conde Nast. With communications turning digital, traditional magazines have been slow to evolve with the shift toward electronic media consumption. Where big businesses have fallen short, smaller businesses (especially web based businesses and blogs) have stepped in to fill the gap and boost their presence.

Publishing digital magazines means you don’t need the tools traditionally used; anyone can do it from anywhere. This has allowed people to create entire businesses based on digital magazines, develop niche following, expand their blog presence, create a readership and gain revenue.

A digital magazine is a great idea no matter what industry you’re in. If you’re in a popular industry, you can use it to create an industry-based publication that simultaneously highlights your business. If you’ve already got a readership, you can provide an extra medium for readers to connect with you. But it’s not just any medium. Digital publishing offers refinement and demonstrates that you have a greater capacity; after all, not just anyone has a magazine let alone a digital one. It’s also an extra way to get advertiser attention, to get subscribers and to establish your dominance in a specific field.

If you’re stuck in a relatively unexciting industry – let’s say HVAC products, then you’ll have to find something to get readers excited about. You can offer a home-based guide that features articles around the home for both genders. Of course, you discreetly offer articles that demonstrate the need for your product as well. The same rule applies if you’re offering a service.

So where do you get started? There are over a dozen platforms, both software and online SAAS with users giving positive rankings across the board. Of course, there’s Adobe Suite and Indesign Magazine Publisher. But what if you don’t want expensive software and don’t have time to learn new software? If this is your dilemma, you should definitely start off with some simpler options. You can always upgrade or opt for more expensive and complicated suites after your first few runs have met with rewarding success.

You can start with Issuu, an award winning online destination for magazines, presentations, essays and more. Issuu is free and simple to use, offering the clean slate feeling of a digital publication without the complications that often come with it. Issuu also lets you have creative control over your publication by allowing you to brand your pages, have aesthetic control and change the user interface to suit your preferences. This feature alone gets Issuu high marks; not many other SaaS platforms offer this flexibility for free. Your end product can be shared, embedded or downloaded. The site is a watering hole for other like-minded readers interested in browsing the digital magazine shelf for worthy content from over a thousand different sources.

Users can even get in on advertising their magazine or catalog across other publications much like the ad model Facebook has set up. However, if you don’t want other ads in your publication, you’ll have to opt-in for the PRO version, which offers a 14 day free trial.

In the interest of healthy competition, you should always look at one or two other options. A solid choice for beginners would be Joomag, which offers great analytics and is still easy to use. It doesn’t offer branding but it does offer some other key features in their paid subscription that would be desirable to a serious publisher, such as the ability to sell hard copies, iPad converter, advanced analytics and subscription management. However, the drawback here is that there’s no watering hole to draw in new readers from, which means you’ll have to take greater steps to marketing your publication.