A hallmark of the independent school marketing office is the Alumni Magazine. Printed 1-3 times a year, most alumni magazines have photos of campus events, alumni news, stories, and advertisements for the school’s annual fund or admission office, and sometimes more.
As digital becomes the norm, schools are thinking about ways they can share their magazines online. While most schools link to a PDF of the print magazine or even upload the PDF to a third party flip-through service like ISSUU, other schools are looking to journalism for inspiration on how to bring print pieces online.
At Cheshire Academy, we recently redesigned our print magazine– of course, we aimed for a level of excellence in both design and content. However, we wanted to add a digital component that could hold its weight with the new print design.
We turned to online journalism companies like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal for inspiration. We were big fans of the large header photos, embedded content like photo galleries, and sidebar advertisements. We also like the “digital only” pieces often in the New York Times– things like video, interactive timelines, and moving graphs and polls.
I often look at private school marketing as a business. When the NYT publishes a digital piece of content, how do they monetize it? Through advertisements. While we don’t sell ads on our digital magazine micro-site (some schools do), I did create ad space for different school initiatives: our legacy giving fund, our annual fund, our summer program, and our admission office. Now traffic to these pages can be assigned a monetary value.
Another important aspect of digitizing your magazine through a micro-site is shareability. Class notes, journalism-style alumni features, and stories about campus can be shared individually on social media, plus engagement and traffic for each story can be tracked. This is not something you can do with a PDF of ISSUU, and it has real value.
Being able to share individual stories lets marketers:
- See which stories are performing well with our constituency using Google Analytics
- Provide more stewardship value to alumni. If we write an awesome article about you in our magazine, now you can share it with friends on Facebook.
Is there a cost to digitizing your magazine? I can’t tell you there will be no time cost, but I can promise that at Cheshire Academy we were able to create a micro-site with minimal HTML coding skill and no cost using Blackbaud’s K-12 OnMessage tool. Our last issue of the digital magazine saw over 1,000 unique visitors; with an alumni base of under 6,000 active contacts with email addresses, that’s more than 10% market penetration. We’ll take it!