By Lynn Bell and John Rhea

curryIn the spring of 2012 the Curry School of Education took its annual printed alumni magazine online with WordPress and a responsive design for mobile devices. We included some video and geolocation to help increase reader engagement. Yet, our publishing and content strategy still very much mirrored that of a print magazine.

Last winter we changed up the magazine again, this time to take advantage of the increasing interest of web users in contributing content as well as consuming it.

Our thinking was heavily influenced by Craig Mod’s “Manifesto” of online publishing. Rather than trying to replicate print magazines on the web, Mod advocated a more digital native strategy:

  • Small issue sizes (3-7 articles/issue)
  • Small file sizes
  • Digital-aware subscription prices (not applicable to us)
  • Fluid publishing schedule
  • Scroll (don’t paginate)
  • Clear navigation
  • HTML(ish) based
  • Touching the open web

We realized that Mod was onto something.

We first chucked our issue-based thinking; instead of pushing out two large bowls of stories every year we’d push out smaller bowls more often.

Instead of the magazine homepage redirecting to the latest issue (Fall 2012, Spring 2012), it’s now stable (but dynamic), with one new article popping up each month. We added several social media “tiles” with RSS feeds pulling dynamic content from our blog, our main site’s news page, our Twitter account and our WordPress-based class notes site.

We downsized the quantity of Curry-generated content appearing on the homepage to three articles and a featured blog post. Every time we publish a new article, we push it out via Facebook and Twitter. We then send quarterly emails promoting the magazine, which doubles our communications with our readers.

The biggest change in our approach to the magazine was to take more advantage of alumni knowledge, experience and self-interest, as well as social media’s capacity for incorporating audience contribution.

Our new mantra is “Contribute. Participate. Engage.”

Thanks to a class notes site built on a blog platform, alumni have unlimited space for writing about themselves, their families, careers and fond Curry memories. We invite them to do just that, and we spotlight an especially interesting entry each month. We also provided a place for alumni to promote their books or other creative works. And we are inviting more alumni guest posts on the Curry blog, so we can feature them on the magazine homepage.

This latest instantiation of the magazine has been running for about four months and seems to be gaining momentum, but only time will tell. Alumni contribution to the magazine still requires lots of creative promoting, inviting, and encouraging.

We know that hardly anyone is happy about the loss of our printed alumni magazine, but we just don’t have the budget for it anymore. Fewer alumni read the online magazine. Yet, the magazine, combined with our other social media strategies, is increasing the active engagement of the alumni we are reaching.

See what you think at curry.virginia.edu/magazine.


About the Authors

John_RheaJohn Rhea is the Webmaster for the UVA Curry School of Education.

Lynn_Bell_hiresLynn Bell is Director of Development Communications, UVA Curry School Foundation.

John will be presenting Responsive Web Design: An Undead Introduction at edUi 2013.