The future of alumni magazines

June 4, 2009

This week the new Newsweek has been a hot conversation on the CASE CUE (university editors listserve). A few weeks back Newsweek introduced a new look and new approach to their magazine.

In the May 16th issue editor Jon Meecham (who spoke at Gettysburg last year) described the changes:

And so the magazine you are holding now—the first issue of a reinvented and rethought NEWSWEEK—represents our best effort to bring you original reporting, provocative (but not partisan) arguments and unique voices. We know you know what the news is. We are not pretending to be your guide through the chaos of the Information Age. If you are like us, you do not need, or want, a single such Sherpa. What we can offer you is the benefit of careful work discovering new facts and prompting unexpected thought.

The chief casualty is the straightforward news piece and news written with a few (hard-won, to be sure) new details that does not move us significantly past what we already know. Will we cover breaking news? Yes, we will, but with a rigorous standard in mind: Are we truly adding to the conversation? When violence erupts in the Middle East, are we saying something original about it? Are our photographs and design values exceptional? If the answers are yes, then we are in business.

As a long time Newsweek reader I was impressed at the new approach and one particular line stuck out for me. “Are we truly adding to the conversation?” They truly get it. I don’t want the hardcore news I can get that up to the minute on the web from a weekly magazine. Can they give me value added? Can they make me think? Can they bring a different perspective that I haven’t thought about before? Can they offer me a fresh idea?

Are we seeing the future of alumni magazines? Maybe not this year or next but in 10-15-20 years when this generation is in their mid 40’s and  comfortable with technology and news on the web. Could this be the future for higher ed alumni magazines?

Lessons learned about web 2.0 news in higher ed

December 2, 2008

This fall we enhanced the news area of our website with a number of web 2.0 tools. The enhancements included:

  • Post comments on stories and create a community-wide conversation
  • Submit your own images for the Gettysburg College Photo of the Day
  • Share stories easily via Facebook,, and other networks
  • Easily email stories
  • Access related stories via a tag cloud
  • Visit Gettysburg College’s pages on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and YouTube
  • Sign up for email alerts or an RSS feed of Gettysburg College news as it happens

This week as we were driving back and forth for the holiday weekend I was thinking about what some of the lessons learned would be if a college was beginning to think about these types of enhancements.

I started web 2.0 education on my campus in March of 2007 with the primer that Karine Joly published in a CASE Currents magazine ( It was really well done and summarized many of the tools in just a few short pages. The education continued with my Admissions and Public Relations colleagues and soon after the Web Task Force, our strategic campus wide web committee. In May 2008 we used our Board of Trustee Committee meeting to focus on marketing and specifically web 2.0 enhancements and included an educational component. It was so successful that many members of the committee asked me for hard copies of course of the power point.

Senior leadership
Senior leadership teams tend to be skeptical of flash new technology. In fact when we brought up the idea of allowing comments on our news stories one member of the team asked why we would even think of that idea?

We used a summer lunch retreat meeting to give a web update and do more education with the Vice Presidents and President which proved to be a great use of time. It set the stage for us to push forward in a number of different areas.

This type of project will require a high level of collaboration between the web area, your PR and Communications Office who eventually will be using the tools, your IT staff and for our project some time with the college lawyer looking at our policies and terms of use to protect us legally.

This was one of the most important keys to success especially as you start to tag and categorize your content. Having a strategic plan for tagging helped us to efficiently tag a whole year in only a few hours while hopefully helping to communicate the brand and  making it easy to find news about a subject you are interested in.

The last lesson learned was that it will always be evolving. Even as I sit here writing this blog post we have over 20 enhancements and tweaks we want to make as we move forward.

Good luck web 2.0 warriors.

Comments Comments Comments

July 10, 2008

What do the Washington, Inside Higher Ed, and ESPN have in common. Of course if you answer they allow commenting on their website you are correct. I have been researching higher education institutions that allow commenting on their news sites over the last few weeks. I am sure that anyone reading this blog post is already sold on Web 2.0. In fact you are probably tired of that phrase. However I have found it very interesting that very few institutions (actually only a handful) of higher education have latched onto this conversation mechanism.

Wikipedia defines education as “Education encompasses both the teaching and learning of knowledge,” It would seem to me places that want to encompass the teaching and learning of knowledge would encourage audiences on their websites to take part in conversations.

Of course some of the worry from senior leaders on campus is probably 2 fold

  • What happens if someone posts something negative about the institution
  • What liability does the institution have for what gets posted.

These are two legitimate concerns. The second of which can be solved through a number of scenarios including making posters create accounts or screen posts before they are posted. The first is more of a challenge which is why I think we will see confident institutions who are secure in their brand be the first adopters. You have to be confident that if someone posts a negative comment your alumni, students, parents, and friends will come to their institutions “rescue” and set the record straight.