Digital editions of student publications

Posted by Monica Worsley

Last Friday morning, high school students and their parents converged on Drake University for an admitted students day.

As I walked past a classroom full of attentive visitors, Professor David Wright praised the school’s student publications.

His accolades made me think.

2010 Think magazine- Drake SJMC

Until this year, visitors could take print copies of the majority of Drake sponsored, student created magazines, to read at their leisure.

But the recent decision of the spring senior capstone to make Think magazine a digital edition means both capstone courses have diverged from the traditional ink and paper publication.

As a result, potential additions to the Drake SJMC will have one less magazine to take and page through on the car ride home.

Overall it could mean fewer readers of the 2013 edition of Think magazine.

Did the 2013 Think staff make a risky decision?

If current trend in industry-wide digital edition readership applies to their magazine, a switch to digital may prove worthwhile.

Digital edition readership is growing.

“The number of average digital magazine copies sold has more than doubled compared with the second half of 2011 when 245 magazines reported approximately 3.2 million average digital replica copies (less than 1 percent of the total industry average circulation),” according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

On the grand scheme digital editions make up a small portion of total industry circulation.

However, during the last six-months of 2012 digital readership had increased by 24 percent as print audiences continued to decline, according to the Adweek.

Until the 2013 Think magazine is published, we can only speculate if the Drake SJMC capstone students made a wise decision.

According to the executive producer of Think magazine, senior Kristen Smith, they are confident they did.

“Overall, digital is the way the publishing industry is going. We wanted to be able to learn from the experience, to fill our readers’ needs and to create a great publication,” said Smith.

They considered their audience, costs, and other aspects before settling on the digital edition.

“We decided our audience consists of ages 20s to low 30s, “young professionals,” and people who live and work in the Midwest. We thought that we could have the most reach using an all-digital approach. Through our website, social media and being in the iTunes store, there are so many possibilities in terms of who we can introduce our product to,” said Smith.

Think magazine staffers also tried to use their funding effectively.

“Going with a tablet edition is also cost-efficient, and it allowed us to use our budget to go toward really getting the most out of each story, especially when it comes to traveling around the Midwest to do research and reporting in-person,” said Smith.

“Yes, people love the way a magazine smells or feels in their hands, but with a digital edition, you can really tailor the user experience. You can have interactive features, such as videos and audio slideshows. You can engage them by having great long-form stories (people love to scroll, and often lose track of how much they’ve actually read when they’re just scrolling on a tablet versus flipping physical pages).”

You’ve heard what the Think staff thinks…

What do you predict to be the outcome of Think magazine as a digital edition? Do you think it will have a digital readership base and entice people to use their tablets for a quick read? Do you think the capstone class took a risk in making a digital edition this year? Do you have a tablet? And if not, how are you planning on reading Think this year?

 

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8 responses to “Digital editions of student publications

  1. Great post, Monica, and one that’s really relevant to our immediate futures and careers. I’ve been really surprised by the growth of technology in the industry and frankly, it’s a progression that scares me a little because of the uncertainty you mentioned. The statistics on all-digital growth are encouraging, but I don’t think they yet signal a definitive change in the way people read magazines. I think tablets are a popular format in the upper to middle class demographics advertisers target, but they are by no means ubiquitous in American society. I, for one, don’t have a tablet and don’t really plan on getting one. Thus, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the coming years as more and more magazines more all digital. From Think to Newsweek, it’s obviously a trend we can’t ignore.

    • Abbey,

      Thanks for your input. I also find the growth of technology in the industry to be intimidating. It’s interesting you mention you don’t have a tablet and don’t plan on getting one. I also don’t have a tablet and I’ve noticed that many of our fellow Drake students don’t either. The fact that mainly upper middle class people have tablets makes me wonder what is the target audience of Think and how the class expects to reach its audience.

  2. I did not even think of this. I remember coming to the J-school and took home about three magazines and showed them off to communication classes at my high school. I think the fact the magazine is now online is huge step for the J-school in the right direction and could give the J-school a lot of press. This way prospective kids can share the link to the magazine and the magazine will get more hits, thus spreading the news.

  3. I agree with Raquel. This will make sharing the magazine much simpler. However, I did enjoy having the paper copies and I loved receiving them as a prospective student. I remember paging through them along with all of my other college materials while I was making my college decision. Overall, though, I think the J-school is headed in the right direction especially since, like you said, so many magazines are now available online.

    • Rylee and Raquel,

      I’m sure the Think magazine staffers are be happy to hear you feel their decision to make a change from the past was a good one. I’m excited to see how the J-school uses this to its advantage rather than mourning on the loss of a print edition.

  4. I think it’s important for Think magazine and Drake to be thinking of the future of magazines and approach this in a modern way. Most magazines do have an online version as well as a print version, and my only wish was that Think was able to do this too. Overall I think the move of magazines to IPads are innovative and more up to date with today’s technological world. Interactive elements such as slideshows and scrolling capabilities help integrate, in my opinion, the readers into the stories. This also makes the readers more interested in the content that they can control.

  5. I can definitely relate with feeling skeptical about digital publications. In fact, until two years ago I thought my capstone’s publication would be a print publication. I was wrong. My staff members voted for a digital publication based on our target readers. We realized that men in their late 20’s to early 30’s are using tablets and mobile devices and therefore we should offer our publication where they will find and use it. I have to admit that even though I was initially against doing a digital publication, I’m happy with our decision because our readers are happy. As of February 19, 2013 we had 775 downloads since November 19, so I think it’s doing well. Feel free to check out Man Up, which is available in the App store and Google Play, and let me know if you think about our decision to go all digital.

    • BIannca,

      Thanks for offering your opinion. It’s great to have someone with experience explain why tablet editions of Drake capstone publications can still maintain a solid readership. I think it is also great that you mention what audience research revealed about your target audience. I think that is a great example of J-School students approaching the capstone as pre-professional experience rather than just as an opportunity meet their desires and not the demands of potential readers.

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