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Rethinking Online Publications

The online version of your publication is an increasingly important part of the communications mix. Because print and pixels are distinctly different, it’s vital to consider how each affects the way your audience consumes information.

Reality check

An online publication should be more than a way to reduce costs by saving money on printing and mailing. In fact, research published in the March 2010 issue of CASE’s Currents magazine found that nearly 75% of respondents did not look at the online edition of their alumni magazine, while 91% always or frequently read the printed version.

People have different expectations when they go online. Readers seek up-to-the-minute information in a media-rich environment that includes video, message boards, and opportunities to connect via social networks. Creating an online publication that delivers relevant content and draws repeat visits takes dedication and time.

Putting a publication on the web offers new opportunities to communicate with people beyond your core audience. The CASE research finds that external searches often spark more interest in your organization and the information and expertise you provide. Online publications must be optimized to help people find you.

Make the medium serve the message

Through animation, some online publications try to literally mimic the effect of a printed page being turned. This gimmick not only misses the point, but is not terribly helpful to the reader. Your web interface should focus on delivering content to your readers in a way that advances the story and increases understanding.

The success of your online efforts relies on your ability to adapt to the way people are viewing the written word. Devices like the iPhone and Amazon Kindle enable readers to interact with content in new ways. Recently, Wired magazine unveiled their vision for taking advantage of this new technology.

Each advance in technology requires an understanding of how people will interact with information — both what is possible and what is preferable. The question should not be: How do we make this more like a printed piece? But, how can we leverage the technology to create a more engaging experience for our readers?

Some examples of well-done online publications:

Bostonia (University of Boston Alumni Magazine)


Pepperdine Magazine

Think (The Magazine of Case Western Reserve University)

Related Content:

What Alumni Read (or Ignore)


Apple’s Bite: Publishers Should Beware the iPad


– Claire Napier and Dan Woychick

5 thoughts on “Rethinking Online Publications

  1. Pingback: Marketing Communications: It’s About Creating Engaging Moments « Building Marketing Strategies

  2. We’re pretty enthusiastic about using WordPress in applications like this — a lot of desirable functionality without creating a custom CMS. The CASE research reinforces your point: people won’t easily abandon print. As the technology, design and thinking behind online publications matures, it makes that switch more acceptable — maybe even preferable! – DW

  3. Excellent post. Couldn’t agree more. I especially like the idea of using a WordPress platform, such as Middlebury’s magazine. But it is going to take awhile for most readers of these magazines to abandon their printed copies. Your examples would certainly motivate me to do so.

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