NATHAN MAY says UCLA’s alumni magazine is gaining more attention thanks to its effective use of Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.

Feb 10 2014

Alumni Pubs Go Digital, Mobile and Interactive

Adobe Digital Publishing Suite eases transition from print to digital.

Two University of California, Los Angeles business school students nervously wait for their turn to jump off a platform and ­navigate a treacherous ropes course, all in the name of team building. While the scene may evince chills, words don't do it justice — and that's the point.

The video is part of a digital feature article published in ­Assets ­Digital, the revamped alumni ­magazine of UCLA Anderson School of ­Management. The interactive title, which uses Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) to produce its stunning effects, already has won award recognition. Nathan May, director of digital communications for UCLA's Anderson School of Management, says the publication is gaining more attention thanks to its "all-in" ­approach to digitization.

"We embraced it completely as a way to provide more effective storytelling and keep up with the inevitable trend toward digitization, generally," he says.

That journey began in 2012, when Anderson's marketing team, alumni and dean took a hard look at their print publication, of which more than 30,000 copies were ­produced three times a year. Not only were printing and postage becoming cost-prohibitive, but also it was ­impossible to fully gauge how the magazine was being received, whether alumni were reading it, and what features most captured their attention. The team concluded that the best way to reduce costs, improve content and better measure readership was to go digital.

"We embraced it completely as a way to provide more effective storytelling and keep up with the inevitable trend toward digitization."

After evaluating several digital publishing products, the choice to go with Adobe DPS seemed clear. The department was already using Adobe InDesign desktop publishing software to create its print version, which would reduce the learning curve for DPS. It also enabled a host of interactive features the publication's editors were anxious to include, particularly the ability to integrate real-time social media feeds and event calendars; original video, photography and animated illustrations; and the ability for readers to interact with articles, view photo galleries and listen to interviews.

Digital Engagement Is Key (and Measurable)

At the University of Connecticut, the editors of UConn Magazine were also looking for those features when deciding how to upgrade their own alumni publication. Although the print publication was available to readers as a static PDF online, that wasn't cutting it when it came to ­interactivity or gauging alumni reach.

"We looked at a lot of different university magazine apps as well as consumer magazines like National ­Geographic and Wired Magazine, and we really liked the engaging, enhanced versions that go way beyond what you can do with print," UConn Magazine Editor Stefanie Dion Jones says.

UConn's team also settled on Adobe DPS, due primarily to its rich set of capabilities and integration with InDesign. While the team is still experimenting with all of the new possibilities, it already is producing some impressive work: A recent ­issue features a 360-degree view of a new area of campus, along with an interactive map. Other issues have featured animated covers. And ­readers now have the ability to submit information for class notes, such as the birth of a child or a new job, directly from their tablets.

"You can deliver much more than you can in print because there are no space limits," she says. "We're just scratching the surface of what we can do."

<34 Readers younger than 34 prefer online alumni magazines to print.

SOURCE: CASE Member Magazine Readership Survey (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, 2013)

Moving Toward Mobile

When Michael Schinelli sought to improve the University of North Carolina's business school alumni publication, he viewed it through a marketing lens. As chief marketing officer for UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, Schinelli envisioned a more engaging, interactive and mobile-based content platform that could relay key measures from its audience.

For all of that and more, Adobe DPS fit the bill, Schinelli says, ­enabling the publication to offer the interactivity Schinelli sought while also providing several metrics that marketers and alumni officers can use to further assess their product's value. In the case of UNC Business, available metrics now show that the app is being launched five or six times per download, and its class notes section consistently is the most popular, Schinelli says.

"By knowing what people are reading, and what actions they are taking, we can use our money more effectively, which allows us to spend money on other strategic areas that need attention," he says.

Schinelli says production costs have been reduced dramatically since the move to the digital format: He estimates that eliminating the twice yearly, 32,000-issue press run as well as postage has reduced costs by at least 50 percent.

Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

The new digital publications ­produced by the alumni offices are proving such a hit on their campuses that other publications are now following suit. At UCLA, the main campus alumni group is now producing its first digital edition using the Adobe DPS platform. Six other groups at UNC, including the law school and athletics department, are doing the same.

"It's about being interactive and engaging in ways that tell the story better," UCLA's May says. "Everybody appreciates that."

Two Versions, Built to Suit

For all but the smallest organizations, Adobe offers two options for licensing its hosted Digital Publishing Solution: the Professional edition, aimed at midsized organizations; and the Enterprise edition, for larger organizations that want a more customized solution. Those editions translate fairly easily to the world of higher education.

For institutions planning on using DPS for just one or two publications, the Professional edition makes sense. Those that plan to adopt DPS widely across many divisions would benefit from the Enterprise edition, which also offers more opportunities for customization.

Users can customize the content viewer user interface, for example, and drive merchandise purchases through a customizable HTML store. This version also allows organizations to create customized push notifications and receive high-volume discounts.

<p>Karen Ballard</p>

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