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Winter brings changes Alumni, University Magazine

With publication of the spring 2009 issue, RIT: The University Magazine marked its 10th anniversary.

That makes us a pretty new player. By comparison, MIT launched Technology Review in 1888. Still, RIT was part of a trend. According to Oxbridge Communications, 306 college magazines were introduced between 1993 and 2003—a 43 percent increase.

Still, 10 years is a long time. Although the magazine has evolved over the years (see for yourself by checking out past issues online), the anniversary prompted serious consideration of refreshing the print publication—both the content and the look.

First, though, we consulted readers. A printed survey went out to 1,200 people randomly selected from the 105,000 who receive the magazine. We also conducted an online survey open to members of the RIT campus community, who all receive the magazine. (If you don’t—and you’d like to—let me know.)

Preparing the survey fell to me, and I had no illusions that this would be a simple task. I consulted a number of resources, including other university magazine editors (there’s a terrific support group) and  Bruce Austin, professor and chair of RIT’s Department of Communication and a recognized expert in this field.

And after substantial work, the questionnaire went out.

I was sadly disappointed by the response rates. Fewer than 5 percent of recipients of the mailed survey returned questionnaires, and only 3 percent of the campus community completed the online survey.

At about the same time that the magazine survey went out, RIT’s Office of Alumni Relations was working with Performance Enhancement Group of Houston on a broad-based Alumni Attitude Survey. A number of questions directly related to RIT: The University Magazine were included. That survey, e-mailed to 35,000 recipients, resulted in a 9 percent response rate. So we gathered a bit more information.

Our survey was inconclusive at best, but some general observations are worth noting:

• Most respondents read at least some of the magazine, and many say they read it quite thoroughly. Likewise, slightly less than 90 percent of the alumni survey respondents said they either “read some” or “read most” of the magazine.

• A majority of respondents to both surveys have a favorable opinion of the magazine and believe that it portrays the university accurately and keeps them informed about and connected to RIT.

• By a wide margin, readers indicated that they prefer the printed magazine to the online version, and this was consistent with results of the e-mail Alumni Attitude Survey.

I wish we had more information from readers. That would make our job easier. But we are going ahead with changes intended to refresh and energize the publication.

Some are included in the Winter 2009-10 issue, which will be mailed next week. Let me know if you notice anything different—and if you like what you see.

We have more new features in the works for the Spring 2010 issue. Meanwhile, we’re open to your suggestions. Please send any good ideas my way.

  1. Bob Finnerty
    Nov 19

    One area that I found interesting in the surveys, and I've seen other evidence of this as well, is that our readers don't really care that much for sports news (at least not in the magazine). Our athletics Web site is fantastic and has lot’s of traffic: www.ritathletics.com. And Division I hockey is certainly bringing excitement to the campus—7,500 fans came downtown to watch the Tigers during Brick City Homecoming.

    That said, RIT is not a sports-centric school, say like Ohio State. There's nothing wrong with that. After all, this is the same campus that can draw 25,000+ to an event like Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. And at the end of the day, showcasing ingenuity and intellect is more important than sports (even though I am a huge sports fan). And our readers seem to agree.

  2. Gretchen
    Nov 19

    I strongly disagree regarding the inclusion of sports information. I think it’s a great way to keep the RIT community aware of athletic events and results, particularly because we're not a sports-centric school. The casual RIT sports fan (and non-fan) likely won’t frequent the ritathletics.com Web site.

    It’s time we embrace RIT as a complete university, not just a technical school.

  3. Mike Saffran
    Nov 19

    I’m sure I speak for Bob when I say we agree with you, in principle, Gretchen—which is why we include RIT sports news almost daily in News & Events Daily (including daily scores and links to stories on the athletics Web site), along with occasional features in our newest publication, Athenaeum, and the alumni magazine. However, we do so despite survey results. Bob is correct on this point. In my 10 years with University News (anniversary this Sunday), results to every reader survey that we have conducted tend to show generally low interest in sports coverage. In an extensive News & Events survey conducted last year (see more here), “less sports coverage” received the third highest number of responses (among nine choices) pertaining to the statement, “Indicate the type of content you want to see less of.”

    That said, I would not be surprised if—divided into distinct sports—readers expressed very different attitudes specifically about hockey. RIT is a “hockey school,” after all—which, I think, is very cool!

  4. David Page
    Nov 19

    I know it is expensive to produce such a fine quality publication but please try to keep up the tradition of timely information beautifully presented. It is the only source of knowledge about our dynamic University that many receive. Congrats. on your 10 Anniv. of publishing excellence.


    The Tiger says "ROAR - It is good for your stripes."

  5. Karen
    Nov 25

    A comment about getting survey responses: You should check some of the research in this area, on how to get a good response. Actually 5% response rate where you are not strongly connected with your audience is not bad. Your survey was way too long. Incentives also work (prizes for first x # of participants). Anyway, I enjoy reading the magazine.

  6. Mary Johnson
    Dec 04

    John Geraci of Crux Research is located right here in Honeoye Falls
    and is a leading expert in conducting surveys and research. If you want to conduct any type of research I would contact him at www.cruxresearch.com

  7. Bobby
    Dec 11

    If you build it they will come. Make your copy interesting and the numbers of readers will spike. It only takes one good journalist/editor to really make a college magazine.

  8. carol skinger
    Mar 30

    I like the article in Spring 2010 "Handcrafting the Future: School of American Crafts moves into state-of-the-art- studios. Is there a way to share individual stories from the mag online? You have to stay with print but there should also be electronic sharing option on stories. Maybe there is. I haven't found it. I don't fill out surveys as a rule myself.

  9. Kathy Lindsley
    Mar 30

    Hi Carol --
    The spring 2010 magazine is posted online at www.rit.edu/news/umag/spring2010. You can find all of the past issues as well.

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