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.