Tagged: rochester review

UMag inbox—The White Album

Hi there. Were you to look, you would note that this is the first post to UMagazinology since September 22. There is good reason for that. September 22 is also the date that my 90-year-old father, who lives by himself 500 miles away in Cincinnati, fell and broke his hip. A few days later, Johns Hopkins Magazine editor Catherine Pierre gave birth to her second child (welcome to the world, Baby Olive), which meant I became interim editor of the magazine. So, shuttling back and forth to Ohio, working to care for my pop, and taking the helm of the magazine have left me more than a little dazed and confused. To work in a gratuitous Led Zeppelin reference.

Meanwhile, all of you just kept churning out magazines, damn you, creating a dangerously canted stack of neglected issues on my desk. Really, you might have been more considerate.

A quick sift of those issues reveals that the autumn of 2011 may go down in the annals of alumni magazine publishing as The Time of the White Cover. You’ve got Auburn Magazine:

You’ve got Georgetown Law:

And Rochester Review:

Plus Smith Alumnae Quarterly:

A few words about those last two. First, Rochester. Around the friendly confines of Hopkins Magazine, we like to say, “Babies are cheating.” That is, putting an infant cutie on your cover is just way too easy. C’mon, where’s the challenge? On the other hand, just look at that kid. Hell, I want to hug the magazine, much less the child. But—and I’m looking at you, editor Scott Hauser—Rochester Review really did cheat by posting four alternate covers online. Totally shameless. I would never resort to such a ploy on, say, an alumni magazine blog.

Go ahead, click on the tykes to see larger cover images. I’ll wait. (The children, by the way, are fraternal twins Oliver and Clara Bender, age 11 months.)

Regarding Smith, editor John MacMillan’s latest offering shows off the magazine’s design overhaul. The most striking change is to the cover, as you can see (that’s the last of the old design, at right). The design of the inside pages opens them up with a bit more white space and some new type treatments, but is not a radical departure from what the magazine had been doing. MacMillan has had some out-of-town responsibilities in the last day or so and could not respond to questions about his magazine’s new look, but he can add comments next week, particularly about how budget cuts factored into the redesign.

WAIT, WAIT, THIS JUST IN!

My god, it has spread to Middlebury:

And more! Williams:

Rochester Review plays Pick Six

Two things photographic caught my attention when I paged through the May-June issue of Rochester Review. First was the magazine’s gallery of winners from its annual student Study Abroad Photo Contest, which revealed a lot of accomplished photographers among Rochester’s undergraduates. Even among the photos that did not win, I found one student after another who had a good eye but not, for now, the technical knowledge and craft to create a good picture.

The second photo that snagged my attention was Adam Fenster’s shot of writer Mark Peter Hughes, subject of the Review‘s cover story, “Paperback Writer,” written by Karen McCally. Hughes has scribbled three novels for teenagers, including one titled Lemonade Mouth that became a Disney Channel movie. Fenster’s feature portrait captures a good-humored Hughes with a lemon wedged in his mouth, and when I went to the magazine’s website to look for an image I could grab, I realized that Rochester Review has gone for multiple platforms in a big way. You can read McCally’s piece in any of six formats (click any image to make it grow):

Print . . .

On the website . . .

PDF . . .

Kindle/Nook/ebook . . .

iPad . . .

Smartphone . . .

Whew.

Editor Scott Hauser comments on all this platform promiscuity: “We haven’t found a technology that works quite as well as printed paper, but over the past few years, we’ve tried to think about the ways that we can use different technologies to make Review available, given how people would—and could—access the magazine.”

Design and production for all of these different platforms has stayed in-house, thanks to designer Steve Boerner’s tech savvy. The version for Kindle was the magazine’s first e-reader experiment. “The Kindle (and the Nook and the iBooks app for the iPhone) are not great for magazines. They’re designed for books with lots of running text. They probably could be better for magazines—and probably will be in the future—but as we’ve explored the technology behind them, we’ve found it limiting. So it’s a big tradeoff between convenience (you always have the Kindle or the Kindle app with you; you don’t have to be on the Internet to see the magazine) and experience (it can look kind of like a sixth-grader’s PowerPoint project). A skilled developer may be able to make their publications look much better, but our experience has been that the more design dependent you are, the less you will be happy with the result.”

Hauser acknowledges a currently unavoidable tradeoff between the magazine’s appearance and gains from new technology. “The printed version looks fantastic, but you can’t access it if you’re not holding it. The PDFs look great, but are often difficult to navigate if you’re not willing to go page-by-page. The website looks great, but it looks like a website, you have to be connected, and it doesn’t look as good on mobile devices. The mobile version of the website displays well on small screens, and that looks nice, but kind of utilitarian, and you have to be connected. The iPad version of the magazine looks great, includes multimedia, is accessible whether or not you’re online, but you have to have an iPad to use it.”

He concludes, “We began experimenting because we really thought that as a magazine that represented a major research university, we should try to be innovative in what we do and how we do it. We knew the magazine was generally well thought of (based on our CASE surveys) and that people preferred the printed magazine to the online version. But our goal has been to try to meet people where they increasingly say they want to be—mobile, readily accessible (but also downloadable)—and to provide them with a great experience of the magazine. A few years ago, that was e-books. Now, it’s the iPad and new tablets.

“One thing we haven’t done well, but hope to improve this summer is making Review easier to tweet, and making it easier to ‘like’ us on Facebook. If I were starting today, we’d put more of our effort into social media, then we’d work on the iPad app, then mobile Web. We’d probably do the Kindle last. But it’s important for university magazines like Review to be in ‘the electronic space,’ as the marketers would say, because it underscores that we’re trying to think about what works well for the people who read the magazines. And, finally, as someone who oversees the design and production of a magazine, I’ve been intrigued to see how willing people are to trade accessibility, portability, and the ability to share information for design. People want to be able to get the magazine the way they want to get it and they want to share their experience of it. They want to be able to put it on their Kindles, or tweet a link, share something on Facebook. And that’s not all bad, even though it means we have to think differently about how we do things.”