It will not take you long to realize that there is a point of view here. That point of view derives from some deeply held beliefs about magazines in general, university magazines in particular. Those beliefs can be laid out in a simple, four-point argument, sort of a mathematical proof for publications like ours:

1. The only people required to read our magazines are our life partners, and half of them duck out on us. For everyone else, reading a university magazine is voluntary.
2. If your magazine is not being read, then every dollar that your school pours into it might as well be poured down a storm drain.
3. What do people read? People read stories. Engaging, compelling, deeply reported, well-crafted stories. True stories.
4. Ergo, if you want people to read your magazine, and thus not waste your school’s money, you need to tell great true stories, real stories that have narrative drive and vivid actors and meaningful knowledge, all conveyed with a storyteller’s verve.

As I was taught to say at the end of a proper geometry proof, Quod erat demonstratum.

There will never be a shortage of senior administrators, deans, development communications VPs, alumni association directors, and public affairs professionals steadfast in their belief that the graduates of your academy will shove aside The New Yorker, the sports page, the laptop, and the remote in order to read the status of the latest capital campaign, news from the Muskegon alumni chapter, six superficial profiles of earnest undergraduates who are passionate about giving back to the community, and The Dean’s Message. But the truth is, almost nobody reads that stuff. It’s boring, it insults our readers’ intelligence, and it can’t possibly compete with a new episode of Lost.

The media landscape grows ever more complicated and ever more Babelesque. If you don’t give your readers what they can’t find somewhere else, the most you can expect is that they’ll give your pages a glance before tossing them in the recycling bin.

The UMagazinology credo in five words: Be read or don’t bother.

Great motto. How does the Williams Alumni Review stack up according to these criteria? I certainly read and enjoy many of the article (and not just this one), but I am nuts on many dimensions. Do you read the Alumni Review? Note that its new on-line reader thingy is just as pathetic now as it was 4 months ago.

Print  •  Email