AAU’s A/JOURNAL at the Vanguard of University Trends

Guest blog from Mark Walter at MEI

Recently, the Academy of Art University (AAU) in San Francisco published its first Adobe Digital Publishing Suite app: the Spring 2012 issue of A/JOURNAL, the school’s quarterly alumni magazine. The digital publication illustrates two trends we’ve seen recently among our university customers.

First, the funding for Digital Publishing Suite and the return on investment come from the projected savings that result from migrating the print magazine to digital. In Academy of Art University’s case, because its alumni base spans the globe, the printing expenses — and especially the mailing costs — for sending the magazine out are substantial. But another factor in the print production and distribution is the use of A/JOURNAL as a tool for recruiting prospective students. The costs of mailing the full-color magazine to each prospect can add up; however, if a substantial fraction of these can be converted to digital, the Digital Publishing Suite investment will not only pay for itself but save the university significant costs.

Second, in creating a tablet-specific version of A/JOURNAL, Academy of Art University has amplified the magazine’s effectiveness as a recruiting tool, increasing the value of alumni outreach as a complement to materials created by the Admissions department.

Consider the “Out There” section of the issue shown below. In print, this page simply shows headshots and brief profiles of the alumni. The ability to showcase their work is hindered by the medium: the space limitations of the page, and the fact that videos and animations can’t be used in print. By contrast, the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite version features slideshows or videos for each artist that showcase a portfolio or relevant project. Additionally, an in-app Google map shows where the artists are based, and links take the reader to a store or gallery for browsing or even buying their work. Clearly, this digital experience is much more immersive than reading the print magazine. The interactive elements invite the reader to further explore alumni of interest — and once the exploration begins, it’s easy to stay engaged and discover the incredible examples of contemporary design and artistry created by Academy of Art University graduates.

Caption: The “Out There” section of each issue of AAU’s A/JOURNAL highlights recent work of alumni. The iPad edition shown here includes videos or slide shows, depending on the alumni’s field of work, and also includes links to the alumni’s store, gallery or online portfolio.

After exploring this issue, it’s easy to understand the recent data suggesting that readers are spending more time with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite versions of magazines than their Web or even print counterparts. Done well, the tablet version provides an immersive reading experience that lures the reader to stay and explore in more depth.

We’re seeing other cost-conscious schools starting to adopt Adobe Digital Publishing Suite as their tool of choice for creating compelling digital editions that entice the alumni audience to switch from a print to digital subscription. A/JOURNAL is at the vanguard of the next wave — using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create university apps that span multiple departments and fill multiple roles. Linking alumni publications to admissions/athletics recruiting is but one example of blended apps that show great potential. I suspect we’ll see many more examples as universities leverage Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to redefine their outreach communications for mobile devices.

Download the A/JOURNAL app from the iTunes Store.

–Mark Walter is Worldwide Strategic Solutions Director at MEI, a gold-level reseller of Digital Publishing Suite. MEI provided creative, production and training assistance to AAU to assist with the launch of A/JOURNAL on the iPad in June 2012.  Contact Mark at mwalter@maned.com.