When the coronavirus pandemic hit, spring and summer magazine issues at colleges across the country spiraled out of control, provoking all kinds of questions.

Are our planned stories still relevant? Can we even afford postage right now?

And most important: How can we change course and adapt content for the online issue we’ve said we always needed (but never really got around to)?

The message was loud and clear at this year’s virtual CASE Editors Forum: now more than ever, magazines need a strong digital presence, especially as budgets shrivel.

If you’re like Matt Jennings at Middlebury College — who presented at CASE on how he and his team launched a digital magazine as the pandemic unfolded all on their own — your magazine is on the right track.

But if your institution doesn’t have the right inhouse talent mix or resources to pull that off, consider this smart move: Skip an issue.

Then redirect the money — and time — you save to give your magazine a digital life or facelift.

Will readers revolt? Not if you tell them that a new and improved magazine is a deliberate decision. Build the anticipation with your readers while you take the time to do things right.

Will your bosses say no? Probably not. They’ll support the goal of making the magazine more strategic and extending its reach. And they’ll love that this project can be tackled without a lot of “additional” cost.

The “skip one” solution in action: TCU Magazine and website redesign

The “skip one” solution enabled TCU Magazine to revamp both the print and web magazines simultaneously — and to partner with Zehno at every stage — from strategic recommendations to page design to website implementation.

And the results? A new approach to editorial planning that is brand-driven but not brand-stifled. Deeper “academic quality” content to compete with the school’s peer set. Departments freshened up with newsstand-ready creativity. Bold design that strategically aligns with the university identity. Targeted, career-centric articles for the under-40 crowd, TCU’s biggest readership segment.

Not only is the new website reorganized and responsive, it’s also easier in every sense: easier to read, easier to edit, easier to add multimedia, easier to share. Social media traffic to the magazine website has grown by leaps and bounds — a 63-percent spike in traffic the first year — as readers discover and share the website’s colorful features, well-read blogs, and online extras such as podcasts.

By monitoring its analytics carefully, the TCU Magazine team can now predict which stories will perform best in each social media channel and create “longtail” content that will remain popular year after year. Learn how to look for your longtails.

How Zehno can help you get started

First, let’s determine the scale of your digital version — based on your resources and staff.

We’ll help you think through how to extend the life of your stories and how your magazine content fits with your overall brand and interacts with things like admissions or news.

From content consulting to building digital magazines, we can do it all. Let’s talk.

Learn more

Check out Zehno’s magazine strategy white paper Magazine on a Mission.