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Should You Have a Print or Digital Alumni Magazine?

Integrate both formats to create a richer experience

December 11, 2019

Do you have an alumni magazine? If not, you may be missing out on a winning way to get in front of your alumni every month, kindle fond memories of their experiences at your university, and attract more high-value donations.

But whether or not you publish an alumni magazine is only part of the question these days. Even if a university says “yes,” they’re now asking themselves: “Digital or Print”?

Digital vs. Print Alumni Magazine

Producing a digital magazine is cheaper than printing and mailing physical magazines, even if you invest in a dedicated app for your publication. Another benefit is that digital magazines are always as close as the nearest smartphone, laptop, or tablet.

On the other side, older alumni are more likely to appreciate a print magazine, according to the American Press Institute. The report says, “Adults age 65 and older who pay for news are five times more likely to buy print than digital (72 percent vs. 14 percent).”

The numbers prove this: The median age of a subscriber to Yale Alumni Magazine¹ is 50, Princeton Alumni Magazine’s² average subscriber is 51, and for Cal Alumni Magazine³, it’s 49.

Furthermore, digital magazines don’t have the “coffee table panache” that print does. An alumni magazine is more than a vehicle for information about the university and its graduates—it is also a social signifier. When alumni display your magazine in their homes, it provides a conversation-starter and sends social signals about the alumni’s intelligence.

The best course of action may be to have one foot in both camps. “Like with everything else, the right combination of print and digital is the key,” says Mary Monigan, an advancement editorial associate with Skidmore, in an article by Capstone Communications. “What balance is right for your constituency?”

Going with both print and digital might involve reducing the number of issues of the print magazine without totally eliminating it, or dropping the print magazine but offering a smaller printed piece instead.

For example, Skidmore stopped publishing its thrice-yearly magazine in favor of an app but continues to print a Class Notes publication for alumni who graduated before 1970. “They’re loyal, they’re engaged, and they’re still sending news to their class secretaries,” Monigan says. Other universities have dropped only certain issues of their print publication, such as the summer issue, but send a monthly email newsletter to supplement the print format.

Tech Improves Magazines—And Spurs Donations

Print and digital magazines each have their advantages, and the right technology can integrate the two formats and create a richer experience for your alumni. Here’s how.

Repurpose Digital Content

Alumni magazines need content from alumni. Social media platforms are an invaluable source of user-generated content that universities can repurpose for a print or digital magazine.

However, even if you have the resources to monitor all your alumni’s social media feeds, you won’t gain much of interest from a 280-character tweet or a quick Facebook post. The good news is that some digital platforms, such as CueBack, encourage long-form content like alumni memories, career advice, and life advice across alumni generations—perfect additions to both print and digital publications.

Evoke Nostalgia—Digitally

Many alumni enjoy thinking about past experiences and successes, which makes it important to create a nostalgic experience in your alumni magazine. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research reports that “[consumers] showed an increased willingness to give more money (but not time) to others after recalling, reflecting, or writing about a nostalgic past life event.” This means that if the articles and images in your alumni magazine evoke pleasant memories, they can encourage more donations.

It’s easy to evoke nostalgia in a print magazine: Everything from the feel of the cover to the smell of the ink helps transport readers to the past. But what about in a digital alumni magazine? An article from Canva explains how to evoke nostalgia in readers—and many of the tips, such as using vintage fonts and wistful photos, work just as well for digital media as they do for print.


Tap Into Your Archives

Your archives are a rich source of documents and photos that would make valuable additions to a digital alumni magazine. But alumni will never be able to see them if they’re hidden away in your library.

Solutions like CueBack let you easily integrate your digital archives so alumni all over the world can access and interact with them any time they want. Alumni can offer personal anecdotes about cherished university traditions, tag their old friends in photos, and insert depth and emotion into your archival material. These stories and photos, in turn, can be used in your print and online alumni magazines.


Point the Way

Print and online alumni magazines don’t need to be kept separate. A print magazine can point alumni to the university’s digital archives, your magazine app for convenient reading on the go, or a website with additional information like class notes.

At the same time, a digital magazine can link to those archives or supplementary websites, an email newsletter might solicit alumni letters for the print magazine, and your university’s alumni social platform can link to the online publication (and vice versa).

If you integrate the online and offline, you’ll benefit from more touchpoints with your alumni—and your alumni will benefit from even more nostalgia-evoking content from your university.

Use AI to Increase Funding

Are you ready to boost the value and effectiveness of your print or digital alumni magazines? Contact us for a demo of CueBack—the only personalized engagement platform that leverages academic research and modern technology to deliver relevant and meaningful content to each alum. Learn how our cutting-edge AI technology can help your fundraising efforts by providing you with deep insights into prospective donors.

Additional Sources

1. "Advertise in the Yale Alumni Magazine," Yale Alumni Magazine,

2. "Media Kit," Princeton Alumni Weekly,

3. "Engagement Opportunities in California Magazine," Cal Alumni Association,

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