Web-Based or Electronic HTML External Audience Tabloids and Newsletters: Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Gold Medal

Category 21B: Web-Based or Electronic HTML External Audience Tabloids and Newsletters
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Quick Take

Contact: Amy Marcott, Web writer/editor, Communications, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Building W59-200, Cambridge, MA 02139, Phone: (617) 324-0106, e-mail:

Executive Summary: Quick Take, an online publication created to satisfy alumni requests for a concise distillation of MIT happenings and more pop culture coverage, has exceeded our expectations in its first three issues. Collectively, they have received more than 22,000 hits to date and, taken together, are the fourth most popular content pages overall for the alumni association. Readers spend an average of four and a half minutes on the page, giving them ample time to consume the content. All future issues have been promised a coveted MIT homepage spotlight, which significantly increases traffic to the page.

Issues to Date:
Mystery, February/March 2007

Modern Geekhood, December 2006/January 2007

Stress, October/November 2006

Planning and Objectives: We developed Quick Take as a response to alumni feedback calling for a fast, easy way to learn what's happening on campus and also for more emphasis on pop culture. Our goals for the piece:

  • Provide a one-page, scannable snapshot of MIT community interests and activities.
  • Explore topics in a fresh way, including multiple takes on a topic. The issue on stress, for example, is not just about emotional stress but includes information about linguistic and engineering stresses as well.
  • Convey the MIT personality in each issue: brilliant but quirky, intellectual but irreverent.
  • Secure MIT homepage spotlights and thereby promote the alumni association.

Design choices:

  • Quick Take needed be clean, one page, and scannable, with a mix of academic, fun, and useful content.
  • Readers would be drawn in with one or two large photos instead of numerous small, ineffectual ones.
  • The design had to be modular with up to seven different, easily distinguishable sections, the max we will ever use.
  • The logo treatment needed to be simple and convey Quick Take's purpose, which is evident in the tagline "Life, Work, and MIT."

The design we ultimately chose was clean and inviting and allowed the content to take center stage. We wanted to have multiple sections in the initial screen view, and we generally have four different headings and two pictures visible. The design is flexible—we can have as many as seven sections and as few as two (plus picture), but it also compels us to write short, intriguing snatches of text that allow readers access to the world of MIT.

Audience: First and foremost our audience is MIT alumni, but Quick Take is created with the entire MIT community in mind (alumni, students, faculty, staff, and parents). It's also accessible to the general public who often happen upon our pages through Google searches and from promotions on the MIT homepage.

Staffing: One writer and one editor from the communications team

Frequency: Bimonthly

Annual Budget: We hired an outside designer to create the template and logo. The final cost was $1,550. All subsequent work is done in house, and the only cost associated is stock photography for each issue, which this year will amount to $15-$20. Given stock photography costs, the maximum this would ever be is $120.

Plan for evaluating effectiveness: We track Web usage through Hitbox and can see how popular the page is for any given period of time. We also keep track of when the page has been promoted on the MIT homepage or through an email newsletter sent to all alumni so we can evaluate spikes in activity.

Response/results: The response to Quick Take has exceeded our expectations, and it has received a lot of buzz.

  • Since its inception, issues of Quick Take have collectively received more than 22,000 hits and taken together are the fourth most popular alumni association content pages overall.
  • The average time spent on a Quick Take page is nearly four and a half minutes, which suggests sustained reading.
  • Already more than 100 new subscribers have joined the notification e-mail list (we began with an existing list of more than 1,600) to know when new issues are published.
  • Each issue has been featured on the MIT homepage, an honor which significantly increases traffic to our site and serves to promote the alumni association, and we've been promised a spotlight for all future issues.

Impact of receiving MIT homepage spotlights:
Stress (issue 1) - 4,784 hits overall: From a daily high of 452 hits after an e-mail newsletter sent to all alumni in which Quick Take was promoted to a spike of 1,083 the day it appeared as a news link on the MIT homepage. (There are two ways to be promoted on the MIT homepage: either as a news link or as the spotlight. See the MIT homepage for the distinction:

Modern Geekhood (issue 2), 15,396 hits overall: Daily hits spiked to 5,842 and 5,930 the days it appeared as the MIT homepage spotlight, up from a daily high of 569 after an email newsletter sent to all alumni in which Quick Take was promoted.

Mystery (issue 3), Results still pending: As of this writing, this issue of Quick Take is slated to be promoted on the MIT homepage in March, which will significantly boost its hits and allow comparison with the previous issues.

There is no print version of Quick Take.