Print Internal Audience Magazines: York University - Silver Medal

Category 22B: Print Internal Audience Magazines
York University, YorkU

Contact: Berton Woodward, director, publications, West Office Building, 4700 Keele St., Toronto, ON M3J 1P3 Phone: (416) 736-5058, e-mail:

Since inception in 1959, York University has become the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada. It offers a modern, academic experience at the undergraduate and graduate level in Toronto, Canada’s most international city. The third largest university in Canada, York is host to an academic community of 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff. Its 10 Faculties and 24 research centres conduct ambitious, groundbreaking research that is interdisciplinary, cutting across traditional academic boundaries.

YorkU magazine: YorkU began publishing in 2003, replacing publications that were circulated separately to external and campus audiences. Designed as a magazine for the full York community, it is published five times annually, bi-monthly through the academic year. All issues circulate on York’s campus (free on newsstands for students, and delivered to faculty and staff), and three of the five are also sent to alumni, donors, and parents. The two campus-only issues are distributed in November and March (carrying cover dates of December and April), with circulation of 15,000+. (Alumni issues are sent out in September, January and May.) Design is the same for both editions. The average page count is 44.

The entry: Included are the two campus-only issues produced and distributed in 2006 and aimed at our internal audience. They are cover-dated April 2006 and December 2006.

Goals and objectives: YorkU represents a major departure from previous alumni and university publications at York. From the start, the plan was to invest sufficient resources to allow high production standards, using top photographers and nationally-known guest writers. The magazine was designed to be picked up and read – by all members of the York community: alumni, students, donors, faculty, staff, and influential members of the community. If people read through and enjoyed the magazine, we believed, this would further the fundamental goals of showcasing the university, enhancing its reputation in the community, deepening the affinity with York among all its readers, and providing a platform for fundraising activity.

In a departure from the practice at many universities, students were among the key targets for the magazine: at least 10,000 copies of every issue are distributed at campus racks. The magazine’s style, therefore, was designed to be lively and youthful. It is also delivered direct to faculty and staff.

The two issues in this entry demonstrate how flexible the format is. Both issues feature students on the cover, and faculty and staff are also featured inside, along with inspiring alumni stories. The emphasis therefore changes somewhat from an alumni edition, but there is full continuity in design and style. The central idea is that students read YorkU on campus while attending, then continue to get the same familiar magazine when they leave, increasing their affinity with the university.

The December 2006 cover story is an excellent example of how well this approach works. It is an annual feature listing the top student in each undergraduate faculty at the end of second year. This has become a highly popular feature for our internal audience, but of course is not one we would target for an alumni issue. Thus we maintain the continuity and consistency of quality of the magazine, while being able to speak to our different audiences at different times.

In content, the magazine supports York’s branding, summed up in the university’s tagline “Redefine the Possible”. Due to the legendary flexibility of York’s academic programs, people often come to the university planning to study one subject and leave with a degree in something completely different. Or they combine studies in unusual ways. An allied York strength is an approach to research that is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary. YorkU stories tend to reflect these qualities implicitly, without browbeating the reader, once the first test for a subject is passed: is it genuinely interesting to our audience? Even someone who didn’t go to York should be sufficiently intrigued to read the story.

Another note on content: the magazine deliberately keeps stories relatively short – about 800 words for most, 1,300 for a cover. This has been the source of considerable praise. We are competing for the attention spans of people with many, many things to read, so the traditional long-form story just goes unread in our view. This way, we engage readers and successfully get the York message across.

Response: The magazine has proved highly popular. On campus, it consistently flies off the racks. Return reports show virtually none left from each edition. Students commonly send messages of praise, and many want to work for us. Faculty and staff are also highly supportive.

A readership survey in 2003 showed these responses:

  • 78 percent agreed that YorkU provides interesting information and is enjoyable to read
  • 74 percent read more than 50 percent of the magazine
  • 74 percent looked forward to the next issue

Staff: Four people in the publications section of York’s communications division spend a large proportion of their time on the magazine. Three others contribute at peak times. In person-hour terms, the equivalent is between four and five full-time staff.

Budget: All figures converted to US dollars. Excludes postage and salaries.

Total annual budget: US$257,000 (includes alumni editions)

Single campus issue: $28,000, as follows:

  • Printing/labeling/pre-press: $17,000
  • Photography: $10,000
  • Freelance text: $1,000

The magazine is printed in four colours on coated stock.