Web-Based or Electronic HTML Internal Audience Periodicals: York University - Silver Medal

Category 22C: Web-Based or Electronic HTML Internal Audience Periodicals
York University, Ylife (

Contact: Berton Woodward, director, publications, 108 West Office Building, 4700 Keele St.,Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Phone: (416) 736-5058, e-mail:

York University: 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.

The entry: Ylife was started by the publications unit of York’s marketing and communications division in August, 2005, to better communicate the university’s key messages to students. Ylife is available on the Web at, changing every Monday. Viewers are invited to subscribe to a weekly e-mail highlighting top stories and features in the issue. This e-mail is also posted to all 50,000 student addresses on a campus system called Notebox, which students access to find information about their studies, such as exam results and the like. There are also links to Ylife posted on all major university Web pages used by students, and on the university’s internal homepage.

Content is heavily based on stories written by the publications unit for YFile, York’s daily electronic publication sent to the e-mail inboxes of all faculty and administrative staff. The names are deliberately similar to create a sense of unity among the publications. But the selection and ordering of stories in Ylife is oriented entirely to students, and as a weekly Ylife publishes only a targeted fraction of YFile’s daily output.

Lead topics in Ylife can include everything from orientation-week festivals to student achievements to faculty research discoveries. Other stories cover the range of university life, including around-campus information (such as a major storm-induced road closure), exceptional students, faculty honours, alumni achievements, and coverage of selected events. In addition, there is a weekly listing of upcoming events on campus, a comprehensive summary of media references to York (with emphasis on students or student issues in the news), and a direct link to York’s sports news site.

To see the current front page, please go to To see the archive of past issues, please go to and select a date. You can also click Archive on the left-hand navigation of any story page.

Goals and objectives: Ylife is designed to be immediate, friendly, and attractive, while conveying key university messages to the student community. It makes strong use of photos to keep the feel of the design lively. Its key goals are to keep students informed and to promote a positive image of the university to the student body. The student newspaper and campus activists often take a dark view of the university and its administration, so Ylife adds balance to the mix of information reaching students.

It has been our observation that many universities make little attempt to communicate journalistically with their students. York is very keen to change this. In conjunction with the university magazine, YorkU, which is distributed to students via newsstands as well as to alumni and other recipients, Ylife enhances the student experience and builds loyalty to the university. This is no small feat at a very large university where students mainly commute to campus.

Ylife, like its partner YFile, also supports York’s branding, summed up in the tagline “Redefine the Possible”. The York logo and colours are incorporated in the design, and wherever possible, story selection supports key York messages. These include 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. Yfile stories often reflect this highly interdisciplinary approach. They also support the university’s push to expand its research component, by highlighting major research breakthroughs, honours to researchers and major grant awards. And overall, Ylife tries to give a sense to students that York is a great place to be at this stage of their lives – enriching in its academics and enjoyable in its events and opportunities.

Response: Ylife is still a relatively new publication, with a voluntary audience. But visits are snowballing, now reaching 3,000 unique visitors and 5,000 page views per week according to university server statistics. Subscribers to the weekly e-mail teaser (essentially a reminder to check out the new issue) are over 600 and still rising; the number need not be high because many students see the same e-mail in their Notebox system. Currently, the Marketing & Communications Division is mounting an internal advertising campaign to expand awareness even further.

Anecdotally, response has been very positive. Students regularly correspond with the editors via the Contact Us function, suggesting stories and praising content.

Staff and budget: Ylife is put together each week by David Fuller, who also created the initial design structure. The design was developed by Cindy Wilce and Berton Woodward. Stories, primarily originating in YFile, are written by Jenny Pitt-Clark, David Fuller and Martha Tancock. The “What’s On at York” section features work by Marie Kopf. All these people work in the publications unit of York’s marketing and communications division. Publications director Berton Woodward oversees the group and does a final edit of Ylife each week.

As an electronic publication, Ylife does not incur costs beyond salaries and central university server storage. All staff work on other publications as well. All photos are either handouts or taken by staff.