Tabloid and Newsletter Publishing Improvement: Imperial College London - Gold Award

Category 23B: Tabloid and Newsletter Publishing Improvement
Imperial College London, Reporter

Contact: Saskia Daniel, managing editor, Communications Division, Level 4 Faculty Building, South Kensington Campus, London, United Kingdom SW7 2AZ, e-mail:

Old Format: To communicate with the college community across four campuses (one of which is outside of London)

New Format: To communicate with the enlarged college community across seven campuses within London and two outside London, and encourage a sense of community amongst these physically disparate constituencies.

  • To provide hard news from the college.
  • To focus on the community, e.g. regular columns such as “Working Towards Good Health” about occupational health; a weekly volunteering section that advertises opportunities to volunteer in the wider community outside the college, and regular staff information about joiners and leavers.
  • To provide staff with ‘news you can use’ by making Reporter a useful source of information that is useful to all staff, including those without regular computer access, such as cleaners and building maintenance teams, e.g. featured items have included the new law on age discrimination, which affect people’s retirement age and staff recruitment procedures; and a scheme to purchase bicycles at a large discount via the government’s Cycle2Work scheme, which is administered at the college by its Occupational Health Department.
  • To feature college projects and initiatives that will affect people’s working lives, e.g. at proposal for an academic health sciences centre.

Old Format: Full-time editor; Layout and production – one full-time employee two days per issue. Sub-editor and proof reader; one member of communications staff; editor in chief, deputy head of communications

New Format: Full-time editor; Layout and production – one full-time employee three days per issue. Sub editor and proof reader, managing editor; editor in chief, director of communications

Old Format: Every three weeks during term – 12 issues a year

New Format: Every three weeks during term and two issues during summer vacation – 14 issues a year

Average pages per issue:
Old Format: four

New Format: Out of six new issues to date, we have printed two 12 page and four 16 page editions.

Old Format: 5,500 copies

New Format: 6,000

Total annual budget/unit cost:
Old Format: £21,000/£1,744

New Format: £29,000/£2,053

Response and/or results:
Old Format:

  • Reporter was seen as the ‘mouthpiece’ of the college administration.
  • Contained a large proportion of recycled press releases rather than fresh reporting and features.
  • Was perceived as dull and not of much interest to people outside the academic community.
  • Improvements were begun in 2005 to reorient the newspaper’s content towards a wider section of the community but people were used to the old format (design), which has changed only slightly in 10 years, and were hard to persuade that the content had changed.

New Format:

  • There has been a lot of positive feedback from staff, both about the content and the visual redesign of the Reporter.
  • We have been able to gauge that the new format is working in two ways:
    1. We have fewer copies left at the end of the cycle that weren’t picked up from the display bins.
    2. We are now often approached by part of the college who see us as a useful vehicle for communicating with the community; one such example is our staff development unit, who asked us to feature information about their personal and skill development course to staff.

Reason for/impact of new format:

  • The main reason for the new format was to convey by means of an obvious visual redesign that Reporter has been totally refocused towards the whole community, including students, during the last 12 months.
  • To increase circulation and readership: A more attractive and user friendly format – smaller pages with bigger images and a larger number of shorter articles make the publication easier to scan and read ‘on the go’. The stories are also now fed into our online ‘news tree’, spreading readership online to people who visit the news and media pages of our Web site in addition to the separate downloadable PDF of the full publication.
  • To be perceived as less of a college ‘mouthpiece’. This is achieved partly by the use of a greater variety of writers from the college community, such as the archivist and corporate records magazine (Archive Corner) and students (Student Voice); and partly because each article now carries a byline rather than being anonymous.
  • To achieve a good balance between news and features by including more features about the people behind the science stories that have reached the national press and not just reporting the stories themselves.
  • To make it easier to read on public transport. Most of our staff travel to work on London’s crowded public transport system and the adoption of the ‘Berliner’ format, in common with much of the UK mainstream press and moving away from quasi-broadsheet format, has made Reporter more readable ‘on the go’.
  • To allow the layout to accommodate larger images and interesting spreads more easily.
  • To improve the paper quality while continuing to use 100 percent recycled stock. It is important to the UK consumer and particularly for Imperial to be as environmentally responsible as possible.
  • To easily increase or decrease the page count by four pages. Adding two pages as a single sheet was difficult before and involved expensive hand labour at the print finishing stage.