Periodical Resources Management - Magazines: University of Puget Sound - Silver Medal

Category 24A: Periodical Resources Management: Magazines
University of Puget Sound, Arches

Contact: Chuck Luce, editor/designer, Office of Communications, 1500 North Warner St., Tacoma, WA 98416-10141, Phone: (253) 879-3318, e-mail:

Objectives and mission: The University of Puget Sound is a small liberal arts college in Tacoma, Washington. About 85 percent of Arches readers are Puget Sound alumni, but parents, students, faculty, staff, nonaffiliated donors, and the news media also receive the publications. Arches functions mainly as a continuing case statement for the university; it is meant to inspire loyalty, enhance reputation, and encourage alumni engagement. As a secondary goal, Arches attempts to carry forward the liberal arts tradition of lifelong learning by stimulating the continued intellectual engagement of its readers.

To meet these objectives we:

  1. Match content with reader interest. In surveys Puget Sound alumni tell us they feel most strongly connected to the university through their former teachers and classmates, the physical campus, and the beauty of the region.

    We build on these connections by publishing, as often as we can; pictures and words that transport readers back to campus and recall life in the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 75 percent of the Puget Sound alumni still live within 50 miles of campus and for many of them the waters, mountains, and forests of the area remain soul-altering elements. Even alumni who have moved away tell us they continue to be inspired by stories of this natural grandeur and the people who work and play in it.

    With each issue, the magazine’s cover declares: “People and Ideas.” There’s a reason “People” comes first. The work of a liberal arts college like ours – teaching and transferring knowledge, inspiring intellectual curiosity, preparing for a life of service in a democratic society – takes place in the course of human interacting, and the magazine fulfills its mission best when it reminds readers of their ties to one another. So Arches tries to be a generator of pride among graduates, informing them of the accomplishments of students, faculty, and especially alumni , and we put a great deal of effort into the Class Notes section in a attempt to keep connections alive.

    Puget Sound alumni are proud of their alma mater and care about how it grows and changes. For this reason Arches also provides a digest of university news, documenting activities and profess.
  2. Design for accessibility: The editors seek a magazine with rhythm: multiple entry points, and articles that appeal to different reader groups and vary in length and visual dimension. We have an excellent staff photographer, and we intentionally seek a design that is subdued, clean, and open so as not to distract from the photography.

Audiences: Alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, nonaffiliated donors, selected news media.

Staff Structure: One full-time editor, who also does the design and layout, and manages production and a Class Notes editor, who is also the copy editor for the Office of Communications. Between the two of us, we do everything but lick the stamps. Contributions from university communications staff include the staff photographer and freelancers.

Circulation: 32,000 worldwide

Frequency of magazine: Quarterly

Average pages per issue: 48 plus cover

Total annual budget (excluding salaries and postage): $97,000

Cost per issue/unit cost: $24,250/$.76

Arches is produced on a very short shoestring but tries not to look that way. It is a fairly new publication, in its seventh year of production in a magazine format. Previously it was a tabloid. Our challenge in creating the new Arches was to produce a magazine that looks as rich as those printed by many of our peers, but without substantially increasing the previous tabloid budget. We put this magazine in a reader’s hands (print and mail) for less than $1 per copy. Out biggest savings is in design costs, since the editor does both the traditional duties of an editor and an art director/layout artist. This arrangement also is a tremendous time saver: we waste no time discussing concepts and reviewing ideas with a dedicated design staff. The editor prepares content for placement on the Web, which is then posted by a staff member. We also save money by repurposing alumni and faculty writing and buying stock photography or using exiting images when possible.

Distribution: The cost of distributing all copies of one issue is about $7,500 or $.23 per unit. This includes preparing the mailing list, inkjetting, inserting in envelopes for overseas mailing, postage, and freight on copies that are distributed on campus. We mail at the periodicals rate, which gives us back address corrections – important for keeping our alumni database up to date. We sort and barcode for maximum USPS automation discounts.

Response and/or results: Arches has had no budget increase for the last six years. Despite increases in paper and postage costs during that time, we have managed to bring the publication in on budget through savings in manufacturing and careful use of freelance writers and other content providers.

As far as the publication’s success as a university communication, the following data are from our most recent readership survey:

Eighty-eight percent of readers say they get most of their information about Puget Sound from Arches. The next highest category is word of mouth, at seven percent.

Seventy-seven percent of readers say they read Arches “always” or “regularly.” Only two percent do not read Arches.

The most read sections in Arches are, in descending order:

  1. Feature stories
  2. Class Notes
  3. Alumni profiles
  4. Good Teachers/Good Friends
  5. University news
  6. Scrapbook
  7. Alumni Association events
  8. From the President
  9. Letters to the Editor
  10. Letter from alumni board president

Most popular topics, in descending order:

  1. University News
  2. Alumni profiles
  3. Photo features
  4. Faculty research/profiles
  5. University history
  6. Campus controversies
  7. Alumni Association events
  8. Current students
  9. Sports
  10. Fiction, poetry
  11. Gifts of the university

Eighty percent of Arches readers spend 30 minutes or more with the publications

Fifty-one percent read Arches from front to back. Twelve percent read it from back to front (that is, Class Notes first). Thirty-five percent just browse.

Seventy-five percent “agreed” or “agreed strongly” that Arches keeps them connected to UPS. Ten percent “disagreed strongly” or “disagreed” that Arches keeps them connected to UPS

Seventy percent “disagreed strongly” or “disagreed” that Arches was “just another UPS vehicle asking for money.