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The web is not print - stop making magazines that flip
June 23, 2011 - 1:16pm

My first thought when I read Michael Fienen's excellent blog post on "flipbooks" was that the leadership of every single student affairs association should read it. And then they should read it again for good measure. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now I know that you might think that it's not a good idea for me to stir the pot when it comes to student affairs associations. They do pay a fair amount of my bills by way of my consulting/speaking engagements. However, I would rather provide gentle informative nudges to my fellow practitioners when it comes to the dreaded "flipbook," or what I like to call: "faux magazines," then not say anything at all.

A lot of associations provide magazines (some have print copies in addition to a virtual version) as part of the professional development resources that come with being a member. The magazines used to be solely delivered as print editions. Associations would solicit advertisements from higher education service providers as a way to subsidize the cost of printing, editing, and mailing the magazine to their members. However, once the web became the standard medium for content delivery, most associations switched to a virtual magazine model. Ads are still present on the virtual flipbook editions and some associations still send out hard copies of their magazines. This is where I take a tad bit of umbrage. The online "faux magazines" are horrendous. As Fienen points out in his blog post for .eduGuru: "When you try to force print-like interactions with a web page, you are breaking your bond with the user, who just wants you to keep things simple, familiar, and consistent."

Online association magazines need to shift from being pseudo-representations of brick and mortar publications to being searchable, accessible, and aesthetically appropriate web-based publications. Burying quality content within a presentation medium (most flipbooks are Flash-based) that is largely unusable for members who use screenreaders is an egregious offense. The content that's present within student affairs association magazines needs to be searchable. Associations need to access the benefits of having so much amazing content. If quality content is searchable, users will find it. Perhaps users will someday become members because they recognize the value that the association provides.

Please stop making faux magazines and start creating engaging online publications.

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