View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Ceri Thomas on why Oxford University is switching its alumni magazine from print to digital

By Zainab Mahmood

Oxford University has decided to take its decade-old alumni magazine Oxford Today digital only.

Former BBC Panorama editor Ceri Thomas, who stepped down after 24 years at the BBC last year, is now director of public affairs at Oxford University.

Explaining the move, he said: “We just haven’t been able to find a way to make the sums add up so that we can afford to keep printing it.

“It’s got an audience that matters to us and we need to spend a lot of effort figuring out how we keep in touch with those people and keep the relationship between them and this university as strong as we can.

“But at the end of the day, we have to be able to afford to print and post a magazine like Oxford Today, we just found that in the end we couldn’t.”

The magazine was distributed twice a year free of charge to Oxford alumni across the globe.

Thomas said that the increase in costs of printing and postage, particularly post-Brexit, have prevented the Oxford Today print editions from being distributed to the university’s international alumni community.

Content from our partners
Cannes Lions: The world's best creativity all in one place
L'Equipe signs content syndication deal with The Content Exchange
Journalism can be relentless: But overworking could be fatal

This transition will require less advertising revenue, Thomas said: “The printed magazine had been pretty successful at attracting advertising revenue, I think it’s inevitable that our ad rate for online-only will be lower.”

Oxford Today has already been regularly uploading interviews and features on its website.

With over 200,000 alumni and a previous print circulation of 165,000 free of charge Thomas is optimistic about the publication’s future: “The print run is in our control, so it’s not like a bought magazine that it depends on how many people buy it.”

The last print edition was distributed in April, the next issue (usually circulated in October) will be the first of the online editions. Thomas said that the format of the digital editions will be determined through experimentation.

He said: “I think we will do what people want us to do, so we’ll test what the particular readership for this magazine wants, so that may well be a downloadable PDF if that proves popular.

“We will certainly be doing more video, we will be updating the features and the interviews at least as often as we do now and hopefully more so, and we’ll use email as well to communicate frequently with the people who get the magazine at the moment.

“So I think we’re going to have to feel our way through this…we’ve been looking around in the rest of the market to see what works…we will keep experimenting until we think that we’ve got the formula that’s working for the alumni of this university.”

The change will not cause any job losses; the one journalist on the staff and numerous freelance writers and contributors will remain.

Thomas was unsure as to whether other universities will make the transition to digital-only for their alumni magazines, but insisted that they must have the same cost pressures.

Thomas said that a small print run of Oxford Today will continue for alumni who, for whatever reasons, cannot access the new digital editions.

Topics in this article : ,

Email to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network