Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

July 2009 Archives

Web content: What role for "flip" technology in moving print publications to the web?

Two unrelated events are driving increased interest in moving print publications online:

  • Growing pressure to reduce print production costs.
  • Increasing preference for getting information from online sources.

Perhaps that's what generated a June discussion among higher education web developers on on the virtue of "flip" technology to move print publications to an online format.

The discussion started with a question about Issuu's product, which isn't the only technology available to make this move. The original question, from Brian Page at Springfield College, brought 24 replies from 13 people.

People weighed in with pros and cons. If you've ever been at one of my "Writing Right for the Web" sessions, you'll know why I think that Paul Dempsey at Dickinson College got right to the heart of things:

  • "At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon...Has anyone actually tried to read a magazine or article posted in this format? I don't find it usable at all. The display looks exciting, and it's a neat way to show what a publication looks like (particularly in terms of design). But I don't think it makes sense to take something designed for one medium and try to force it into another. The two or three column format of most publications, for example, doesn't translate at all to the web, where a single column of text works better."

Experience both print publications online from "flip" technology and publications prepared as Dempsey recommends and decide for yourself from the two collections included here.

Publications Using "Flip" Technology

This group of links to "flip" publications was sent by people who participated in the web developers discussion: 

Publications in Web-Friendly Format

Here is a varied group of publications from my Link of the Week selections:

Note that Terp magazine from the University of Maryland is available online in more than one format. You won't find a more direct comparison than that.

The really good news? None of the web developers recommended a practice that's still more common than it should be: just converting the print piece into a PDF and placing that online. PDFs have their place for online content, but it isn't with long, multi-colored viewbooks, annual reports, and alumni magazines like those listed here.

Happy reading!

That's all for now.




Web Analytics: What's the "bounce rate" from your admissions entry page?

Mark Greenfield from University of Buffalo (a SUNY university for those who otherwise might not know) is down at the Noel-Levitz recruitment and retention conference in Texas. He sent two tweets of interest to everyone in student recruitment:

  • A person from Google reported that a good range for a bounce rate was 20 to 35 percent. What's a "bounce rate"? That's how many people visit a web page and leave without going anywhere else on the website from that page. Bad thing when that happens overly much from your admissions page. The Google person said anything less than 20 percent was an unrealistic expectation.
  • Mark checked on the bounce rate from the UB "admissions site" and reported a stellar 25 percent. I'll have to ask Mark which page he was referring to. Why? If you do a Google search for "University of Buffalo," a link is returned to this page for undergraduate admissions. If you go direct to the university home page and follow the first link to "admissions undergraduate" you start at this page.
  • I'm betting the low bounce rate was from the page entered from the home page.

Results from a Google search might be defeating your expectations for where a potential future student will start on your website. Google is the first place that most students who begin the college exploration process start their journey. 

Find your admissions entry page on Google

Enter the name of your college or university in the Google search box and watch the entry points that come back in addition to your home page URL. Imagine you were a person starting a visit from one of these home page alternatives.

Check to see where "new' or "first time" visitors to the site are starting. Is each page getting the low bounce rate that tells you that each is making a favorable first impression and engaging people?

If you're on Twitter and are not following Mark's updates, start doing that soon.

That's all for now.

E-Readers: Market Growth from Barnes & Noble, AT&T, and Plastic Logic

Back from a very fine eduWeb2009 conference this afternoon... 12 presentations are online now, including my pre-conference workshop: "Student Recruitment in an Online World: Creating a Marketing Communications Plan in a World without Paper." Thanks to Matt Herzberger for taking the time to add mine and several others to the collection.

College Viewbooks and Magazine on E-Readers

Early in my presentation you'll see slides to prime a discussion of e-readers and just how soon it might be before people are downloading college viewbooks , alumni magazines, and other publications to an e-reader rather than receiving them in the mail.

This presentation first debuted in July 2008 at the ACT Enrollment Planners Conference. One 2008 topic was how soon it would be before e-readers were available in color. Way back then nobody seemed sure when the technology would advance to market. For the update this year, we had new news... Fujitsu, well ahead of any schudule predicted last year, put a color e-reader on the market in Japan earlier this year. The price (near $1,000) is well beyond most people's willingness to pay but we all know that is likely to move lower rather quickly.

E-readers are advancing. No doubt about that.

Plastic Logic, AT&T, and Barnes & Noble

And so let's highlight this news first seen in USA Today while traveling back from eduWeb today. AT&T is about to join Amazon in the e-reader competition in combination with Barnes & Noble to offer a wider array of books than Amazon is doing now. Schduled start is early in 2010.

A NewsFactor Business Report article says the primary audience for the new device from Plastic Logic and AT&T service is the business community. Barnes & Noble already has 700,000 titles ready to go, a powerful amount for the business market. The article includes a prediction that by 2012 prices will fall to $99, a critical point for mass adoption.

Watch the online Plastic Logic demo of their new device.

That's today's story.

AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education 2009 

And that's continuing info to update the next presentation of my 3-hour workshop at the AMA's Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education in November in Boston. More details on that later in the summer. Plan to attend. And if you do, join me for the Sunday workshop to explore student recruitment communications in a world without paper. It really is getting closer.

That's all for now.

ACT Enrollment Planners Conference: Another Successful Year

About done at this year's ACT Enrollment Planners Conference. In a tough year for conferences, this was the second highest regisration number in 24 years... a bit lower than last year, but quite strong overall, with more than 40 states represented. More nice work by Mike Hoveland and everyone else at ACT responsible for what has always been the best value-for-money enrollment-focused conference in higher education.

My updated 2009 workshop version of  "Student Recruitment in an Online World: Creating a Marketing Communications Plan in a World without Paper" drew 40+ people on Wednesday who were alive with questions and comments.

Points of special interest:

  • Two schools present have indeed ended their printed viewbooks: Indiana University and Suffolk University. I'll be following up for more information on what's happening at each place.
  • Just after showing a new website at Asuza Pacific University especially designed for access from mobile devices (the iPhone in this case), another person in the audience reported that Texas A&M has developed a similar site.

What strikes me in both cases is the very different types of universities leading the way in making these important moves. That reinforces the conviction I've had for years now that smart, innovative marketing moves are not related to any particular type of institution. What's most important are the people at a particular school who have the insight and determination to change.

Sunday night I'll turn around and fly back from Michigan to do the same workshop at eduWeb2009 on Monday. Will be interesting to see if any similar information surfaces then.

That's all for now.

July greetings to everyone, from an unusually cool Michigan. Perhaps that bodes well for a limited summer melt of the traditional students expected to enroll in the fall. Whatever your local temperatures, my best wishes are with everyone as this enrollment year continues to unfold.

I hope to see many of you at the ACT EPC and eduWeb conferences in July in Chicago. You can still register for either at the links below. My combined workshop registrations are over 60 but there is likely room for a few late additions at both events.

Registrations are open for July 29 and August 11 webinars on student recruitment websites and social media marketing. Details are at

If you have started on Twitter recently, join me at

More than 1,100 people have viewed my presentation on web analytics for higher education marketers. See what they've seen at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for July.
Read Now: Higher Education in 2020

Plan now to read each installment of the Chronicle of Higher Education's 3-part executive summary series on "The College of 2020."

Unless you are retiring in the next 5 years, this is must reading about the extraordinary change underway that will transform higher education over the next 10 years. Many of those changes, of course, have already started. If you are even dreaming about marketing plans for the future, start reading today.

The first installment focuses on "Students" and is online at

The full report is only $95. Every marketing office should have one.
Rankings Sensitivity: A Storm over Clemson

An institutional research person goes to a professional conference to deliver a paper detailing how Clemson University planned to use US News rankings to help achieve a goal of becoming a "Top 20" public research university. Insider Higher Education reports on the presentation. A firestorm erupts.

The details and the 27 or more comments to the original article make fascinating reading at

The most controversial aspect focuses on the least provable: that the Clemson president and others deliberately ranked other public research universities as lower than average so that the relative rank for Clemson would improve regardless of actual quality.
A Boost for Online Learning

The U.S. Department of Education is out with a new report on "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning" that should give strategy and marketing planners more reason to advocate for investment in this area.

The report is based on a review of available research. The overall conclusion is that online learning works and that "blended" versions that combine online and in-class features work best of all. Technology advancements that get students move involved in their own learning process are also praised.

A 93-page PDF is available for your reading and printing pleasure at
Keeping Control of Twitter

Colleges and universities everywhere have started Twitter sites to increase communication with future students, alumni, sports fans and more. One challenge, if you use your site to follow others, is organizing the great variety of updates that arrive at your site each day.

Salvation may rest with the variety of software available to classify Twitter content. The folks at Mashable get you off to a good start with their review: "Twitter Better: 20 Ways to Filter Your Tweets."

Visit and pay special attention to the programs listed under the "Groups" heading.
Recommended Social Media Reading: Groundswell Blog

If you are still grappling to find the best way to integrate social media with your other marketing communication elements, you likely will find insights at various Groundswell blog updates.

One of my favorites is the June 26 entry on "To Use Social Technologies in Ad Campaigns, Get the Rhythm Right" that explores why traditional agency compensation methods create problems in this area. The recommended solution, attention to number and enthusiasm of fans recruited, might help your internal ROI expectations.

Join the Groundswell blog at
2009 Top Tagline Contest

Do you have a really strong tagline?

If you do, enter it in the 2009 "Powerful Non-Profit Taglines Contest" that is open until July 31.

Details at
Free Guide to Web Analytics and Testing

Avinash Kaushik, author of "Web Analytics: An Hour a Day" is recommending a 32-page PDF, "Converting the Believers," guide to improving conversion of people who visit your website. That is good enough for me to make a recommendation even though I am about to download it myself and so have not yet read it.

Make your decision after you check the table of contents at
Boston University Success at

I have always been fascinated with What especially interests me is that for most faculty at most institutions I have checked, overall ratings are high.

RateMyProfessors is an early example of a social media site in the Web 2.0 world. Sites like these will grow in importance, as more and more people read product evaluations. If a person reads the reviews available at, moving to RateMyProfessors is not a large step.

Recently I checked the ratings of 48 political science faculty at Boston University. The very positive results are on my blog at

The note to marketers: review your faculty ratings to find student praise of faculty that helps build your brand.
Video Impact on Landing Page Conversions

Special landing pages can significantly increase online conversion results from email campaigns but what happens when the landing page includes a video element?

This ClickZ article by Jeanne Jennings suggests that while many people might watch the video, final conversions may well be stronger without the distraction of this popular element. And if that is the case, there is no reason to take the extra time and expense to use one.

Check the details of two email campaigns compared at

And of course do plan to add special landing pages for any campaign that brings people to your website. Repeating and reinforcing the original message can result in significantly better results than dropping people on a regular web page.
Accountability in Higher Education: 10 States are Leaders

With public interest in the performance of public universities increasing, we now have a 3-group ranking (Best Practice; In Progress; Needs Improvement) of how well states are using public accountability data in making policy decisions. And that depends in part on whether or not assessment information is available at all.

I was not surprised to find that my state, Michigan, ranked in the bottom group. See if your state joins California and 9 others as leaders in the Education Sector report at

Each state has an individual report card. Enjoy reading yours.
Phoenix Tops 400,000 Students

The Apollo Group, owners of University of Phoenix and others, has released a third quarter report noting that for the first time gross revenue for a single quarter has topped $1 billion, fueled by Phoenix enrollment in the quarter of just over 420,000 students.

Marketers will note that "sales and promotional expenses" for the quarter were $246.3 million. Details on growth rates and other expense categories are at
Marketing & Communications Position in Vermont

St. Michael's College in Vermont is searching for a Director of Marketing and Communications, a cabinet level position reporting to the president. Responsibilities cover the usual brand, research, and communication areas and include the website.

For details visit
My Upcoming Presentations in 2009

Share questions and answers with people like yourself who are building a competitive edge in higher education marketing. Join me for one or more of these events!

July 15-17, Chicago, IL: ACT Enrollment Planners Conference: "Student Recruitment in an Online World: Creating a Recruitment Communications Plan in a World without Paper: 2009 Update" (2 hour pre-conference workshop) and "Rating Higher Education Websites: The Student Experience." Review the program and register at

July 20-22, Chicago, IL: eduWeb 2009: "Student Recruitment in the Online World: Communicating from First Web Search to Final Enrollment" (Pre-conference workshop). Sessions and registration at

July 29, Webinar: Magna Publications: "Crafting a High Impact Recruitment Website." Content and registration at

August 11, Webinar: Magna Publications: "Social Media Marketing." Register at

October 26-27, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin System, Adult Student Recruitment & Retention Conference: "Key Website Features for Adult Student Recruitment" and "Writing Right for the Web." Conference information is at

November 15-17, Boston, MA: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, "Marketing in a World without Paper: Creating a Recruitment Communications Plan in a World without Paper" (3 hour Sunday workshop). Details and registration are in progress.

Increase ROI from your online marketing. Expand the writing, editing, and search marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on online marketing.

Contact me at
That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your online marketing success with these 6 services.
• Customer Carewords Research with Gerry McGovern
• Writing Right for the Web On-Campus Workshops
• Marketing Communications Website Review
• Competitive Website Reviews
• Content Copywriting Services
• Usability Analysis

Start now at

Customer Carewords Expanding Client Base

Despite the world-wide economic slowdown (or perhaps because of it), major firms and organizations are investing in Customer Carewords research to better plan web content: the words and phrases that visitors see when they first arrive at critical web pages and navigation that lets them find it as quickly as possible.

That reminds me of a recent financial news report that investments in technology often are the first things that take place as organizations seek more efficiency in their activities during a time of restricted sales. Websites remain the key hub of an online presence. It certainly makes sense to make them work as well as possible in an increasingly competitive environment.

Gerry McGovern's partner update in July brought news of these new Carewords clients:

    • Top mobile phone company
    • City University, London
    • Major IT vendor
    • Swedish Television (SVT)

We're also moving ahead with a new series of CCI (Customer Centric Index) surveys, here in the United States as well internationally. Gerry's CCI webinar in June created interest from 12 to 25 U.S. colleges and universities that I'll be contacting this week to schedule online surveys between now and September.

If you'd like to explore either the full Customer Carewords program or the CCI survey for your college or university, contact me at

That's all for now.

Viewbooks and e-readers: Exploring the Possibilities

Yesterday I put the final polish on upcoming workshops for two July Conferences, ACT's Enrollment Planners Conference and eduWeb 09.

Both workshops will expand the topic of a shorter presentation at SUNYCAP earlier in June: Can you imagine crafting a recruitment communication plan without using paper?

This presentation first ran last summer at the ACT conference. Wild. Crazy. Silly. Foolish. But many people paid extra dollars to attend and speculate about the future.

This year's is revised and updated to include what's been happening since then. Two areas are especially important: unexpected pressure to reduce costs by moving print publications online and continuing technology advances.

Clinging to Print  

Everyone seems to agree that the most difficult piece to relinquish is the printed admissions viewbook. People cling to that with the same fear of loss that small children have about their favorite teddy bear before they fall asleep at night. If we don't have a printed viewbook, what demons and dragons will come from under the bed and devour us?

But there are signs that a fine life without a printed viewbook might be possible.

Electronic Publication Plans

Earlier this year, Karine Joly at HigherEdExperts took a survey of online readers and reported on "The State of Print and Electronic Publications in Higher Education." She had responses from 198 people, with a good division between public and private sector schools.

    • Two years ago, in an earlier version, nobody reported that they had moved their viewbooks to "online only" status.
    • This year, 5% reported already making that move. 
    • And 23% reported that they had started creating an electronic version of their viewbook. (That doesn't automatically lead to dropping the print version, but it puts people in a better place to do that. And let's hope that not many of these folk plan to just take the print version and put it online as a PDF.)

Last year's ACT workshop included discussion of e-readers, with special attention to Amazon's Kindle. The Kindle had elevated the visibility of e-readers past what Sony had been able to accomplish a few years earlier. The Kindle, however, had a major limitation: it was only available in black and white format. And nobody seemed to know when a color version would debut. Without a color version, it was hard to imagine that people might read admissions viewbooks on e-readers.

Fujitsu E-reader with color display

But a color e-reader debuted in Japan earlier this year, from Fujitsu. And early reviews have been positive, like this one in FastCompany magazine. Right now the cost at about $900 is prohibitive for most people. Even the Kindle's current cost puts it outside mass market adoption. But that, of course, isn't the point. The color technology has arrived and the cost will fall. In 2009 it isn't quite as silly to imagine a time when people will download and read an admissions viewbook on an e-reader as it was in 2008.

Preferences for Online Information

Put this together with what's being reported in the Noel-Levitz E-Expectations research series each year. Many future students and their parents prefer online information gathering about colleges and universities. Will that continue to grow in 5 years? In 10 years? Is it impossible to imagine that people will fill out an online inquiry form to download your viewbook to their e-reader? I wouldn't bet my life savings against it.

Before long, we might not need printed viewbooks the way small children will still need teddy bears and other stuffed animals. Really.

That's all for now.





Bob Johnson
Blog Contents
Recent Entries Categories Monthly Archives