Journalism is huge at Paly. Where most high schools have one publication, Palo Alto High has nine (and that's not including our two incubator magazines). While I'm immensely grateful to be part of such a vibrant program, it also means vying for readers within this competitive media environment. Whether it's pioneering new social media strategies based on web analytics, devising more efficient ways of distributing our magazine on campus or developing stronger relationships with our advertisers, I constantly rally my staff to generate fresh engagement strategies.
Social Media Presence
This year, Verde expanded in the social media sphere by creating a social media editor position to ensure a regular flow of content on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages. In 2018, we quadrupled the number of videos on our Facebook, began using livestreams in our coverage and saw an uptick in referrals from social media sites.
Outside posting regularly on our own social media feeds, we also leveraged community platforms such as the "Our Town of Palo Alto" Facebook group which has more than 10,000 members and Palo Alto High School social media to publicize our work. Shown below is a Verde twitter post retweeted by our school, and Facebook posts shared by myself and a community member in city-wide Facebook groups.
That's my article right there!
As a traditionally print-only publication, most of Verde's audience reads the magazine in print, which we distribute in-person during school and send to the home of every family in the Palo Alto High School community. In our efforts to expand our online presence, we made effective use of web analytics to find out which sites were referring us the most new viewers. Leveraging this data, we focused most of our social media efforts on Facebook and Twitter and were able to increase our average page views from an average of 5,000 per month in 2016-2017 to 7,000 per month in 2018-2019.
WordPress data on the main web referrers to the Verde website help us optimize our digital marketing strategies.
Web analytics track our views by day, week, month and year. Note that views were low between May and Oct. 2017 as Verde was on a hiatus for summer break, whereas website traffic peaked following magazine releases.
The Verde Brand
Verde is sometimes typecast as the "serious" magazine due to our frequent coverage of controversial and hard-hitting community issues. Our covers did little to dispel this (note the sequence of dark-toned, somber-looking cover designs below to the left). While we had no intention of scaling back our probing coverage, my co-editors and I wanted to make our content more accessible this year — textually and visually. When I was designing our covers in InDesign, I opted for more vibrant, unconventional and eye-catching backgrounds. For the sake of offering readers a more enticing first glimpse of Verde, I even went so far as to smash a mirror for our "shattering misconceptions" issue (don't worry, heavy duty gloves, a hammer and parental supervision were all involved — and so far, my luck's held). Below, you'll find three covers from last year (left) and our first three covers of this year (right). Notice the contrast.
In addition to our cover revamping, I also worked with our talented design editor to spruce up the "foreword" section (staff list, Verde policies, table of contents and letter from the editors) over the summer. We conferenced numerous times over the summer and during our first production cycle to map out an artistic vision. We eventually decided to swap out our difficult-to-read folios, leverage white space for a minimalistic look, make our table of contents more modular and replace several feature fonts with sleeker alternatives. By modernizing these initial pages, our goal was to set the aesthetic tone for the following pages. Below, you can take a look at Verde's initial designs (left) compared to our updated version (right).
Building long-lasting relationships with our sponsors has been one of my main priorities when I sell ads, which are Verde's primary source of funding. To develop better rapport with the organizations that fund Verde, we created a sponsor page on our website for the first time (shown to the right) as an added perk to net them additional online publicity. Below, you'll find a sample of my correspondences with advertisers, as well as a gallery of advertisements I've designed and sold for Verde.