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Urban Plains, magazine capstone going digital

With print publications losing popularity every day, Drake journalism students are beginning to evolve with the industry. Every fall Drake seniors with a magazine major participate in a capstone, which requires them to produce a magazine in a semester. The tradition for years has been for the fall semester to generate a new edition of 515 Magazine. However, senior magazine majors this year applied the changing methods of the journalism industry to create an online magazine: Urban Plains.

“Our industry is one of creativity and adaptation; it’s not just about writing a story anymore,” said assistant professor of journalism Jeff Inman about the magazine students’ reactions to the evolution of the journalism industry.

Urban Plains Magazine will replace 515 Magazine this fall, with 10 Drake seniors working diligently to produce a publication that will capture the interest of young people all throughout the Midwest. The choice to switch from a print magazine to an online edition was not an easy decision for these students, but was one that was made for many reasons.

“We wanted to expand our readership to include not only Des Moines citizens, but people from all over the Midwest,” said Urban Plains Editor-in-Chief Kate Baratta.

The Urban Plains staff also wanted a chance to cover stories different from anything 515 was able to do because of the limited coverage area of Des Moines. This way, they can focus on places and people from several Midwest cities, with Urban Plains mainly focusing on St. Louis, Omaha, St. Paul, Minn., Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Des Moines. Staff members have been traveling to these cities to take photographs, interview Midwesterners and do fashion shoots.

Urban Plains will be a multi-integrated digital magazine, so it will not be limited to stories and photographs. The online magazine will include videos and links to websites pertaining to information in the stories. If a business is mentioned in a story, you will be able to click on a direct link to the business’s website. Similarly, if a story is about a product, you will be able to click on a link to take you to a website to purchase the product.

To do all of this, the staff is utilizing a company called Texterity, which will format all of the content to be put online. Texterity is used by many professional magazines, including AARP and Fitness.

“The students wanted to challenge themselves to leap off the page and onto the computer screen,” said Lori Blachford, associate professor and Peggy Fisher and Larry Stelter chair of magazine journalism at Drake.

While there are many reasons for why the staff decided to create an online publication, it was a difficult choice riddled with advantages and disadvantages.

“It was hard to give up doing a print publication, which we all love so much,” said Caitlin Berens, managing editor of Urban Plains. “But now we have something we can all be really proud of.”

The Urban Plains staff has faced challenges which they would not have experienced had they chosen to continue 515 Magazine. The staff has commenced on a marketing journey to have the whole Midwest aware of their publication by the time it is produced online. 515 Magazine was only distributed in Des Moines, so Drake students are making a debut in these new cities. To give their name meaning, the staff has created Facebook ads, promoted stories on Facebook and Twitter, created promotional videos that are on YouTube and created a blog to preview the magazine.

Although the staff has faced difficult trials, the 10 students are excited about what they’re creating.

“We’re all passionate about Urban Plains because we conceived the idea,” said Urban Plains multimedia editor Jess Hoffert.

515 Magazine is not dead, but is on hiatus. Next fall, the senior magazine majors will be able to choose their own capstone: whether to continue 515, continue Urban Plains or create a new publication.

If all you have with you is a cell phone, don’t fret because Urban Plains will be accessible on mobile devices. The staff has created posters that they are distributing throughout the Midwest which feature a QR code. You can snap a picture of the code with your cell phone and your phone will direct you to the mobile version of the magazine. Similarly, Urban Plains will be accessible on the iPad, being one of the university publications in the United States to have an iPad application. The app will be free.

Urban Plains will be published online on Dec. 5, but until then the staff is blogging to generate interest for the magazine. Each staff member has a different blog topic, ranging from fashion to sex. Visit www.urbanplainsmag.com to read the staff blogs, which are published biweekly. This is the same website the magazine will be published on.


1 Comment

  1. Kyle November 10, 2010

    “Urban Plains will be accessible on the iPad, being the first university publication in the United States to have an iPad application. The app will be free.”

    I don’t think this is true. I found the ACU Optimist app came out within a week of the iPad release date back in April.

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