Print fades, pixels flourish as Bates curtails print events listing, plugs e-mail

Bates is asking its friends in the region to help the college save some money and some trees.

For years, the college has offered free subscriptions to Bates Invites You, a printed schedule of public events at Bates. Every month from September through May, the college has mailed and dropped off thousands of copies of the schedule.

But in a 2009 survey, nearly two-thirds of “Bates Invites You” subscribers said they’d rather receive information about events electronically than in print. And so this spring, driven by the survey findings as well as the need to trim costs and reduce its use of natural resources, the college will significantly reduce the number of schedules it prints and mails.

The college is asking Bates Invites You recipients for their help. In early April, subscribers will receive a response card asking them to “opt in” — by April 23 — if they wish to keep receiving the printed schedule.

Starting in May, only those who have returned the card and opted in will stay on the print mailing list. “We want to make sure that this publication goes only to people who sincerely want it,” says Doug Hubley, staff writer in the college’s Communications and Media Relations office and editor of the monthly schedule.

As an alternative that’s friendlier to the environment, Bates now offers the Monthly Events Schedule, an e-mail events listing that anyone can sign up for. And subscribing is quick: Just fill out a short form on the Web at bit.ly/bates-events.

“We understand that some of our most loyal audience members rely on a printed schedule, and we’ll keep providing it to them as long as we can,” says Bryan McNulty, media relations director. “But our budget is tight, our commitment to environmental sustainability is strong and we’re really hoping that the vast majority of our audience will go electronic.

“We’re grateful for the support of the many people who attend our events, and we’re asking that they stick with us through this transition.”

The Monthly Events Schedule is one of nearly a dozen e-mail notices that Bates recently introduced to help spread the word about arts and performance events, campus news, sports and other Bates happenings. You can subscribe to one, some or all of the different Bates Updates at the same URL.

The new system enables the college to reach a much wider audience of friends, alumni and potential students, while giving Updates recipients control over the Bates news they receive.

In recent years, Bates has printed between 50,000 and 60,000 copies of Bates Invites You annually and mailed about three-quarters of them, distributing the rest to locations where the public might pick them up.

In league with a group of community partners that included local arts organizations and news outlets, in summer 2009 the Bates media relations office undertook a Web survey of arts and events patrons in southern and central Maine, concentrating on Androscoggin County. The survey assessed how audience members prefer to learn about events, their interests in arts and performance events, and factors that affect event attendance.

The survey drew 884 complete responses. Among the 341 respondents who receive “Bates Invites You,” about 30 percent preferred to keep the print schedule, while about 61 percent preferred an electronic schedule.

Of all respondents, 71 percent chose electronic notification, nearly 19 percent preferred print and about 10 percent didn’t know.

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