Hillsdale College’s Imprimis publication reached 4 million subscribers toward the end of 2018.
Since entering circulation in 1972 with 1,000 subscribers, Imprimis’ growth was steady in its early years but has spiked more recently. The admissions and marketing departments both note clear effects in their own departments due to Imprimis’ increasing popularity.
Director of Programs for External Affairs Matt Bell said there has been a change in the rate of subscribers Imprimis gained.
“From 1972, when the speech digest was first published, to the year 2000, the number of subscribers grew from a few thousand to roughly 930,000,” he said in an email. “From 2000 to today, over three million additional subscribers have been added, and the number of new subscriptions continues to grow apace.”
Hillsdale College originally created Imprimis as a monthly journal from The Center for Constructive Alternatives to distribute CCA material to friends of the college. Today, however, Imprimis features any speech given in association with Hillsdale College, on or off campus. Some off-campus speeches from former issues include ones from the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies, the National Leadership Seminar, and a Hillsdale College cruise.
Imprimis, translated from Latin to mean “in the first place,” emphasizes reprinting speeches with limited editing. Articles typically run from 2,400 to 3,600 words and cover a range of topics discussed by speakers.
Past speakers featured in Imprimis include Vice President Mike Pence, former President Ronald Reagan, former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, business mogul Steve Forbes, businessman Jay Van Andel, actor Leonard Nimoy from “Star Trek,” and Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s.
Although the style and content of speakers may change throughout the years, the college’s mission, as furthered in Imprimis, remains the same.
“While many institutions of higher learning have old and beautiful mission statements, Hillsdale College is unique in that it continues to hold fast to its founding mission,” Bell said. “Imprimis is a very effective tool for furthering the mission of the college.”
Sending Imprimis to subscribers is a key part of the college’s work to restore and defend liberty nationwide through education, according to Associate Vice President of National Donor Outreach Bill Gray.
Imprimis is also one of the oldest and strongest ways to market for Hillsdale College.
“By providing valuable insights and content to our 4 million plus subscribers, it helps so many people know about the college, as well as showing that Hillsdale is a unique place where ideas like these are discussed and argued about,” Gray said.
Since Imprimis’ debut in 1972, the college has evolved to use additional marketing channels such as national talk radio, mailings asking for referrals, ads in publications and other places, and digital marketing channels.
Arlan K. Gilbert, Hillsdale College historian, said that Imprimis is increasingly important since Hillsdale’s mission is under attack. In a recent edition of Imprimis, he said in his speech that Imprimis itself is an effective way to make friends through sharing this mission.
Director of External Relations for Athletic Institutional Advancement Jeff Lantis told The Collegian in 2003 that Imprimis has had an effect on student’s choices to attend Hillsdale. He reported that Imprimis was regularly listed on application forms as a link to the college, during his time as director of admissions.
And the number of students who mention Imprimis has only grown.
In 2018, when freshman were asked through which mediums they heard of Hillsdale College, 66 percent of students cited Imprimis, according to Director of Field Recruitment Jenny Pridgeon.
This continued growth is in part due to changes in marketing strategy. Whereas subscription growth depended on word-of-mouth when Imprimis was first launched, there are many different platforms the marketing department uses today.
“There are so many stories of students who learned about Hillsdale because of Imprimis, and Hillsdale’s many donors and friends can see the impact of their support every month when they receive their issue,” Gray said.