In wired gen­er­a­tion, stu­dents like pa­per for cam­pus news

As edi­tions dis­ap­pear, so do dol­lars

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY DANIEL JACK­SON

Stu­dents at Doane Col­lege in Crete, Neb., come from their classes and dorms, pick up their lunches and pro­ceed to step back in time.

The mil­len­ni­als seek out an hon­estto-good­ness, dead-tree, pro­cessed­pulp news­pa­per, handed out by the pa­per’s staff, to catch the mid­day din­ing rush.

“It’s strange. These kids are walk­ing around with iphones and ipads, and they are look­ing for the col­lege pa­per,” said David Swart­z­lan­der, news­pa­per ad­viser to the Doane Owl and pres­i­dent of the Col­lege Me­dia Ad­vis­ers, a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­port­ing col­lege news publi­ca­tions. The Owl is not unique. For stu­dents raised on ipads, Kin­dles and Twit­ter, col­lege news­pa­pers are prov­ing sur­pris­ingly durable, even as their real-world cousins face in­tense mar­ket pres­sures to con­sol­i­date

or close. But, with ed­u­ca­tion bud­gets tight­en­ing, too, many ven­er­a­ble col­lege pa­pers are dis­cov­er­ing that they are not im­mune to the forces af­fect­ing the in­dus­try, and some have de­camped en­tirely to the Web.

Ad­ver­tis­ers, rec­og­niz­ing the niche mar­ket of cof­fee-guz­zling, 20-some­thing con­sumers, are still will­ing to pay good money to advertise in col­lege pa­pers. Although the lure of the Web has been felt among the cam­pus me­dia, the school news­pa­per ap­pears to be hold­ing its own.

“For the most part, print still rules on col­lege cam­puses,” Mr. Swart­z­lan­der said.

Even with all the on­line al­ter­na­tives out there, “Hav­ing a print pa­per on cam­pus is very im­por­tant,” said Lind­sey An­der­son, ed­i­tor-in-chief of the Ea­gle at Amer­i­can Univer­sity. But there are clouds on the hori­zon. Col­lege pa­pers at schools as di­verse as Bow­doin Col­lege in Maine, the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut and the Univer­sity of Texas face a bat­tle for shrink­ing stu­dent ac­tiv­ity dol­lars in an age of re­duced state fund­ing. Stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Ne­braska-omaha this week voted to re­tain fund­ing for the twice-weekly Gate­way af­ter the staff warned that a cut could mean the death of the 99-year-old pa­per edi­tion.

Lo­gan Ai­mone, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Scholas­tic Press As­so­ci­a­tion, said col­lege me­dia are “serv­ing, re­ally, a dif­fer­ent type of reader,” a read­er­ship with com­mon is­sues of in­tense in­ter­est in­side the com­mu­nity — and lit­tle ap­peal be­yond the ivory-cov­ered walls.

When a cam­pus news­pa­per cov­ers the is­sues of that com­mu­nity, “it stands to rea­son that they will have a high read­er­ship in gen­eral,” Mr. Ai­mone said.

Niche mar­ket

This com­bi­na­tion at­tracts mar­keters such as Re:fuel, which tar­gets niche au­di­ences such as col­lege stu­dents and mem­bers of the mil­i­tary.

About 60 per­cent of all col­lege stu­dents have read their col­lege news­pa­per, said Tammy Nel­son, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing and re­search for Re:fuel. There are about 1,800 col­lege pa­pers at the 4,400 higher-ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey that the com­pany con­ducted of read­ing habits of col­lege stu­dents in 2011, 88 per­cent of those who do read the school pa­per have read one of the past five is­sues. Three-fifths say they pre­fer the print ver­sion, com­pared with 16 per­cent who pre­fer to get their col­lege news fix solely on­line.

“Print is still the pre­ferred medium,” Ms. Nel­son said.

The stu­dents said that read­ing their cam­pus pa­per in print, al­most al­ways free and read­ily avail­able at pop­u­lar gath­er­ing places, was just the eas­i­est way to stay cur­rent on school hap­pen­ings, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey. Stu­dents tended to re­serve their on­line time for Face­book, Web surf­ing and aca­demic re­search.

Ms. Nel­son notes that many stu­dents cited an­other ben­e­fit of print: “It’s eas­ier to read at work or class with­out at­tract­ing at­ten­tion.”

For Amer­i­can Univer­sity’s Ms. An­der­son, print is a valu­able as­set in the over­all prod­uct mix. She sees the pa­per as a part of a pack­age work­ing with the on­line and so­cial me­dia plat­forms. The on­line traf­fic to the Ea­gle has in­creased in the past three years, Ms. An­der­son said, but print con­tin­ues to be in high de­mand.

She said that the Ea­gle’s board of di­rec­tors — a board in­de­pen­dent from the univer­sity and made up of jour­nal­ists from such places as USA To­day and Na­tional Public Ra­dio — had con­sid­ered low­er­ing the cir­cu­la­tion count of the print edi­tion from 6,000 copies be­cause of an uptick in Web traf­fic. How­ever, the cur­rent pro­duc­tion run on the cam­pus of 6,700 stu­dents is nearly gone on good days.

Ms. An­der­son cited the pa­per’s edi­tion a few weeks ago when Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Re­pub­li­can, spoke at the school on a Fri­day and was met by 20 to 30 stu­dents protest­ing her state’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. The Ea­gle staff posted up­dates of the speech on Twit­ter, up­loaded pho­tos to their Face­book site and had a story on their web­site, theea­gleon­line.com, within hours.

This was im­por­tant, be­cause stu­dents are us­ing many meth­ods for con­sum­ing the news. “So many of our stu­dents are on Twit­ter,” she said.

But when the Ea­gle came out in print with the same news story and three ad­di­tional ed­i­to­ri­als, it was still a pop­u­lar is­sue, Ms. An­der­son said. Few copies sat on the stands the next day.

The on­line temp­ta­tion

Even though Re­gan Pu­laski, a neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy stu­dent, com­mutes be­tween his Ber­lin, Conn., home and the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut cam­pus in Storrs, he oc­ca­sion­ally picks up the school pa­per. He said he uses the most con­ve­nient method of get­ting the news — with his smart­phone, that way is Twit­ter.

Mr. Pu­laski said he no­tices most of his fel­low Uconn stu­dents grab­bing the pa­per that is dis­trib­uted out­side cafe­te­rias and dorms, and has even seen copies be­ing read un­der desks dur­ing class.

“Ev­ery once in a while, I do pick it up and see what is go­ing on,” he said. He at­tends classes three times a week and grabs a free pa­per about twice a month.

“You don’t want to be look­ing at [an In­ter­net] stream all the time,” he said.

But the stream is pre­cisely where the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia’s pa­per, the Red and Black, has jumped. In Au­gust, the univer­sity in Athens made the tran­si­tion to a “dig­i­tal-first” for­mat, putting its daily con­tent on­line while pro­vid­ing a weekly pa­per and a monthly mag­a­zine.

“We are be­ing watched by a lot of col­lege pa­pers to see how it goes,” said Ed Morales, the Red and Black’s me­dia ad­viser and a for­mer sports re­porter for The Washington Times.

The award-win­ning pub­li­ca­tion switched to an on­line em­pha­sis so the staff could de­velop the skills needed to work in the mod­ern news­room, Mr. Morales said.

The ma­jor­ity of col­lege stu­dents did not grow up with a morn­ing pa­per, he said, and a news­pa­per is “not nec­es­sar­ily some­thing they seek out.”

Part of the push for dig­i­tal is con­tin­u­ing to bring the news to the reader in a way that is most con­ve­nient for them.

“If you are part of their news feed ev­ery morn­ing, you are part of their lives,” he said.

While print re­mains pop­u­lar, the con­tent has evolved. The weekly pa­per is filled with sto­ries that don’t be­come old news in a few days, in­clud­ing pro­files and in­ves­tiga­tive sto­ries. The break­ing news goes on­line.

BAR­BARA L. SAL­IS­BURY/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PA­PER TRAIL: The print ver­sion of Amer­i­can Univer­sity’s news­pa­per the Ea­gle re­mains pop­u­lar on cam­pus. Fresh­man Lizzy Men­stell, check­ing out the Tues­day is­sue, says she en­joys read­ing the Ea­gle grams — funny anec­dotes in the print edi­tion.

BAR­BARA L. SAL­IS­BURY/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Lind­sey An­der­son, ed­i­tor-in-chief of Amer­i­can Univer­sity’s on-cam­pus pa­per the Ea­gle, has a staff of about 25 to 30 peo­ple that puts out a print edi­tion of the pa­per each Tues­day.

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