Chat with CoPress Executive Director Daniel Bachhuber

Awhile back, I asked CoPress co-founder and executive director Daniel Bachhuber a few questions about his growing collegemediatopia empire.  I was not shooting for “60 Minutes” type intensity but the first two are more in-your-face than softball.  The queries do not center on concerns I have about CoPress as much as curiosities.  It’s not yet “college media’s backbone,” as its tagline states, but its importance is growing.  I wanted some straight answers about things I’ve heard from others and seen firsthand.  Bachhuber, being an honorable man, responded right away and with appreciable candor.

CoPress

Your clients’ sites look great.  Of course, most are basically identical in template.  Are there plans to up the sites’ variety or individuality?  What’s your response to the haters who say there is more variety (at least in design) right now with College Media Network (CMN) sites?

I’d respond respectfully that the comparison isn’t appropriate. While some of the news organizations we are working with have chosen the Gazette Edition from WooThemes as the foundation they want to start with, others including the Campus Chronicle, the Al-Talib News Magazine, and the Campanil have started with significantly different foundations.

It’s completely up to the news organization as to the direction they want to take the design. I can’t speak with any knowledge about College Publisher’s design process but, in most cases, we have the news organization take complete ownership of the design process. They pick an existing WordPress theme to start from, and then have the freedom to tweak the CSS, functionality, how the content is presented on the home page, etc. to their heart’s content. We’re there to answer any and all questions they have. If it serves a specific, important purpose to have their site look visually different than others, then we’ll coach them through that process.

Beyond appearance, there are user experience things that should cross-pollinate.  One goal we’re working towards is to build a network of news organizations actively running experiments with technology, presentation of content, etc. that can then share the knowledge of how well those experiments work and learn from each other.  For instance, Brian Manzullo has been putting together topical landing pages as contextual explainers for ongoing stories (an example here).  It’s up to the publication to take leadership on work like this, however; we try to provide a bounty of ideas and are working on a platform for news organizations to collaborate around those ideas.

Some student newspaper editors have written me to say the empowerment push of Web 3.0 means they can do their sites themselves, without CMN or CoPress or anyone else.  What’s your pitch as to why student media outlets can really benefit from a CoPress partnership?

That’s our mission too.  We want to get the news organizations we’re working with to the point where they can manage, maintain, and develop against their websites entirely on their own.  Most aren’t there yet, which is why I think what CoPress is doing, and the network we’re building, is tremendously valuable.

What’s been the coolest moment for you since starting CoPress?

ACP/CMA in Austin this fall was a stellar experience for a few reasons: We got meet a number of the news organizations we work with for the first time. We were fortunate to talk with other news organizations very interested in taking ownership of their ability to innovate on the web. And I got to hang out in the real world with a few people on our geographically diverse team who have worked tirelessly to make the big picture a reality.

Comments
One Response to “Chat with CoPress Executive Director Daniel Bachhuber”
  1. Greg Linch says:

    (Disclosure: I’m an adviser to CoPress and former team member)

    Adding on to the design answer: I’d wager that most visitors to college news sites don’t visit other college news sites, so it’s mainly journalists who see the similarities.

    This concern of similar design is also something of a red herring. Not to rehash old topics, the most important thing is having full control over your site (including full control of ad space). I’d be nice if everyone started from scratch with an original design, but many are happy with the more templated sites.

    As for College Publisher design: as I remember, they design the sites based on mockups from their clients.