My Prediction: A Great Student Press WordPress Migration

As I first wrote last week, College Media Network has announced it will soon begin charging many student press outlets using its College Publisher online content management system. The decision is a game-changer for the company, which previously provided its popular CMS free for all, in exchange for online ad revenue sharing.

Some early comments from student newspaper editors and their faculty advisers have trickled in, most displaying dismay or outright anger at the charges.  Of course, the reactions may not be representative of collegemediatopia’s views overall. (Eds. at the papers happy to go along with the new plan are probably less motivated to speak up.)

But the voices sounding so far surely embody a larger cross-section of student pubs– ones whose editors at the moment are feeling a mix of disenchantment and motivation to try something new.  As one student editor notes, “Either way, this is the impetus we need to make a change, for better or worse.”

My take: CMN has served college media well over the past decade.  Have its website templates been especially innovative or even that attractive?  Not really.  But its contribution has never been about cutting-edge or creativity.  Instead, it has been about practicality.  It has provided the most practical means for many student pubs to sport an online presence.

Now, does CMN have every right to decide to suddenly charge money for the platforms and services it renders?  Of course, yes.  And is the decision based more on rational need than outright greed?  I believe so, yes.

As CMN’s Rusty Lewis writes, “When this business model was started 10 years ago, the landscape was much different from both a services standpoint and revenue standpoint.  The cpm’s on this media simply do not underwrite the expanding services we provide.  We apologize for the inconvenience this change may cause, but it is unfortunately a reality we have to consider to stay in business and continue to support college media.”

Yet, regardless of the justifications offered for the new charges, do college media outlets have every right to reject them and go their own way?  Absolutely.  And do I think many outlets should reject the charges and go their own way? ABSOLUTELY.

The power is in students’ hands.  According to Lewis, in response to one critic of the new pay plan, “We know it will be a difficult process/transition to go through, but we feel it is better than the alternatives.”

Maybe all the alternatives but one.  WordPress has made it easier than ever to create and maintain a simple, yet attractive, news site.  With just a bit of skill and a steady workflow, the sites can even border on extraordinary.  And by moving to the land of WordPress– or even ascending all the way to handcoded heaven– students can cut the middleman and its new charges out of the picture.

My prediction: 2011 will be the year of the great student press WordPress migration.  There will be hiccups.  There will be outright failures.  There will be increased stress.  But the mass move will ultimately set the stage for a new era of college media online awesomeness.

Other early responses to the CMN game-changer (all written as blog post comments, so forgive the grammar slips):

As the editor of a small Texas college newspaper whose online website is currently hosted by College Publisher, this new charge is simply out of our budget. We are currently evaluating our different options, including moving to WordPress or buying our own domain and building our own website, but needless to say this is frustrating.  On the other hand, perhaps it is time for our newspaper to break free from hosts like College Publisher and build and host our own website. Either way, this is the impetus we need to make a change, for better or worse.”

Luckily, our newspaper had just made the move from CP to our own website with WordPress. We have had a few road bumps along our change, but all in all it’s been a great move. I don’t think we will look back and regret the change at all. WordPress allows us a totally new look that readers have responded positively to.  I think CP shot themselves in the leg with this move now it’s only a matter of time before they bleed out. They obviously don’t understand their target client—small to mid-universities who don’t have the money or personnel to dedicate to a fully custom site.”

We currently operate on CP5. I made the switch over when I became editor last year, and it was a lot of work. Now, I can’t help but feel it was a waste of my time.  2,000 dollars is simply not in our budget. My biggest issue with this is that the ‘smaller’ schools are paying the price. Frankly, I feel like I am being punished for going to college with only 12,000 kids. Give me a break CP, way to support.”

Our newspaper has finally made a push to bring more people to read our newspaper online. We started doing video, more interesting layout and online exclusives. We’re a weekly with a campus size of 1,600 students. We can’t ensure that we’ll get that many views in a month.We’re currently looking into other options, and there’s more out than WordPress. It’s just hard if you have no journalism program to back you up either.  But honestly, CP wasn’t even that great. I was waiting for a reason to leave it. I look at it as an opportunity to think about what we can do to reinvent our image, web-wise.”

The colleges who do not qualify for the free policy are the very ones who cannot afford these kinds of fees. Say goodbye to many online college sites. I’ve been a staunch supporter of College Publisher over the years and have brought many accounts to them. I feel betrayed.

5 Responses to “My Prediction: A Great Student Press WordPress Migration”
  1. Sarah says:

    We made the switch to WordPress at the beginning of the semester and the increase in online activity has been tremendous. I think a lot of college media organizations will find that, though there are other options, WordPress is incredibly easy to use and you can do a lot of really creative and inventive things with it to increase readership.

  2. Madison says:

    In a way this is sad to see CP losing so many customers because they have been a big part of the online landscape. And I know many of those publications will switch to WP for their sites, but this is one of the first college media posts to suggest building their own site… Finally!

    I have designed and maintained three (what I consider) great college news sites all from scratch. The Communicator Online at Spokane Falls Community College as well as The Argonaut and Blot Magazine at the University of Idaho.

    This system is a little more time consuming but in no way shape of form hinders these media outlets from being among the best in the nation (two ACP Online Pacemakers, and four NCMC Best of Show top-five placements in the last two years combined).

    I just want to stress that before an organization makes the decision to switch to WP (or something like it) give the build-it-yourself route a chance.

  3. Joinpa says:

    I think you guys should check out iSites (

    iSites is a product of GENWI, and a self-service app creation and management system that is extremely affordable and ideal for college newspapers. The Stanford Daily, The Daily Californian, The Kentucky Kernel all use iSites.

    iSites’s system allows anyone to create and self-manage custom branded mobile apps where users can design an application once and publish it to multiple platforms. On this platform you can add and change content, reorganize it and update the branding elements of the app without requiring an app resubmission.

    In September GENWI released Instant App. Instant app allows any content producer or publisher to instantly distribute an app as soon as it is published, directly to Smartphones, free from the constraints governing acceptance to native app stores. Instant apps are built on HTML5 and Web tool. GENWI’s platform allows for in-app video streaming, social sharing of content through email, FB and Twitter, it provides monetization, analytics and you can easily share an app using Bump’s APIs.

    Benefits to Using iSites
    • Does not require an app developer
    • Monetization
    • Real-time data analysis
    • Branding
    • Complete Customization
    • Active flexibility in revising apps
    • Integration with multiple social media platforms

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John R. Bennett. John R. Bennett said: RT @collegemedia: My prediction for 2011: A great student press WordPress migration […]

  2. […] Daniel Reimold of College Media Matters predicts a lot of student newspapers will be leaving College Media Network and its College Publisher platform after the new ownership announced licensing fees begin this year. And I hope he’s right. […]