College Media & the Mobile Universe: Students Always on Mobile Phones; Student Press Are Not

In a standout post for Poynter last month, Ohio State University student media director Dan Caterinicchia offered a status update on where collegemediatopia stands in respect to mobile devices. Are student news outlets catering to the mobile platform with editorial content and advertising? How do their mobile ideas mesh with their digital and print plans? And how does their mobile adoption compare to the professional press?

The bottom-line answer to those questions is provided in the headline of Caterinicchia’s piece: “College Websites Seeing Mobile Migration, But Not All Are Ready.” 

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As College Media Association president Rachele Kanigel, a student newspaper adviser and journalism professor at San Francisco State University, told him: “I think a lot of college newspapers are failing to take advantage of the natural audience for mobile news applications. Many are so busy covering news and putting out their print and online editions that they don’t have the time and energy to think mobile-first.”

Caterinicchia was kind enough to also reach out to me for some mobile-ready sentiments. Here is the gist of what I shared with him:

College students are constantly on their mobile phones. College media are not — at least not yet.

There are very few mobile power players in the college media universe at the moment, even as student audiences center their lives more and more around their smartphones. There has been a build-up as of late in mobile-responsive sites among student press outlets. There is also an increasing amount of Instagram experimentation. And student reporters are definitely using mobile devices to regularly report breaking news and produce real-time coverage of big events. But within the student press as a whole, the mobile sphere as a destination medium for audiences remains very much untamed.

Most of the student press is still beholden to, at worst, a print-first mentality and, at best, a web-and-print mix-and-match mindset. Mobile is entering the conversation. But it’s not yet a driver in big picture planning sessions or editorial meetings. It is also not yet a moneymaker from a business perspective as far as I know.

I still remember an October 2010 blog post Rachele Kanigel wrote encouraging students to embrace a mobile-first approach. In her words, “The more you use mobile technology to report what’s happening, the more your readers will look to your news organization as the definitive, can’t-live-without-it source on the information they care about.”

More than three years after she published that sentiment, student readers regard the mobile phone more than ever as a can’t-live-without-it source. Student media still do not — at least not yet.

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