O’Colly Reinvention at OK State is Part of Biggest Shift in College Media in a Century

The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University is embarking on a massive reinvention that will push back deadlines, require less work on papers and encourage students to spend more time on their mobile phones.

On the surface, it sounds like every college student’s dream. In reality, it is part of a rising movement within college media 2.0 — one which principal architects are determined to see through even while unsure about its eventual success.

Starting this fall, the 119-year-old student newspaper in Stillwater, Okla., will adopt a new format, publishing schedule and digital focus. It is even changing its name, from The Daily O’Collegian to the O’Colly, the pub’s longtime nickname.

The loss of Daily in the nameplate mirrors the shrinking print schedule. Student staffers will be putting out a print edition three times per week instead of five. And these every-other-day issues — appearing Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — will be tabloid-sized instead of broadsheet.

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Mock-up of the masthead for redesigned O’Colly, by editor Emily Farris.

“By making this change, we are transitioning from a five-day-a-week newspaper to a 24/7 media company,” said editor-in-chief Kyle Hinchey earlier this semester in a formal announcement about the changes. “In this digital age, it is imperative we direct more of our attention to our digital audience, and that’s what this step forward will allow us to do.”

The slide away from print is being taken in various ways by many student press outlets. Collectively, advisers, educators and student journalists are witnessing or participating in the biggest shift in college media since campus newspapers appeared in modern form in the mid-to-late 1800s.

‘100-percent digital transition’

Depending on one’s perspective, the evolution from print to digital is either a rebirth or a bloodletting. In both camps, though, there is agreement that print is the victim.

A growing number of papers are cutting or considering cutting the number of print editions they publish each week or month. Others are trimming their page sizes or reducing the number of copies or pages produced for each issue.

Still others are experimenting with magazine editions, special issues, new sections, non-content revenue streams, social media schemes, mobile apps and Web overhauls. A few papers have dropped print entirely, opting to reboot as online-only outlets.

For example, The College Reporter at Franklin & Marshall College announced in February its only print edition going forward will be emailed and uploaded online as a PDF, the culmination of a three-year “100-percent digital transition.”

It is a transition O’Colly General Manager Ray Catalino (left) contends is necessary across college media, however tough it may be for traditionalists to stomach.

“I’ve been holding off,” Catalino said of the changes to print. “A lot of papers have been holding off. But now is the time to make a move. … Whether or not we’ll be any better off a year or five years from now, I don’t know. But I’ve been swayed by the belief that what we’re seeing from readers and customers is a permanent change. For the last few years, I’ve been saying, ‘Oh, it’s just a fad. It’s just that Facebook thing.’ I now see it’s not a fad. We all need to jump in.”

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O’Colly at Oklahoma State Changes Name, Size & Publication Schedule

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