College Newspaper Drops Print, First to Operate Primarily on Publishing Platform Medium

Medium now has Substance. The popular publishing platform recently started hosting Substance, a new student publication at Mt. San Antonio College that doubles as a totally reinvented version of The Mountaineer campus newspaper.

It is the first college media outlet to operate primarily on Medium. Substance adviser and MSAC j-prof extraordinaire Toni Albertson describes the arrangement as nothing less than “the perfect merge of tech and college journalism.”

In a bravura announcement yesterday about the merger, Albertson explained that the impetus behind it was two-fold — mounting staff frustration at the print production routine and growing reader ennui toward the print edition.

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In Albertson’s words:

“While [staffers] used to like putting out the print newspaper, they began to loathe it and the long hours and late production nights it took to produce it. You know there’s a problem when the editor-in-chief yells, ‘Go to hell and take the print newspaper with you’ and half the room walks out. Maybe if the student population was reading the paper they might have felt differently. Each semester they would go out on campus and take a survey: ‘Do you read the student print newspaper?’ The answer was a resounding ‘NO.'”

Among student outlets, the digital-only movement continues to gain momentum — embodied most prominently by The State Press at Arizona State University. But this Medium-is-the-message experiment is definitely unique and on the collegemediatopia cutting-edge A-list.

As MSAC student and Substance content manager Albert Serna Jr. exclaims about it, “I’m so scared and excited I could pee my pants.”

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 1.57.15 AMIn the exclusive Q&A below, Albertson shares some of her early thoughts about the Medium move — dropping buzzwords like sponsorship, “crazy creative” and “instant gratification.”

How was the name Substance selected, and what is it meant to convey? 

The name was created for our award-winning print magazine and was meant to be a play on, well, a drug — mainly because they felt it would make a college student wonder if the title had something to do with a drug. (Hence the tagline: “Not just another bad habit.”) The real meaning is that the publication covers issues of substance, the writing is substantial, etc. When we made the decision to kill the print edition, the students decided that they wanted to keep the name Substance as the Medium publication, and also felt it went along with Medium’s publications like Matter. The folks at Medium loved the title as well.

What are some early ideas for making money?  

We are going for sponsorship — just like Medium’s re:form, which is sponsored by BMW. We already have a few lined up — just trying to find the right match. The reality is that print advertising is hardly a cash cow these days. We have to move beyond the print ad model and sponsorship is a good start.

Beyond the business angle, what behind-the-scenes production or staffing changes are in store now that the print routine is out?

I wrote in my intro that the students don’t want to leave the newsroom. This is a huge change to witness. They meet twice-weekly — brainstorming ideas for Substance, but they tend to stay around for hours talking and brainstorming. Unlike the old days (it’s only been since Friday and I’m already referring to print as the old days), the story ideas have moved so far beyond what they would pitch for the campus print newspaper. They are wanting to cover topics that affect and appeal to all college students, not just our campus students. Also, the ideas for visuals have changed drastically — they’ve gone crazy creative.

1They also started to discuss partnerships with our photography, art, graphic design and animation students — something that’s never been done in the past. They decided to throw out the isolating “working on my story” way of doing things and focus on collaboration.

The most powerful thing about this new move is the instant gratification. To give you an example, Albert Serna’s story on growing up gay and Latino in machismo culture has more than 11,000 views and we just launched Friday. The other stories are in the thousands. This is instant gratification in the best possible way. There is nothing more motivating than knowing people are reading what you write!

Related

State Press at ASU Publishes Final Print Issue, Reflects on Legacy & ‘Post-Print’ Future

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