2014 College Media Year in Review, Part 2: ‘Welcome to the Future of the Future’

Along with reinvention [see part one], one other resounding trend among college media in 2014 was financial duress — and efforts to either beat it back or at least keep it at bay.

For example, facing an “apocalyptic threat” due to low cash reserves, The Daily Texan entered into a once-unimaginable partnership with the Moody College of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin. The Texan’s top editor at the time confirmed to readers that “the paper I’ve made the cornerstone of my college experience may never turn a profit again.”

After similarly failing to turn profits or secure needed student fees support, The Famuan at Florida A&M University, The Collegian at the University of Richmond and The California Aggie at the University of California, Davis, dropped their print editions.

Amid a larger budget crunch impacting many student groups, The Columns at Missouri’s Westminster College also shifted this past fall from print-first to an online-only operation.

1

As Columns faculty adviser Maureen Tuthill tells me about the experience so far:

“Going online is definitely cheaper, but we have had to reshape our entire news cycle (we used to be a monthly). That has been challenging. We seem to have become a weekly, even though we never planned it that way. There is more pressure to produce fresh articles, which is good. We are paying more attention to what our readers will be interested in, what will draw them to the site. The visual component of our news delivery has also improved dramatically because it seems absolutely crucial to have an image for each story. And now that space is not a concern, we are starting to get creative with multiple photos in the layout. … It’s been a roller-coaster, but mostly good, so far. I still miss the print edition, though.”

Separately, faced with shrinking ad revenue and long-term economic uncertainty, The Hullabaloo at Tulane University recently launched a photography business. The three-pronged aim of the student newspaper’s start-up effort: find a niche, book clients and help “bring the Hullabaloo financial stability.”

The side business — dubbed Green Wave Photography — is an offshoot of a similar, successful venture jumpstarted a few semesters back by the Emerald at the University of Oregon. The Emerald-affiliated PhotoBooth promises clients “red-carpet-worthy professional quality photos and real time photo strip printing.” In a tweet, former Emerald publisher Ryan Frank dubbed the Hullabaloo venture as nothing less than “college media innovation in action.”

1

Meanwhile in February, in the midst of “really frightening” budget woes, The Daily Utah Chronicle at the University of Utah staged a “Shark Tank”-style meeting to gather ideas to invigorate the paper’s bottom line. As the school’s student media director Jake Sorensen told The Salt Lake City Tribune, the question driving the pitches: “If you were going to build a modern media organization on campus, what would it look like? Just pretend we could start from scratch.”

Six months later, the Central Florida Future at Central Florida University put ideas into action, scratching its print design, website and publishing schedule in favor of “a new kind of news source.”

1

As Central Florida Future staffer Jessica Saggio wrote cheekily in a note to readers, “Perhaps you may have noticed, or perhaps you are like a bad boyfriend and haven’t noticed, we got a makeover — a really big makeover. No longer are we that clunky newspaper that was impossible to sneak into class and read. No longer are we that website that looked like it was out of the AOL instant-messenger era. No longer are we ‘just a newspaper.’ We have found our wings, people, and queue the R. Kelly [song] because we believe we can fly.”

The note’s headline: “Welcome to the Future of the Future.”

To read my full 2014 year in review, click here or on the screenshot below.

1

Related

2014 College Media Year in Review, Part 1: ‘Go to Hell & Take the Print Newspaper with You’

Adviser on Student Paper’s Online-Only Shift: ‘It’s Been a Roller-Coaster, Mostly Good, So Far’

Central Florida Student Newspaper Reinvents: ‘Welcome to the Future of the Future’

Beating Back ‘Apocalyptic Threat,’ Daily Texan Will Remain Daily in Print (for Now)

Daily Utah Chronicle Faces ‘Really Frightening’ Budget Woes, Turns to ‘Shark Tank’ for Answers

Leave A Comment