Which newspaper will drop its print edition first?

Wired News prediction for 2007: “A major newspaper gives up printing on paper to publish exclusively online.

Howard Owens doesn’t think so: “Ain’t happening. There’s still too much revenue tied up in print and not enough online. A major newspaper — I’m taking this to mean a major metro — couldn’t support it’s current news operation with a digital-only strategy. Not now. Not yet. Not for a couple to a few years.

Lucas Grindley follows the money: “If a newspaper stops printing, about two-thirds of its operating expenses are thrown out the window. No more newsprint. No more carriers. No more circulation department, sales kiosks and all that.

Bryan Murley says college papers can do it under certain circumstances:

  • A small advertising base
  • A majority of funding from student fees
  • A small staff
  • A visionary editor
  • A forward-thinking adviser
  • A fully wired campus

Calling the Spartan Daily

Steve Greene was right when he recommended the Daily become a weekly print paper with a continuous online news site, a la the [X]Press at San Francisco State.

Cue rant: I’m not going into the painful details about how much talking-head event coverage gets into the Daily, or how certain stories (and feature photos) are repeated each and every semester (ballroom dancing, anyone?), or how much superfluous wire copy gets into print during busy points in the school year, but seriously, students are being cheated out of the experience of working in a continuous news environment because the faculty sees the print product as the end-all be-all of newspapering. Note to my peers: As reporters, you will be expected to get stories done before 5pm on occasion, and they will be posted online immediately. That’s the real world of newspapers today. It’s nice that the Daily has trained a steady string of page designers, but it could just as easily turn out an annual crop of multimedia producers. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a modernization? End rant.

How much of the same can be said of your major metro daily? Or your small-to-medium town broadsheet replete with wire copy on international events and faraway football games?

How many broadsheets will be willing to start the process of change by re-aligning as tabloid-size papers with less cable news and Internet overlap of content?

We’ll see more announcements of this sort of thing in 2007.  I wish that college newspapers would lead adoption instead of following five years behind trends, but that might still be a pretty hefty wish.

Good luck to all daily print publications this year — they’re going to need it.

How would you create an online community at SJSU?

Daniel Sato, online editor of the Spartan Daily student newspaper at San Jose State University, is trying to come up with a way to let readers vote their own stories up the charts, to tackle the twin problems of there being little sense of community at SJSU (online OR off, in my opinion) and organizations constantly complaining that the school paper ignores them.

He’s talking about using Pligg to build a site where clubs and teams can essentially submit links to their own stories, and then the readers can vote on them as they please, a la Digg.

Will it work?

I’m skeptical, but then again, the first time Daniel pointed me to Digg, I wrote the site off as a bunch of losers who didn’t know anything about the stories they were voting on.

What do you think? Would you give your readers a “Submit This” button and then let them vote stories up and down a user-generated-content page?

Go tell Daniel.

More on the online skills study that made me say Wow

Rich Cameron at the JACC blog reacts to the finding that college experience with CMS tools, HTML and Photoshop will help j-school students get jobs in online news:

“Those papers that post PDF only or use non-content management systems are cheating their students. College Publisher is the cheapest, but not only content management system available. But perhaps more important, those schools that are not emphasising mid-issue updates and pre-issue versions of stories –in other words, online first, print second– are also cheating their students in preparing them for careers in our ever-changing industry.”

Conversion to a continuous news model should be the top priority for student media outlets.

And if you’re going to publish 16 to 20 hour old news the next morning, it damn well better have something special about it. I want sex advice columns and awesome feature stories for that kind of timing.

Reinventing, rebranded and reloaded

Bryan Murley of College Media Advisers and the Reinventing College Media crew have, um, re-invented themselves as the Center for Innovation in College Media.

From the send-off post at the old site:

“This new Center will serve as a resource to college journalists and their advisers by sharing information freely online and by providing practical training in the application of emerging media techniques at regional and national workshops.”

I like the sound of “practical training.” More than theory and handwringing and discussion about the curriculum, J-School students — and faculty — need to get their hands dirty with tools like Soundslides, video cameras, and blogs.

Otherwise, all the New Media talk in journalism departments is just that — talk.

Check out the first big post at the Innovation in College Media blog. It’s an interview with the editor-in-chief at the Campus Lantern, a student paper at Eastern Connecticut State University that recently converted itself into an online-only publication, but now is battling with student government, which has threatened to pull the paper’s funding if there’s no print edition.

The Lantern looks like a great case study for papers looking to move from a daily/print publishing cycle to a continuous/online news cycle, not to mention the political issues around taking funding from student government.

I’ve heard some talk in the hallways about changing the way SJSU’s Daily gets funding from students, and the Lantern’s struggle to maintain control of its format provides some strong warnings about what can go wrong when the student government pays for your press run.

So when can we get an Innovation workshop going over here on the West Coast?

More on student media server options

Bryan Murley at Reinventing College Media provides a roadmap of server/hosting options for student papers, including those looking to stray from the College Publisher herd.

There are pros and cons to each choice, and Bryan does a great job of laying out what you’ll need to know, who you’ll need to trust, and what you’ll need to pay for each of these choices.

The Spartan Daily is blogging

Meanwhile, back at the Spartan Daily, SJSU’s student newspaper, Daniel Sato and Neal Waters (I’m guessing they both had a hand in this) appear to have taken a few days off from their redesign of the online edition of the Daily to set up a WordPress blog for the paper.

Sports Editor Andrew Torrez live-blogged the Spartans’ 35-34 victory over Stanford yesterday (Oh, by the way, WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!), and it looks like a staff writer is blogging from the Dew Action Sports Tour meet in San Jose today.

Nice job, fellas. I sure hope you teased all this in Thursday’s paper…

I love this use of a student newspaper blog: Updates on news/sports/etc. over the weekend and between print publications, because you can and should engage your readers every chance you get.

The missing link for student newspapers: Software to support a continuous news desk

When the Spartan Daily made the transition to College Publisher in January, I was struck by just how driven by a daily print cycle an online publishing CMS could be.

Why should it be that way? Why make online production dependent on your print stories being ready for publication? Why wait until after the print edition has been proofed to push the button to publish online?

Most of these questions are answered by the limitations of the software. The newspaper is divided up into dated editions, discouraging students from continuously updating stories. We tried to workaround that by adding a newsticker across the top of the page to use for promos and breaking news. It pulls headlines from a WordPress blog, but little else.

Here’s a question: Many folks, myself include, point to the Golden Gate [X]Press at San Francisco State as a great online student news site. The [X]Press, if I’ve got my facts straight, publishes weekly in print, but updates the online edition continuously, as the stories are edited. The site isn’t run on a conventional newspaper CMS, but on Movable Type, used more often for blogs and other dynamic web content. (Prof. DeVigal, please correct me if any of this is wrong.)

When we talk about redesigning our online edition, the common plea is to “make it look less like a newspaper.”

So how do we do that? And how do we instill student editors with the notion that the Web is the first place they publish, as events happen?

I’m not (just) going to be a part of the handwringing chorus, so here’s a specific, albeit nebulous proposal:

Let’s take an open-source content management system like Mambo or Joomla and craft a few basic templates that don’t look like newspaper front pages frozen in time at 11:30pm last night. Then, let’s offer those up to college papers that can host themselves on university servers and don’t need a hosted solution paid for by national advertising.

Or not. But if you can code a College Publisher template into something that would be useful to a continuous news desk that publishes as soon as the stories are ready, please let me know how it turns out and where I can find one like it.

Actually, that’s what CP really needs: somewhere for coders to exchange information. New Digital Group (aka Digital Partners) had (has?) a message board, and although it was pretty dead by the time I got there, I could read through old posts and find solutions to some problems. That would be helpful.

Okay, I’m off on a rant, but here’s the point: Student newspapers need/want to transition their sites to something resembling a continuously updated news site, and they need a content management system that encourages them.

Check out Rich Cameron’s ideas about a common platform for online student papers, and the advantages of using College Publisher. For now.

Then read Bryan Murley’s chronicle of moving a student paper from static HTML pages to CP, and be sure to peruse the comments as well.

Vanderbilt student media site opens up to the community

In Nashville, Vanderbilt University‘s student newspaper has completely retooled and reimagined what a college media Web site should look like and what its purpose should be in the university community.

InsideVandy.com is the result.


Straight news and blogs written by the staff mingle with reader photos, stories, and blogs.

The site is run with Drupal, free open-source software with a huge user community. It’s easy enough to get started with Drupal that I played around with it sometime last year while brainstorming what we could do to give SJSU’s student body a place for community building and social networking.
You can hear a podcast about the development of InsideVandy thanks to Reinventing College Media.

New campus media blog

Check out CampusByline, a new blog tracking student media across the country.

“I think that students can do top-notch journalism (I’ve witnessed it) and I believe that there’s a need to highlight the positive work being done. With that in mind, I wanted to start this blog. It’s going to start out small, at first, but we’re just a two-person operation right now along with full-time graduate school going on. Despite that, we’re determined to bring attention this overlooked niche of media that directly is affecting the much ignored and much sought after 18-35 demographic.”

It looks like it could be a sort of Romenesko for college newspapers.