Web Watch 5: Where are you from?

Take a look at the flag of your print edition. It probably contains the name of the publication and the name of your college. It may even include where you are located (the city and state). If it doesn’t include the latter, that’s okay, the vast majority of your readers know where they are when they pick it up.

Now take a look at the flag of your online edition. Where you are located might be more important. Campus publications focus on campus or local news. But visitors to your site are not like the readers of your print edition. They may be located in Zimbabwe or Syndey, New York or Paris. They may need to know what “local” means to you to put your stories into context. They may have come to your site through a search engine.

For instance, here is a SiteMeter representation of the last 500 visits of the Cerritos College talonmarks.com. While the college is located in Southern California, look at the distribution of visits from across the country and even around the world.

World map showing last 500 visits of Cerritos College talonmarks.com

How do California community college publications do in providing this information to their readers? Only three regular online editions — Pasadena College, Sacramento and Shasta College — provide the location of the college on the front page (Pasadena puts it at the bottom of the page).

Okay, six other colleges — Merced, Mira Costa, Ohlone, Reedley, Diego City and Taft— that post pdfs of their print editions as their sole online offerings include the addresses, too. They do so on regular college web pages that serve as portals to the pdf links. It is probably less significant here, though, because readers have to download the pdfs to read the publication. Content in PDF versions may be shielded from search engines and readers are more likely to specifically seek out the college before reading. PDF is an ineffective way to have an online presence.

Most JACC schools at least indicate which college they represent, but six of them don’t even do that! Bakersfield, Cerritos, Cypress, Laney, Palomar, Santa Monica and Skyline only include the name of the publication. Palomar includes the line “Focusing on Palomar,” Cypress includes “The Cypress Chronicle Online,” Laney includes “Laney Tower.com,” but unless you know those are college names ….

Now online

Add two more schools to the previous lists of California community colleges going online this semester: American River, which I missed in previous lists, and Rio Hondo, which goes online for the first time.

That brings to 32 the number of California community colleges to get started online this school year. Schools that were still publishing online as of last spring that are still missing in action are Los Medanos, Marin, Palo Verde, Reedley, San Bernardino (MIA since last November), San Francisco and Taft. A few others are MIA a little longer than that and at least seven who were online at one time are dead: Not even a out-of-date page is available any longer.

Also of note this week:

  • Cerritos has added a photo staff list that uses College Publisher’s auto portfolio system (see my other post). Only 10 of 27 College Publisher partners in the California community college system use the portfolio system.
  • Crime shows up on campus in a number of publications, but Long Beach City’s coverage of an on-campus sexual assault shows unusual coverage. Reporters staked out the assault scene 24 hours after the incident to get a sense of the isolation during the attack.
  • Several schools do good jobs with consumer choice stories, but one wonders how much more effective the stories might be online if presented more visually with infographs or multi-media presentations (see Mindy McAdams’ blog for links to examples of multi-media presentations). Not to pick on the students at Cosumnes River –it is early in the school year and few community college teachers are prepared to teach these skills yet– but take a look at their stories on inexpensive lunch choices and managing time and imagine how much more effective they could be online as multi-media stories. Or Cypress’ story on credit cards.
  • Speaking of Cypress, the staff is short on sports writers, but feels sports coverage is important, so editors have created a section online for releases from the sports information department. Giving readers content despite a shortage of staff skills? What a great concept!

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