Who will go online in 2007?

Wired News has predicted that a major newspaper will abandon print and go solely online in 2007. A bold prediction that leaves out a definition of “major.”

Some other sources I’ve been reading suggests it may be the Washington Post.

Surely some newspaper somewhere will do just that. Indeed some smaller rural newspapers have already done so. Bryan Murley at Innovation in College Media blogs that it could happen at the college level next fall. A couple of student publications across the country have already done that. He even goes so far as to suggest conditions that would allow it.

  • 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

Wiill any JACC publications go solely online in 2007? Maybe.

Cypress College would like to be the first, and that could happen. But it seems unlikely. I think a key component is lacking from Murley’s list that affects JACC papers like the Charger Chronicle. That component is readership. Which of us has found the solution to drive our student audience to OUR web sites in large enough numbers. If schools would set all campus computer browsers to default to the campus newspaper it might work. Or we need to find another solution. Remember, one of the key reasons colleges have a student newspaper is to reach the campus’ students. They’re spending time online, but not necessarily at our sites.

Who else might go online? The first online-only JACC paper is more likely to come from a school like Allan Hancock or Evergreen, schools that have flirted with school publications, but have been unwilling to devote enough resources. Such a move is likely to be student-driven.

For the rest of us getting online, staying online, growing online and understanding online will be the watchwords for 2007. Most of the JACC schools are either online now or in the process –West Valley, LA City and Diablo Valley being the most prominent in their absence. Also AWOL is Los Medanos, which has one of the most innovative self-grown sites in the state with its Filemaker backbone. But campus server problems have kept it offline all fall semester. Missing schools who are in various stages of going online, from just barely starting to almost there are:

  • Canyons
  • El Camino
  • East LA
  • Fresno
  • Reedley
  • Saddleback
  • San Jose
  • Santa Ana
  • Southwestern

Most are looking to the College Publisher platform as the answer, though some refuse to go that direction and a couple of schools (such as Santa Monica and Santa Rosa) are abandoning that platform. You’ve got to love diversity, but the potential of an integrated JACC network through College Publisher is enticing, too. That’ll happen in 2007, too, but major schools will be left out because of their independent route decisions.

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2 responses to “Who will go online in 2007?

  1. Rich, excellent comments and thanks for following through. I’m glad the semester has subsided so you can get back to contributing to the conversation. 🙂

    the readership question is an excellent one. But it’s a question that will have to be dealt with by every college paper, so it’s not really something that would have to be present for someone to go online-only.

    Honestly, I think it’s going to require some very innovative thinking to build that online readership, but it can be done. There’s also a “compromise” position where the bulk of effort would be put into the online version, with a print product driven by the online content.

  2. Rich Cameron

    Paul McLeod was having problems adding a comment (gotta switch to an easier-to-comment blog tool), so I’m posting it for him.
    – – – – – –

    Rich – Pardon this rather long diatribe, but I read your blog and post on the JACC list serve with much interest.

    Fact of the matter is, for some time I have been preparing Harbor College in Wilmington to do just what you suggest: Go web only.

    Why?

    First, the Harbor Tides meets just about every one of Murley’s criteria. We’re small, young and broke.

    Second, the other JC in the South Bay is heavily-weighted in print and has yet to take the web seriously. (In fact, it shut it down a while back). With the new state funding system, our president has asked us to put more butts in the seats. Writing for the web first is one way the under-funded journalism department at tiny, debt-riddled Harbor College can attempt to offer an alternative that fits that scenario.

    By way of background, the Tides’ print edition was “reborn” about four years ago (before I arrived) as a project in a feature writing class. It is not funded in any way, shape or form by the college. It has never developed a strong advertising base. In fact, the campus is not in an area conducive to advertising. While the hard copy derives widespread support from faculty and the faculty Senate in particular, the paper was denied in its bid for vocational education funding last spring. Currently, the administration, at odds with the senate, does not appear to be bending over backwards to find funding as we approach 2007, either.

    Further, despite a recommendation last fall by the hiring practices committee that the position of journalism adviser be elevated to full-time from its current 60 per cent, it appears unlikely the college president will act. Harbor’s $2 million annual deficit is projected to mushroom to $3.5 million next year under the new funding system unless it boosts its 8,000 student enrollment substantially.

    On the bright side, hctides.com, a College Publisher site, launched in early November with front-page coverage of a three-car crash in the parking lot. Small potatoes, but it raised a few eyebrows. Since, it has received surprisingly fantastic reviews from faculty and students.

    At my evaluation earlier this month, I indicated to my Division Chair, a strong supporter of my teaching methods, that I am changing my syllabi to reflect that I will teach my writing and reporting, as well as “newspaper class” (the aforementioned article writing course), for the web first, hard copy second.

    That’s essential for journalism to survive at Harbor. This school year The Tides print edition is surviving thanks to an “anonymous grant” of $10,000, which will be exhausted by June. Since school funding of any kind (VTEA, etc.) appears to be channeling elsewhere as it did a year ago, Harbor’s one-man program must be prepared to publish or perish.

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