In this period of flux for journalism, as publications are re-tooling their operations to focus more on digital publishing, presumably adapting to readers’ demands for online content, Poynter’s recent conclusion that students prefer reading print college newspapers more than their online editions may come as a surprise.
On September 14, Poynter Online writer, Bill Kruger, reported that printed college newspapers are continuing to thrive, while online editions of college papers seem to appeal more to alumni, prospective students and parents. Kruger interviewed several college newspaper advisors across the country, including Kevin Schwartz, of The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"If something is free and convenient to get and whatever is in it is relevant to them, they have no qualms about printed versus non-printed. A college newspaper, if it’s done right, is all of those things," said Schwartz.
Kruger also drew on a 2010 survey by Eric Weil, a managing partner of Student Monitor, which found that 63 percent of students classify themselves as frequent or light readers of the print edition of their campus newspaper while 56 percent of students report not knowing if their campus newspaper is available online.
To further account for student preference for printed college newspapers, Lloyd Goodman, director of student publications at The Shorthorn, said that "college newspapers are niche publications" that students like to pick up and read over lunch.
Stephen Heleker, student body president at Boise State University, also told Kruger that since students spend so much time working on computers, "they value the respite offered" by the print versions of their college newspapers.
However, with college newspapers like The Shorthorn, which are developing college newspaper apps for smart phones, reading habits among college students may yet begin to change. Student papers such as the Columbia Daily Spectator are increasingly adding web-exclusive features, such as videos and blogs, to their websites, in addition to utilizing social media such as Twitter and Facebook, to increase traffic.
Alternative student blogs may also be a factor in the unpopularity of some mainstream college newspaper websites. As Michael Tracey, former editor-in-chief of College of New Jersey’s alternative student publication, The Perspective and current Nation intern, observed: "Blogs not associated with daily college newspapers seem to be siphoning off online readership, thanks to their often unconventional reporting styles that appeal to a generation not raised on traditional modes of news consumption."
The Nation is interested in learning about your reading habits and your student publications’ experiences. Please take our poll letting us know which medium you prefer to take your news or leave a comment in our discusson thread below.