In search of inspiring models for college news sites

Update (Nov. 18, 2009 at 2 p.m.): I’ve added Connect2Mason, another site we’ve previously covered, to the list of examples and included a link to a podcast with their founder.

From linking out and social media to video and liveblogging, student journalists often hear advice about steps their individual news organizations should take to succeed today. But we often neglect to take a step back and consider different models from which college media can draw inspiration.

inspiration

So, we’d like to examine those with some depth in a new series, offering a different twist on the usual coverage. Specifically, focusing on news sites that began online. There’s a ton of great work being done online by print publications across the country, which we often cover, and this series is intended to help everyone.

Why this approach? Because good things can come when your news organization thinks like a startup. Also, these sites are unencumbered by legacy costs or structures related to a long-standing print publication.

We already know of a few good examples within college media:

  • NYU Local — an independent site at New York University
  • Amherst Wire — a magazine-style site at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • Connect2Mason — a convergence site that partners with existing college media on campus
  • The Bwog — a blog run by the undergraduate magazine staff at Columbia University
  • Onward State — a blog covering the Penn State community
  • Daily Colonial — online daily news site for George Washington University and the surrounding areas

And even some outliers like The Daily Gazette, a daily news site at Swarthmore College that started as online-only and then added a print edition.

The most well-known of these sites is probably NYU Local, which has been covered by MediaShift and College Media Matters, the latter of which profiled founder Cody Brown. It’s even been linked to by The New York Times. Previously, CoPress spoke with Cody and Miles Skorpen, a CoPress team member then of The Daily Gazette, about online-only student news organizations last year.

We’ve also spoken with Jackie Hai and Richard Caesar of the Amherst Wire for a podcast (Jackie wrote a post about their economic stimulus coverage) and Whitney Rhodes, founding director of Connect2Mason, on a different podcast.

If you know of other good examples, drop us a link in the comments and let us know why they’re interesting — we’d probably like to talk with them. We’re particularly interested in student-created, student-run college news sites (i.e. not ones under the university or j-school).

Basically, we’re looking to write in more depth about startup, blog-style and other models of interest to college media — both at the college and professional levels. Also, we’d be open to submissions for posts, as always.

With these posts, we hope to offer lessons and advice that all college news organizations find useful and, perhaps, provide ideas to inspire others to start similar sites.

I’ve already started drafting a post about the Texas Tribune‘s model; until then, check out this interview with one of their developers. I also have ideas swirling in my head after attending the New Media Women Entrepreneurs Summit last Monday. Stay tuned!

8 comments

  1. Rachel says:

    The Daily Colonial is a joke. Do a little research/reading.

  2. Georgetown Student says:

    Vox Populi (blog.georgetownvoice.com), a blog run by one of the student papers at Georgetown, is really good.

  3. Greg Linch says:

    @Georgetown Student: Thanks! I’m familiar with Vox Populi. Definitely a good model.

  4. [...] Google, and software applications we are coming to rely upon algorithms as a basis of authority.In search of inspiring models for college news sites | CoPressCoPressBrian Manzullo says: A look into college news sites, specifically at news sites that began [...]

  5. BU Student says:

    http://buquad.com

    It’s a new magazine-style site that runs both bi-weekly online “issues” with feature articles and daily blogs about pretty much everything, but a focus on campus groups and events.

    They’ve done 5 issues so far and gotten some decent traction.

  6. Greg Linch says:

    @BU Student: Very cool! Anything else that makes it an inspiring model? Do you happen to know if they generate revenue and pay the staff?

  7. BU Student says:

    I’m not sure if it’s “inspiring” yet, as it just started in October. However, one of the things that’s cool is the way they’re trying to blend the magazine and blog models.

    The “feature” articles tend to be written in a traditional journalistic style – mostly third person, heavy on interviews, citations, etc. – while “blog” articles (distinguished, it seems, only by the graphic header of each post) are much more, well, blog-like, written in the first person with dashes of sarcasm, satire, and whimsy. That said, the feature articles often have original photography and lots, I mean lots of multimedia, which seems to set it apart from the average “online magazine.”

    Although they cover pretty much everything, where they really earn their keep is in spotlighting interesting and (this is key) TIMELY campus events, clubs, artists, student-run businesses, etc. that the traditional campus newspaper, the Daily Free Press (http://dailyfreepress.com), either doesn’t cover or gets to days after the Quad. There are gaps in coverage, sure, but by and large they seem to have their finger on the pulse of the campus, and they have a real knack for finding and celebrating cool stuff that not everyone’s heard about, which is pretty cool given how big Boston U is.

    They’re also pretty interesting in that their marketing has also been, I think, entirely online. I heard about it on Facebook from a friend, and their fan page on Facebook now has 300 fans or so last time I looked. They’re also semi-active on Twitter…they post articles and sometimes interact with people, but I don’t know how much they really “get” it. Regardless, it seems to have worked. Most of my friends at least know about it, and word is spreading.

    As for revenue, I have no idea. They don’t have any ads yet, though, and I know a few kids on the staff and I doubt they’re getting paid. I suppose I’ll ask around, though.

  8. Greg Linch says:

    Thanks! That’s very insightful — I appreciate the background.

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