College daily newspapers are gradually dropping print

Four out of 10 college dailies are no longer printing daily.

How do I know? I checked the status of every college paper listed in a 1997 study by John Bodle that identified 101 college dailies. Back then, Bodle was trying to assess the relative independence of college newspapers from their host institution.

In doing so, he created a system to describe and categorize the schools based on their funding and structure. Looking across his original typology (which may or may not be accurate in today’s environment), the fate of college dailies has been fairly consistent. However, there is slightly more daily print publication still happening at college newspapers with more of an independent tilt. But not by much. And it’s also worth noting that if Bodle’s survey was administered again, we’d probably see some shift in the typology. A few more schools may have gained or lost aspects of independence in the last 20 years.

Type % not daily
Moderately curriculum-based (25) 44%
Moderately independent (27) 30%
Strong independent (12) 33%
Mixed (36) 42%

Of course, a vast majority of all of these newspapers — probably all but one or two schools — are publishing online daily and have potentially greater reach and influence than their 1997 counterparts. Because audience analytics data is often fiercely guarded, it would be hard to know which college daily has the largest digital footprint.

You can view a full data sheet here showing each institution’s newspaper along with the original typology and its publishing frequency as it could be determined in fall 2015.

If you know of a college daily that’s not on my list but should be, drop me a note in the comments.

*I added a link to my source table and edited this post after publication for clarity.

I might pay to never see a Flash ad again

Flash advertising on Chron.com
Case in point: Obtrusive Flash banner overlay advertising on chron.com. What's it going to cost me to make these go away forever?

You win, Internet.

I’ve hit one too many news websites where my quest for information is assaulted and derailed by the visual violence of Flash banner advertising. Houston’s Chron.com is a huge culprit. I avoid it at all costs.

So, tell me, Internet, how much is it going to cost to either eliminate or drastically reduce banner ads? $1 a month per site? $5? I understand effective CPM. What’s the revenue per user you need to make it worthwhile?

Installing an ad-blocker plugin on my browser is not enough. I’m also tired of having presentation systems disrupted by the demand for banner ad positions. Print publication designers can design covers, spreads and certain other pages knowing they don’t have to design around ads. Newspaper sites should treat their web front page with the same reverence as their print front page. Sure, allow one or two premium ads. But don’t obstruct the news with your ridiculous Flash animation.

Dying newsrooms should become museums

View of LA Times Building from Bradbury Room at LA City Hall
Kinda looks like a museum, doesn't it? (photo: calvinfleming via flickr)

I like the expression: “Invest in people, not buildings.”

Newspapers should rent out or sell building space to a historical foundation and let them turn the newsroom into a local museum, library or public forum. Create a vibrant, interactive museum about the city. Blend together news and history, photo and video. Newspapers are virtual time machines, but their secrets are locked away in microfiche.

No sense in having a central newsroom when the news is always “out there”. A city news agency should consist of dozens of bureaus, scattered geographically throughout the city, with mobile offices. Budget meetings could held virtually with Skype or something like it. A small production shop could produce the print edition, which is transmitted to printing presses and delivered freely in each community.

Non-profit news and the idealogy problem

News organizations are often painted “liberal” and “conservative” for good reason — usually because their editorial boards are generally left- or right-leaning. Sometimes this stigma carries over into characterizing news coverage, warranted or not.

Some of our nation’s earliest newspapers were, in fact, political newspapers established and funded (often by government subsidy) to further the interests of the party. Even in the last few two-newspaper towns, one paper was generally regarded conservative, the other liberal.

So, we shouldn’t be surprised then when the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism discovers that about 44 percent of the nation’s new non-profit news agencies have a clear ideological leaning and along with that, an unclear source of funding.

Those non-profits actually producing original, non-partisan coverage were generally more transparent in how they were funded. See the Texas Tribune, for example.

The Internet has merely given fertile ground for a new crop of partisan publications. The low cost of entry will ensure a healthy run of ideologically driven “news” agencies, but none of them will be a singular replacement for the moderate, generalist palate of ideas that the newspaper was. And that’s OK — we are gradually moving into a world where news consumers are creating their own palate of news sources on tablets and mobile devices and RSS readers.

To help educate us news consumers, Pew provides a few criteria to use to gauge a site’s journalistic worthiness. I’d like to see those applied to some mainstream media! Sure, the consumer must always be on guard. But for the non-profit news industry to mature, publications must adopt transparency and contextual clues to help readers ascertain whether what they are reading is information or whether it is opinion, or whether the news organization is at all concerned with producing new information in the first place. This basic virtue helped bring good journalism out of the murky depths of the partisan press and into real public service.

Newspapers: once part of a complete breakfast

Breakfast 7/14/08

Your typical metropolitan newspaper was like a good breakfast: an assortment of information nutrition to get you started for the day. You got a mix of local, state, national and international stories — the fruit, meat and fiber you need to be reasonably informed and clear-minded about the state of the world that morning. But you might nibble on some celebrity gossip, sample a society or lifestyle column, scan the sports box scores, picking up all the information that interests you, plus some incidental information that gets absorbed along the way. If you were to consume the paper in its entirety, you would no doubt be a well-rounded, informed individual — at least for a day.

Needless to say, one-third of US adults say they eat breakfast regularly. About the same proportion consumes newspapers reguarly. I wouldn’t go far as to say one caused the other but surely they correlate in some way — but it is awfully interesting to observe. In many households, eating a nice breakfast is likely reserved for the weekends, as is perusing a good newspaper or magazine. And so, it’s not hard to imagine more newspaper subscriptions becoming weekend-only.

Nowadays, it’s much preferable for working-class people to check their laptops or smartphones whilst nibbling toast and sipping their morning coffee. The newspaper simply has no place at the kitchen table.

And just in case you’re wondering, this won’t be the last time I compare newspapers and media to food.