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Daily Californian to stop publishing on Wednesdays for financial reasons

For those who haven’t seen this yet, the Daily Californian, the student-owned, independent newspaper at University of California at Berkeley has decided to stop publishing on Wednesdays due to a drop in advertising revenue.

Editor-in-Chief Bryan Thomas told a local Bay Area newspaper:

“We’re making cuts now, it’s a one-year fix to get us through the next year. We’re focused on the long-term and it’s my hope that we can restore publication as soon as possible,” he said this morning in a phone interview. “We’re doing this basically to ensure we don’t get into deep financial problems,” he said. —We’re not an organization with deep pockets.”

College newspapers have been insulated from some many of the profound financial changes hitting professional newspapers. I hope this is a wake up call that college newspapers, especially independent ones, need to start having a serious conversation about their business model. Yes, the economy is weak. But it would be foolish to assume that the revenue will return once the economy picks up again. Many professional newspapers waited for this to happen, and it didn’t.


3 Responses

  1. I think the key thing we’re doing is trying to act as an agency for our advertisers. Starting four years ago, we began bundling all of the student media for advertising purposes. In other words, one advertising department began selling for newspaper, radio, television, humor magazine and the web. That way, the student sales rep could help clients identify their problems or the audiences they were trying to reach, and we would have a recommendation of the best combo to reach them. It might be that radio and radio web would be the best for one advertiser, a combination of media for another. We also began doing events to serve advertisers but tying those events to media sales. A very popular thing we do is an annual housing fair. It’s held under a tent in February (not too cold here in Austin), and every year we have more and more apartment complexes joining us. Last year we had lines of students more than 100 feet long waiting to get inside. We had free food, all kinds of give aways from the apartment folks, and they were allowed to provide information only — no hard sale. Each participant had to agree to a package of advertising — print, web and broadcast — in order to get in. We do the same with a series of seven big tailgate parties before each home game. We’ve run contests that marry the web and print products. We’re using street teams to drive traffic and encourage readership. And on the content side, all of us moving to College Publisher 5 are talking about the 24-7 news cycle, something we’ve been a little slow coming to, but we’re there. I’d love to hear more from others.

  2. Kathy: That’s great to hear. I’d love to know more about some of the options you’re considering there and maybe some things you’ve seen other folks doing. The feedback I got from a lot of college advisers I interviewed over the past year was that business model issues were not on their radar.

  3. I think college newspapers already have been experiencing a wake-up call. With just a couple of exceptions,I know few college advisers who see their newspapers experiencing readership boosts. For example, the Lantern at Ohio State opted not to publish this summer for financial reasons. Some very adept advisers have lost jobs in the wake of revenue drops, and every one of us, I believe, is working to adapt our models for the future. Unlike the commercial media, who are trying to please shareholders and looking for quick fixes, I think those of us who have chosen advising as a profession view ourselves as stewards of incredibly valuable assets. We have to keep the finances flowing for the present for sure but also ensure that students have opportunities in student media long into the future. Believe me, we’re looking hard at our business models, and I think you’ll find some of us are being pretty innovative.

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