College Newspapers Falter

failWith the recent bankruptcy of BOTH Philadelphia daily newspapers, we got to thinking about the financial state of college newspapers and our beloved Daily Collegian. One of the main revenue streams for all newspapers is advertising. In fact, with subscription numbers plummeting, it’s probably the most important.

With the economy as it is, businesses are unable to advertise at the same level they could previously. This has seriously maimed the already wounded industry of print media. In September 2008, the Chronicle of Higher Education had an article with a headline that read: “Student Newspapers Escape Most Financial Problems of Larger Dailies”. That article noted that advertising revenue at college newspapers had not fallen when the ad revenue of larger papers had, due to how valuable a market college students are. Also, college kids read their school’s newspaper.

…Nearly 80 percent of students read the print edition of their daily campus paper at least once a week, according to research by Alloy Media + Marketing, the largest national advertising-placement service for college newspapers.

Now, that might just be a statistic Alloy uses to market itself, but, assuming it’s true, other newspapers would kill for that readership. Imagine 80 percent of New York City reading The New York Times. This high readership had insulated college newspapers from drops in advertising. The Chronicle article from September noted that not all college newspapers were safe from the economic downturn. It said that The Daily Californian out at Berkeley had been forced to cut their staff 25% and stop publishing a Wednesday paper. Also, The Red and Black at the University of Georgia has seen:

a substantial decrease in advertising from both the university and local small businesses, a dip [traced] to “a double whammy” of state budget cutbacks and a weak economy.

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Ok, so that was September. Most college newspapers had maintained their ad dollars and were doing fine. Fast forward to now. MediaShift (part of the PBS website so you know its credible) wrote that, in fact, college newspapers have started to be affected by the financial climate. They are suffering from a lack of national advertising. This advertising on college campuses generally focuses on prospective employees. Because no one is hiring at the moment, these companies that would usually advertise for prospective employees are not doing so, erasing a major source of advertising revenue. Also, with the advent of Craigslist and other free classifieds websites, college newspapers have seen decreasing classifieds revenue. Also, weakening local economies are less likely to advertise in campus papers. We would be very interested to know if ads from local businesses have gone down at The Daily Collegian as the recession grips “Happy Valley”. Perhaps a Collegian reporter could let us know? You can count it as payback for the scoop on that interview with Amber.

If the Collegian finds itself short of funds, then it could always ask the University for a greater subsidy, but the chances of a successful result are extremely low. What other options are available? Well, the Collegian has really been stepping up its online content as of late, with blogs and videos and whatnot. Good for them.

So could they eventually go to an online-only version of the newspaper? Those in the know say no. College newspapers only receive 1-2 percent of their budget from online advertising, so doing away with the print edition would not be feasible. In the grand scheme of things, acutally printing the paper does not cost a substantial amount of money. So, that being said, regardless of the Collegian‘s financial state, there will be a print version for the foreseeable future. We’d like to make clear that we don’t know the Collegian‘s financials. If anyone would like to enlighten us, we’d love to see them.

We hope the Collegian stays around for a while, because otherwise, how would we know what to write about?

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About the Author

Eli Glazier

Eli is a junior majoring in International Politics. He enjoys paninis and books.

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