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StateCollege.com and OnwardState.com Forge Online Partnership

StateCollege.com senior editor Adam Smeltz contributed to this article.

StateCollege.com and OnwardState.com, digital media leaders in the State College and Penn State communities, on Tuesday announced a new strategic partnership.

Collaboratively, the two will continue to serve a growing State College-based audience and reach local, regional and national users via the websites, social media and other digital initiatives. The two sites together already command 20 percent more State College-area Web traffic than Centre County’s daily newspaper, according to independent Quantcast tallies of local page views.

Dan Myers, a Penn State graduate, founded StateCollege.com in 1996. Myers said he sees the new partnership as a perfect blending of audiences, staffs and ever-expanding industry knowledge.

“The sharing of our resources means the combination of our sites is uniquely positioned to serve the insatiable and instantaneous news, information and directory needs of our readers,” said Myers said, the owner and publisher of StateCollege.com. “That allows us to deliver that market – and others – to our 400-plus loyal advertisers.”

“Our audiences are local and our advertisers are local. Other than some limited Google remnant ads, we accept direct placement of ads only from local advertisers. We have never accepted advertising from anyone who doesn’t have a local, bricks-and-mortar presence that services the State College marketplace.”

Together, the two sites are staffed by a corps of more than 60 writers, editors and contributors. Advertising for both sites will be supported by the sales and marketing team of StateCollege.com, a subsidiary of State College-based Lazerpro Digital Media. Lazerpro owns several other regional sites, including Altoona.com and Williamsport.com.

OnwardState.com was started in November 2008 by Penn State students Davis Shaver, Evan Kalikow and Eli Glazier. It quickly filled a large online void by delivering immediate news, commentary and sports coverage to the 68,000 students, staff and employees on Penn State’s University Park campus. OnwardState.com has twice been recognized by the U.S. News & World Report website as the best alternative student media outlet in the country.

OnwardState.com also has been featured by The Chronicle of Higher Education, noted on Mashable and listed as a collegiate partner of The Huffington Post.

The collaborative alliance will allow each organization to draw on the other’s proven strengths, positioning both StateCollege.com and OnwardState.com to develop better, faster and more in-depth local news coverage, sports reporting and comprehensive practical services for their users and business supporters, the sites’ founders said.

ONWARD (AND UPWARD) STATE

“In less than three years, OnwardState.com’s Davis Shaver and his colleagues have created a site that is one of the most influential and well-regarded student blogs in the United States,” Myers said. “Their full grasp of social media, their engagement of the Penn State audience and their fiercely independent approach to news and commentary have ushered in a new age of student media covering the university.

“This is a promising, invigorating day for both organizations,” he added.

Each group plans to engage its social-media followers in the other’s reporting and commentary. The cross-pollination of social networks will build on the audience-engagement campaigns that StateCollege.com and OnwardState.com have built separately, reaching thousands of users apiece through Twitter and Facebook alone.

Those tools are instrumental in driving a perpetual “community conversation with itself,” as Myers put it — a core strand of both organizations’ institutional DNA.

“Our contributors write with a distinct voice,” Shaver said. “They are part of a generation that has always communicated electronically, through blogs, websites, social media, mobile messaging and the like. We use all of those avenues to reach out to the Penn State audience. And we know how to do that – since we are the Penn State audience.”

OnwardState.com’s audience has grown in each semester it has been online, Shaver said. Every month, more than 50,000 unique visitors drive nearly a half-million page views at OnwardState.com, according to the independent Google Analytics service.

STATECOLLEGE.COM: 15 YEARS

Myers first developed StateCollege.com as a medium to support local businesses, and 15 years later the site has ballooned into a full-service regional Web portal featuring vibrant news, sports and opinion content. The site has put a premium on timeliness, often breaking stories and being first to report on key local developments.

Much like OnwardState.com, StateCollege.com’s traffic has undergone explosive growth, increasing by 44 percent since this time last year, according to Google Analytics. Each consecutive month over the last 18 months, StateCollege.com has beat its previous record high for traffic.

“The future of local media belongs to those who listen to, engage and are one with the communities they serve,” Myers said.

StateCollege.com’s multidimensional services — including classifieds, real-estate listings, apartment listings, food delivery, webcams and yellow page style business directory — have placed it among the most heavily used websites in the State College area, Myers said. StateCollege.com routinely ranks No. 1 in Google search results for almost anything related to State College and Penn State.

“Our top positioning and broad support in the marketplace have established StateCollege.com as the go-to source for local businesses — and the people looking for them,” Myers said. “Our apartments section, for example, sees more than 90,000 unique visitors per year looking for a place to live.

Shaver said he is excited to tap into that expertise and support as OnwardState.com charts its own sustainable future.

“Our friends in the more conventional media have visibly scaled back and pared their ambitions. But StateCollege.com has forged ahead — successfully — with an aggressive vision that understands the evolving future of the field,” Shaver said. “Even during a tough economy, the StateCollege.com staff’s energy, drive and local knowledge have kept the site expanding and maturing.

“In our new arrangement,” Shaver added, “OnwardState.com has found a financially sound partner and a future that’s more assured than what we could have imagined before. This is great news not just for OnwardState.com, but for all our readers and supporters.”

Nuances of the organizations’ alliance will emerge in the coming months, Myers and Shaver said. While the websites will benefit from each other’s experience, they said, each will retain a separate staff and a distinct identity and presence. StateCollege.com plans to share professional guidance, consultant support and journalistic back-up with OnwardState.com, while encouraging its student-driven editorial independence.

In addition, StateCollege.com will maintain its own internship and student-contributor programs. Those efforts combined are designed to provide student journalists with stronger practical opportunities to learn the field, gain exposure and equip them for new-media careers, Myers and Shaver said.

COMMUNITY MINDED

Supporting the Penn State student body and the entire community is important to both sites. For Myers, that begins with the university’s Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, known as THON.

“StateCollege.com began working with THON in 2004,” he said. “That has been one of our biggest contributions and commitments each year. We assist with online marketing and promotion any way we can. Both StateCollege.com and OnwardState.com provided tireless, 24/7 coverage of the event this year, and will continue to do so.”

StateCollege.com recently launched its Charitable Events page — at http://www.statecollege.com/charitable-events/ — to help promote all of the charitable organizations in the region.

“We’re in this because we’re passionate about State College, Penn State and the people who call the Centre Region home,” Myers said. “Together we hope to help provide a place for the community to communicate and have a conversation with itself on many levels.

“Counting students, Penn State employees and alumni, that audience alone is nearly three quarters of a million people. But the affinity for this area and Penn State is so great that our readers come from literally around the world.

“And for them,” Myers added, “we are pleased to provide even broader, more immediate – and better – access to news, information, commentary and targeted advertising than ever before with this new partnership between StateCollege.com and OnwardState.com.”

About the Author

Chase Tralka

Chase Tralka is a Senior majoring in Information Sciences and Technology with a minor in Security and Risk Analysis. He is from Northern New Jersey and is involved in far too many organizations to list here. He enjoys photography, cycling, and listening to obscure free jazz music.

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