Oklahoma college newspapers experiment with web ventures, advertising

State college newspaper advisers discuss how student publications are following commercial newspapers by experimenting with online content and advertising.
by Tiffany Gibson Published: June 24, 2012

“It's really a move that we made with an eye on the future,” he said.

Ronna Austin, lab director for The Pioneer at Oklahoma City Community College, said her staff recently revamped the website and has encouraged professors to stress that online storytelling is as vital as print writing.

“We take both very seriously,” Austin said.

Mark Thomas, executive vice president for the Oklahoma Press Association, said digital storytelling has a place in journalism, but college papers shouldn't focus solely on online content or advertising.

“I think it's a mistake for OU to cut back,” he said. “People should be learning how to run a business, and how people make money, too.”

“It's not going to pay the bills.”

Paying for content

The pay wall model has been one option newspapers have tried to turn a profit online. Some have shunned the idea of charging for content, while others have adopted it.

At the college level, it was something students knew about but hadn't tried in their own newsrooms until the Oklahoma State University student publication rolled out its online pay wall in March 2011.

General Manager Ray Catalino said the paper has earned $1,915 for content subscriptions to date. He said content is free to students with a university email and those living within a 25-mile radius of the area.

“We certainly did better than we expected with the willingness for people to pay for it,” he said. “We tried to make the operation of this paper similar to what students are going to run into when they graduate and get into this profession.”

So far, The Daily O'Collegian has exceeded its goal for subscribers and has expanded its online presence with a mobile app, Catalino said.

“We're looking at everything. We realize we have to have more of it. The hardest part is trying to figure out how to make money on it,” he said.

by Tiffany Gibson
News Online Editor
Tiffany Gibson has worked for the Oklahoman since August 2011 and is a member of the digital news team. In addition to writing and web editing, she also creates multimedia features for the website and maintains social media accounts. A Tennessee...
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