Thursday, July 26, 2007

Facebook for College Newspapers

Interesting post from Amy Gahran on Poynter about the impact of a college newspaper creating a Facebook profile:

Facebook Boosts College Paper's Readership, Recruiting

By Amy Gahran

Following on my post yesterday about Facebook applications from news organizations, I received the following note from Charles McKenzie, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Tampa, and adviser to the student paper The Minaret.

McKenzie wrote:

"A month ago The Minaret created a Facebook profile called Minaret Online, and since then we've had amazing success. A month before school starts, our incoming freshman will soon be the second-highest class of registrants for our site (behind sophomores, who have also poured in through Facebook). So far, we've already attracted 900 Facebook 'friends.'

"Freshmen and transfers have a strong need for orientation, so we also published an open question on Facebook for nervous future students who worry about dorm, cafeteria and social issues. We've responded to their questions as they've rolled in.

"We use Facebook's info boxes to describe who we are and the various media we use (print, online, Webcast and radio). We also post breaking news to the site.

"[At least partly because of Facebook], We've already recruited approximately 20 talented new freshmen staffers (about double our core group of returning staffers). By comparison, last year we only recruited two freshmen -- both of whom are now section editors, so we hope to retain a large percentage of that 20. We are even considering having a sort of junior varsity freshman team led by sophomore editors to produce an entire issue later in the fall when our more senior staffers reach burnout.

"We also use Facebook's 'What do you think of me' and 'Wall' features to get feedback about The Minaret's coverage. That aspect hasn't really taken off yet.

"So Facebook's been huge for us. Even our small online-only summer editions, which are put together by three or four staffers, are getting record hits -- comparable to our spring issues in which we had a hard hitting story about a campus rape. Those had been by far our biggest issues, yet our summer numbers (thanks to Facebook) show we'll easily eclipse those in the fall."

CMA's Professional Development Committee is sponsoring a session "Finding Students Where They Live" at the National College Media Convention Oct. 24-28 in Washington, DC about how other student newspapers are using social networking sites to recruit staffers, monitor campus activities, collect story ideas, find sources and get in touch with readers. Speakers include Laura York of Garden City Community Community College, Sarah Morgan of Whittier College and
Regina Cassell of Washburn University. Check it out Friday, Oct. 26 at 9 a.m.

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