Happy Birthday, Campus News! This print newspaper is now in its eighth year and has published approximately 800,000 copies!
We first hit Feb. 1, 2010 — dropping off racks at about a dozen community colleges in the New York Metro Area. Since, we have expanded Upstate, to New Jersey and New England, hitting 37 two-year schools. It’s the only newspaper of its kind anywhere!
When we first began, most campuses had plenty of reading material freely available — foremost, there were campus papers. Almost all of them have either withered or gone completely online, or died altogether in these years. A few good ones hang on.
Also on campuses were daily papers, delivered free to students through the Newspapers In Education and other such programs: The New York Times, USA Today and more regional papers. They didn’t get good pickup, and those have also disappeared from campuses.
Then there were some weekly and monthly papers on the campuses, like The Village Voice, Long Island Press, Metroland and others. Those also have ceased print publication.
And Campus News soldiers on. It still gets a great pickup rate, despite the abandonment other print publishers have faced. It still gets healthy interaction from readers. It still gets students wanting to write for it. Even advertising remains decent. It defies all the so-called wisdom that says “print is uncool.” Maybe better wisdom is “what’s old is new again.”
Here’s why we persist:
We decided early on that we couldn’t compete on the web, so we don’t waste too much time there. We really don’t care if some guy in Cleveland writes a comment on one of our stories on Word Press. It just doesn’t matter, big picture. That clarity of thought allowed us to focus on the print edition.
We give away web ads for free to print advertisers. This sends a message to our advertisers — we care about the print edition. It has value. Most newspapers have the reverse philosophy, and look where they are.
Color! We have always been good with the use of color. Readers hate black and white, so we made sure to find a press that can give us color on every page. Even the major New York City papers can’t do that!
Not taking sides. We really don’t have a partisan ideology. Live and let live. We’re not judging anyone. Why alienate readers?
A safe space. Campus News decided not to take certain ads and certain content early on. For example, what ultimately killed alt-weekly newspapers were the raunchy sex ads in their back pages. We decided not to take a fast buck. We also haven’t run ads for tobacco, liquor or politicians. Now that marijuana is being legalized, while we don’t judge anyone’s right to chose it, we may not accept these ads, either, to be consistent.
“Useful” stories. We also decided early on that we couldn’t do breaking stories. They wouldn’t work. The NIE papers mentioned above had lousy pickup. Instead, we decided that helpful, evergreen stories were the way to go. That, and some entertainment and sports roundups.
There’s more pieces to this puzzle, but you get the idea. We decided to care about this paper and its ever-changing audience. Hopefully some of the advice we’ve given has helped some students to graduate faster.
Now it looks like we will make a decade in print and publish our one millionth copy. Thank you for your readership. We truly appreciate it.