The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Campus newspapers continue to beat commercial papers

SMU junior Lauren Parker starts her day off with the same simple routine each morning. She commutes to SMU in DFW traffic, swings by Java City and tries to avoid the morning rush and get her hands on a hot chai tea latte.  Finally, she makes it a point to stop at one of the 55 The Daily Campus stands and grabs a copy of that day’s issue.

Surprisingly, many students include that last step in their day-to-day routines at SMU.  The majority of SMU students turn to The Daily Campus to get up-to-date information about things happening on campus.  The campus trend is contrary to what is happening in the commercial news industry today, where newspaper sales are declining. This raises the question: Why are students more willing to pick up a campus paper than one printed by a larger news corporation?

The decline of newspapers over the past year has been a drastic one. An October 2008 article in The New York Times concluded that over the past year newspaper circulation has dropped by an average of 3.6 percent. In some extreme cases it fell as much as 10 percent. Jay Miller, executive director of Student Media Company Inc. at SMU, said he feels the cause of this decline is quite simple.

“The biggest problem for newspapers is that they are losing readership,” Miller said. “The younger generations are more inclined to turn to online sites for their news.”

Newspapers are also behind the curve for Internet business models. During the early ’90s most papers ignored the growing Internet boom and are now trying to play catch-up in the new market. Also the current economic downturn has led to a large decrease in advertisement sales, the major source of income for most newspaper companies. Together these three elements have created what Miller calls “the perfect storm” for the newspaper industry.

While campus newspapers are not completely immune to the declining economy, their resilience to many of the problems facing the news industry lay in their focused readership.

“Unlike newspapers, campus papers have a constant readership age of 18 to 22,” Miller said. “As seniors graduate, freshmen move in to take their place.”

Colleges also have clear geographic boundaries and a strong residential population. Together this creates a focused niche for campus papers and helps to ensure consistent readership.

The exact opposite is true of most newspaper companies. In the ’80s there were intense circulation wars between corporations. Big players, like The Dallas Morning News, made a point to buy up smaller papers to increase their readership base.  However, this meant their niches became less focused and thus less pertinent to the daily lives of many readers.  As a result, most Americans began to turn to online sources to get stories more relevant to their specific community. 

Nicole Jacobsen, editor-in-chief of The Daily Campus, feels that the campus paper has been doing well over the past academic year.

“Ad sales have been low, but we still keep the paper at six pages and we have even added to our staff recently,” Jacobsen said.

By keeping the focus on campus events and things that impact the day-to-day lives of SMU students, The Daily Campus has kept its circulation at 5,000 copies per day.

Jacobsen said she also thinks that the answer to why students prefer print versions of campus news as opposed to their online counter parts is simple.

“For the most part, journalism students are the only ones that really know about the campus news Web sites,” Jacobsen said. “A lot of students like to hold a paper and carry it to class to read at their continence. That and there is Sudoku.”

These sentiments are some of the exact reasons why Parker enjoys picking up The Daily Campus.

“It’s nice to have something to pull out of my bag and read quickly between classes,” Parker said. “I also really like the Sudoku, it gives me something to do in my free time or while I am at work on campus. It’s a big reason why I try to get the paper everyday.”

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