Build a better college newspaper website

21 Oct

Nationaal Archief

Here’s a checklist of online adjustments and guidance for a better college newspaper website. Change is difficult for newspapers. There are learning curves and time management issues in making these changes, but muscle up and get these done and get your dying newsprint a suitable online channel.

Content Management

  • BBC headlines: Look to bbc.com for guidance on well done news content and presentation. These are excellent examples to follow of keyword forward, densely descriptive but brief headlines. Print headlines do not transition well to online. Snappy headlines that provide information scent (leading people via searches to information results).
  • Direct me to useful information: Not everything is a news story or an enterprise piece. Create content that summarizes stories and group infographics, photos and video. Guide To, How-To, Complete List, etc. is content that people need, want and search for all the time. Anchor this evergreen content in a prominent place on your website and Facebook tabs.
  • Make sure that your RSS feeds are useful. Find a setting in your website’s content management system that not only provides the RSS feed code but links it to the option to add to RSS readers. I’m probably not going to copy the code leave your site and add it to my reader as it is set up currently. Make it one click.
  • Repurpose signed comments from users in a prominent place on the homepage. Anonymous doesn’t cut it. If someone is willing to sign a descriptive username then reward that user with a Comment of the Week feature (with crosslink to the original story). Crosslinks are key – outbound/inbound.
  • PDFs of complete news product: Great (I guess), for a quick scan of the news product and display, but advertisers expect added value and should have a link from their ad. Help your advertisers out.
  • All stories need images (entry points), calls to action (what do I do next?), and crosslinks and other info. Every URL shared on Twitter or Facebook is an introduction to your product. Why stop there?

Facebook for college newspapers

There is typically little engagement on college news Facebook pages. Readers comments on stories to no response. You will gain no value from social media unless you speak to followers. Engage.

Explain coverage: Demystify the news gathering process. Introduce your writers and editors and explain your operation. Tell your story about how you tell stories. This is a great recruiting tool and an opportunity to share with a wider audience.

Follow other people and fan pages: Try to use the @ symbol in all of your status posts. Put your idea and brand on other Facebook fan pages. The @College_Newspaper learned a lot from reporter @SusanMurphy’s visit to @BigUMedicalCenter and @BigUBusinessSchool. Look for stories in the next issue.

Shout out to your follows on the Facebook wall. Use the toggle as fan page administrator to post as both the admin and your personal profile to the your page’s wall. Note the support, interests of friends this way. @Jason Allen probably wasn’t happy with the result of this weekend’s @BigUFootball game, but we have the details on the upcoming game.

YouTube/LinkedIn for college newspapers

Don’t forget your other channels. Complete all profiles with full description and branding. Your YouTube channel needs custom background and profile, while your LinkedIn channel needs a custom profile image.

Twitter for college newspapers

Build source lists on Twitter. Sync your coverage, contacts and followers into your Twitter stream. Spend a little more time to build a better list of followers. Research keywords and geo references related to your university and rake in all sources connected to your university (and competitors, as well). Reporters can ask questions; propose story ideas and crowd source info. Twitter is a listening tool. Use it as a news gathering tool.

It’s expensive to produce that print product. Begin planning your escape plan immediately. Great usable, timely and authoritative information will never go out of style. Find new packaging.

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