College Papers: Growing Part of Local EcoSystem?

College newspapers are often overlooked as part of the local ecosystem. Local newspapers in college towns such as Lawrence, Kansas, and Austin, Texas, vie with college papers (a little) for advertising. And classified vendors such as LiveDeal and Ad2Ad have begun working with various college paper networks. College communities are an excellent target for used goods, right? But otherwise, there isn't much action — especially considering that there are 1.9 million users of college papers registered online.

A recent survey of college newspaper readers by Y2M Youth Media and Marketing Network, however, suggests that the college papers ought to rev it up — especially at the local level.

Y2M's survey, with 7,500 respondents, including 2,925 undergrads, suggests that college papers' focus on national and world events as "practice journalism" doesn't sit well with their readers. Ninety percent of the readers, in fact, rely on the college papers for local and campus news.

The respondents are also clamoring for more local advertising. Sixty-four percent want more local restaurant ads, 57 percent want more recruitment ads, 51 percent want more local entertainment ads, and 50 percent want more local store ads.

One of the oddities of the Internet's impact on college papers is that on campus/near campus readership has actually been dwarfed by national readers such as alumni. The percentage of "local" readers compared with "national" readers, in fact, has fallen from 43 percent to 35 percent between 2005 and 2006.

But "local" readers still make up the most regular readership, both in print and online. Seventy-seven percent say they look at either the print or online edition of the college paper at least once a month, with almost half indicating they look at the paper at least twice a week.

The online edition is increasingly popular, especially among undergrads. Twenty-four percent of undergrads look at the online edition at least twice per week, and 33 percent look at it at least once a month.

One area that has fallen, however, has been the use of classified ads in the papers’ print and online editions. Y2M suggests these markets are beginning to fall sway to Craigslist and other free listings. Perhaps this is something that the deals with LiveDeal and Ad2Ad will begin to alleviate.

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