College Newspapers Embrace Cyberspace

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The internet has changed the way that major newspapers do business, with many dailies going out of business or transitioning by offering customers both print and online access. America’s colleges and universities are doing the same, with student newspapers embracing the latest technologies.  Just how well are they achieving success online? If the student newspaper for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is any indication, they are succeeding just fine.

UNC’s The Daily Tar Heel

Founded in 1893, UNC-Chapel Hills newspaper continues to thrive in both print and online form.

Founded in 1893, UNC-Chapel Hill's newspaper continues to thrive in both print and online form.

The Daily Tar Heel was one of the first college newspapers to establish a presence online, launching their own website back in 1994. At that time, public access to the internet was something new, coming a full four years before Google was launched. To this day, The Daily Tar Heel still distributes more than twenty thousand print copies on and around campus, but it is its website that is growing by leaps and bounds.

This past summer, UNC’s newspaper website was overhauled and updated to reflect the way that students like to interact online. The newspaper’s web pages are all new and are updated throughout the day. In addition, The Daily Tar Heel has established a pair of Twitter accounts, one for regular contact (@dailytarheel) and the other for breaking news (@dthbreak). Because Facebook is one of the most popular ways to connect online, the newspaper invites students, faculty members and friends to follow them there too (dailytarheel).

Advancing The Cause

Among the ways that The Daily Tar Heel is connecting with its readers is through the blogosphere. As of this writing, the newspaper is backing eight blogs covering a variety of topics including: varsity sports; travel; parents and students; newsroom; and more. To advance its presence online, the newspaper is also working on employing various search engine optimization (SEO) techniques including hyperlinking and tagging.

The Daily Tar Heel also invites user submissions which can be received via Facebook postings, direct email, via Twitter or through Flickr. There doesn’t appear to be a way to get hard copy material to the newspaper, but that probably can be handled via an email query. An onsite contact form would make for a nice feature too.

Gaining Steady Traffic

Like every website, The Daily Tar Heel has to compete with hundreds of millions of other websites in order to bring in and retain traffic. RSS feeds, a campus crime map and events calendar are some of the methods the newspapers is or will be using in addition to welcoming letters to the editor, opinion pieces, frequently updated campus and extracurricular news, and more.

By the looks of things, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s student newspapers appears to be thriving, thanks in no small part to a strong online presence. Judging by its Alexa traffic numbers and Google PageRank, newspaper staff have more work to be done, but the site is clean, easy to read and chock full of stuff that should drive traffic numbers up.


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Pictured: Wikipedia file photo

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