Students are becoming more disconnected with traditional media consumption everyday, trading the broadcast schedule for iPlayer, albums and the radio for music streams, and newspapers for personalised news apps.
This leaves student media at an impasse. It has to provide a worthwhile service to students, while keeping up with a digital era that is seeing personalised news beat out traditional consumption.
It has an advantage though. Student media is already personalised to cater for students, covering their issues, their voices and their news values. More importantly though, it has a wealth of talent that can see it take an even more personalised form.
Rosie Taylor, founder and editor of Ones to Watch, a site which showcases student media, said: “Student media has so much potential to expand online, partly because students have the time, opportunity and occasionally funding to experiment with new ideas.”
Even though it is personalised to students, this is not the end of the problem. Twitter is fast becoming the go to place for news and the app ‘Flipboard’ has grown exponentially. In December alone it had over two billion ‘flips’ and was valued at $200 million in 2011.
With personalisation becoming key, should student media personalise itself even more, by integrating into apps and focusing on certain groups? The answer, yes. Universities are full of students from all walks of life and a variety of interests. While still being under the banner of student, it should have sub sections that caters to everyone. Student fashion, student politics, student food, to name a few.
Alex Veeneman, a third year student from the US said: “It is important to have diversity in media. I think that should be reflected everywhere, whether it is a mainstream publication or a publication for a certain group.”
Will Gledhill, a history student from Falmouth agrees. He said: “Certain news and announcements would be universal, but if you could choose the news you were interested in, say sports, and get regular updates, that would be great.”
This seems to be the consensus amongst students. They want news that fits with them, their interests and their online habits. A few do still opt for print. Leslea Thomas, studying a BSc in Sociology said: “It’s nice to have a physical copy of the paper, to put in my bag, take into lectures and take home.”
Personalisation is easy to achieve when it comes to student media. If it fails, no one is going to get in trouble or endanger the publication. Redbrick, Birmingham University’s student paper, is a frontrunner in what student media can do. It provides readers with personalised micro-blogs for their specific interests and has a live-blogging section which allows people to instantly follow just the news they are interested in.
Last year, they live-blogged the riots in Birmingham. These were personalised for the local community and meant that they could follow just this one topic. By being so personalised, it outdid all the local media, including BBC Birmingham, receiving 186,000 hits in a week.
The online editor, Chris Hutchinson, said: “Over half the people reading the live-blog at the time were just regular Birmingham residents, they weren’t students. That means that we actually provided a service, not just for students, but to the actual community as well.”
This is where student media shines. It has the people, the talent and the room for failure, while being a platform for innovation and progress. It may get it wrong, but as long as it tries, it should be seen as something worth keeping. Personalisation is fast becoming the way to read news and student media really can, and should, capitalise on that.
Image courtesy of Erik van Roekel
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