Commentary

Snapchat Throws Lifeline To College Papers

Campus newspapers are hardly immune to the general downward trend in print circulation and advertising. They may even be more exposed to such upheavals, reflecting the technology predilections of their youthful target audience.


However, some beleaguered college pubs are getting a boost, and possibly a new lease on life, courtesy of mobile visual messaging platform Snapchat. 

Snapchat has been reaching out to a number of big college newspapers to invite them to start producing stories for “Discover,” which highlights specially created content from publisher partners, according to Business Insider, which first reported the news.

Snapchat has already been working with a who’s who of big publishers and media companies, targeting the general market. But this marks Discover’s first foray into the campus publishing universe. 

Beginning earlier this year, Snapchat began testing “hyper-local” Discover stories from college newspapers, such as UCLA’s Daily Bruin, The Stanford Daily, Dartmouth’s eponymous The Dartmouth, and the University of Washington, which is served by three different newspapers at its main campuses.

The stories are only visible to users on each specific campus. (College newspaper stories for Discover should not be confused with Our Stories, a Snapchat format for users to create group narratives that are only visible to students from the same school.)

The program is returning this fall with Snapchat inviting college papers to create entire editions for Discover, suggesting early results of the test were promising. The company will share ad revenue with the newspapers or the schools, if the newspapers aren’t independent publications.

College newspapers need all the help they can get, as dozens of publications have closed or scaled back sharply in recent years.

Earlier this year, Old Dominion University canceled the print edition of its weekly newspaper, the Mace & Crown, in favor of a digital-only publication, although it will produce a seasonal magazine. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln also axed the print version of its student newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan, although it also plans to produce a monthly magazine.

Daily Nebraskan general manager Dan Shattil explained: “With readership numbers declining, it makes our advertisements less effective and has led to advertising revenue dropping.” The Central Florida Future, serving the University of Central Florida, shut down in 2016.

This summer, George Washington University’s GW Hatchet was forced to consider selling its offices after a financial crunch caused by “a collapsing classifieds market, as well as a near-complete retreat of national advertisers from college media.”

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