Monday, July 28, 2008

College papers might be saying: Et tu, Brute?

The uproar grows about word that College Media Network (nee College Publisher), now an arm of MTV, which is an arm of Viacom, which is controlled by ... well, you get the idea ... apparently is planning a series of sites customized by campus that would be competition with the campus papers that College Publisher hosts online.

Called Campus Daily Guide, these new sites apparently are designed to scrape material from the very papers College Publisher hosts. (By the way, for the moment don't bother clicking on that link. After the uproar started, the proprietors put up a password block.)

Like other online guides to local happenings — from Google Maps to Citysearch — the sites offer a calendar of events around campus, a directory of bars and restaurants that users can update and similar services. Two components clearly aimed at students include a “Rate My Professors” module for the college, integrated with the popular Web site, as well as links to the latest news ... direct from the college newspaper itself.

My former USC colleague Bryan Murley blew the whistle late last week, and today Inside Higher Ed has a big write-up. Murley says he's supposed to talk with a CMN representative to get more information, but Jackie Alexander, who spent a year as editor of The Daily Gamecock here at USC, says enough is enough! Alexander has a litany of complaints with CMN:

I am through with CMN. The site has repeatedly failed at key moments. The tech guys are unreliable and unhelpful. The new CP 5.0 has been delayed in coming forever. The ad placement control is stifling. CMN has held a stranglehold over the market because they offer the service for free and without as much worry.

It needs to stop. Now.

There are plenty of us incredibly talented and smart journalism and computer science students out there. It’s time to take our products back into our own hands.

She issues the battle cry for college media to harness the resources on their campuses and create there own sites. The Inside Higher Ed piece says the The Michigan Daily is doing that, but as one commenter pointed out, with the turnover at college papers, entrusting fragile code to a constantly changing staff could be a recipe for problems.

Of course, one could also say that college papers, more than a few of which have been a little lethargic in their online efforts as they were somewhat sheltered from the industry's woes, are finally getting a taste of the real world -- and the school of hard knocks.

Update, July 29:

Bryan has a set of questions and answers with Rusty Lewis, director of university relations for College Media Network. Lewis says there are plans for revenue sharing as part of all this.

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At 7/28/08, 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

College papers can make the switch now, for free.

They can set up an installation of WordPress, using one of dozens of free and professionally designed templates, and be in business in literally 20 minutes.

It doesn't have to be perfect to start, but it's fairly easy to improve the product's look and function in a hurry.

They'll pay for hosting and need someone for tech support, but there's no excuse for staying with a company concerned about itself first and its customers last.

At 7/29/08, 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link Fish. I was pretty mad when I wrote that post. I plan on writing a longer piece on the assault on college newspapers.

Jackie A.


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