The DA building its brand through online and social media

It’s no secret that journalism is changing. Newspapers across the country are facing the dilemma of having to adapt to the change of having a larger online presence or run the risk of becoming obsolete and falling behind compared to other organizations.

The Daily Athenaeum here at WVU is no different.

Managing Editor John Terry, who was hired a year ago, took the job with ambitions of continuing to further The DA’s brand as a reputable news source not only in print but online and through social media as well.

It started with The DA building a new website, a plan which took a few months to make happen.

They did it as a way of making a cleaner, easier to navigate place for readers to come and get their news online. But it’s still a long way from being what it has the potential to be, partly due to College Publisher (the site that hosts the website).

“As media has advanced, online is what advertisers want. They want to be able to package online ads with print ads, so we need to be able to provide that,” Terry said. “We have our website out there but we’re not really begging people to go visit our website because it sucks and I’m not proud of it. If we had a website that was better and we could do more cool things that we want to do with it, we’d definitely be doing more things to drive people to it.”

He feels that, with the changing landscape in journalism, it’s more important than ever for newspapers to get a head start on becoming more online-oriented. Terry even went as far as to say that, soon enough, it might be best for The DA to do what some other student newspapers are doing and become online-first with just one or two print issues per week.

It’s a total change in mentality,” he said. “When we’ve mentioned it this year, people are always like, ‘Why would we do that? That’s stupid.’ But that’s where it’s going and we need to find a way to be able to do that.

“We need to be able to adapt and do it faster than anyone else. Is that realistic? I don’t know, it might be. But when we talk about it, people need to at least have open minds about it and understand that it might be the right thing to do.”

Structuring a site like that, where content is uploaded throughout the day online, could be tough for a student organization like The DA to do because of the fact that many of the workers who will be responsible for posting the content have to take classes. But it’s something that Terry thinks could be possible.

It would just take a lot of hard work to make that become a reality.

If there are enough dedicated people who really care, you can figure out a way to do it on WordPress – which is what we would probably use,” Terry said. “It would require more organization in terms of scheduling when articles would go out and that kind of stuff, but I don’t think it would be that hard. It might be worth that, and getting more writers so that we can push more content, blog more, and just develop a better overall online presence.

“I’ve been brainstorming ways to how we could potentially restructure our staff so that we can continuously post and update online content.”

While it is still trying to find a way to build an online presence through its website, The Daily Athenaeum has been extremely successful in the past few years at building a solid base through social media.

Currently, The DA’s 5,692 Twitter followers is the most of any newspaper in West Virginia and it also has more than 1,200 likes on its Facebook page.

On those sites, The DA posts stories, reports breaking news and posts photo galleries from sporting events and other things going on around campus. And it’s become a great way for the organization to connect with readers in the process.

This year that was one of my main focuses and the last two years we’ve been able to be a lot better with it,” Terry said. “We’ve tried to rev up how we communicate and engage through social media and that’s one of the reasons it has been successful.

“There’s still a lot we can do. We can expand our writers’ Twitter accounts and market those a little better, we can do different things as far as engaging more conversation, but we’re getting better.”



  1. erinfitzi said:

    When it comes to changing our way of getting news content out there, we’re going to have to start small. I think that at a college publication we have the best opportunities to change and to take risks and try to make ourselves competitive and up-to-date. I like to look at other college publications and how they manage their social media and website around student schedules and such. That’s another struggle, we’re all peers and we’re all in class all day, so how can we make relevant and meaningful posts throughout the morning? Statistics show news websites typically get more hits in the morning hours, but that’s when college students are asleep or in class. Of course timing these posts to go up would be the smartest route, but reporting during the day and a web-first mentality presents a struggle to figure out how we can do this and not lose our minds.

  2. Newspaper websites, in my experience, are notoriously bad. Thinking of an online newspaper as an online version of a newspaper is a mistake. You cannot replicate the feel of a print newspaper online. The difference in mediums is huge, and forcing a print product to behave like print online results in a piss-poor online product. I think that the content could be similar, but as Terry suggests, the content needs to function more like a blog. Posts need to come out throughout the day rather than one big issue like a print newspaper. I don’t see how this is a big deal though. Schedule the content ahead of time and let it auto-update.

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