Pros/Cons/Advice: Moving Your Publication Online

In an effort to encourage other advisers to make the leap to online, digital journalism, I decided to pick the brains of advisers from across the country for my Master Journalism Educator project in order to learn and share their struggles and successes. This project was particularly apropos because my own students had been unsatisfied with their online offering, and were motivated to improve it.

For us, a school with a print edition that’s been around for 96 years, axing the broadsheet wasn’t something the students favored. Our challenge – which we’re still grappling with – is figuring out how to make our print and digital products complimentary. To that end, this year we revamped our newspaper to a news magazine heavy with features, reviews, and opinions. Breaking news is now the domain of the website, although we’re still working at developing an online news cycle that allows for frequent updates.

If there’s anything I would like readers to “get” from this, it’s that there are many ways to bring content online, and that the answers will come with the work – not before. As one adviser noted, “Just do it. Jump right in. The kids will make it work.”


 

The Project

A 2015 survey of 94 JEA listserv members about online news publications showed that the majority of scholastic journalism programs have both online and print offerings, with each medium complementing the other.

Of the 79 programs which transitioned from print to online, nine ended their print publication before moving to the web, while the others have worked – or are currently working – to develop a complementary relationship between the two.

Below is a summary of respondents’ answers to three key questions about bringing scholastic publications online. Also included are the majority of verbatim answers, which contain a wealth of ideas and strategies for advisers to consider.

Summary of Responses

What do you believe is the most challenging aspect of bringing a publication online?

  1. Ensuring the website is updated daily.
  2. Getting students to see value and “buy in” to the new medium, especially in schools where the print publication was popular and well-established.
  3. Organizing student workflow and accountability to meet the different demands of online publishing.
  4. Convincing key players (students, administrators, community members) of the value of web publication.
  5. A willingness to embrace change and “go for it” despite not having all the answers.

If your staff has been successful in moving your publication online, please share what you attribute to be the chief reason for this success.

  1. Training editors and reporters to see the value and new possibilities in web journalism.
  2. Emphasizing and prioritizing the online site to ensure it wasn’t an afterthought or “dumping ground” for print content.
  3. Developing an organizational and publishing system that focuses on getting new content to the website in a timely and efficient manner.
  4. Utilizing materials from the JEA Web curriculum, JEA Digital Media, and other web journalism resources.
  5. Using social media to promote stories and drive traffic to the site.

What advice would you give to staffs that are either in the process of – or are considering – bringing their publication online?

  1. Give up editorial control so students have full ownership of the online publication process.
  2. Create a clear focus for web content, which includes not just what students cover but how that material is packaged and published.
  3. Start small and build. Don’t try to do everything at once.
  4. Look at models of successful online papers. The [NSPA] Online Pacemakers are one resource for exemplar sites.
  5. Just do it. Jump right in – the kids will make it work.

Survey Results Updated


 

Full List of Respondents’ Answers

What do you believe is the most challenging aspect of bringing a publication online?

  • Updating! Print editions have a hard and fast deadline; online is 24/7. Getting kids to see the thrill of online publishing isn’t always as easy as it is when they see a printed paper.
  • Money is one. We were on my.hsj.com for two years before they closed it down. Then we moved to a free service run by the University of Tennessee. But the website was basic and wasn’t meeting our needs after two years. So we switched to SNO, which costs money. The students are happy with this website and they work to make sure the content is fresh.
  • Because our online readership is lower than our print readership, my staff does not consider online as important as the print publication although it’s the future of journalism.
  • Buy in from journalists. If they see print as more important, or if they treat online the same as print, they won’t be interested, and if they’re not interested, the reader won’t be either.
  • My students do not want to move entirely online. They want to keep the print. At some point, our budget will force us to move entirely online. Our biggest problem is that we don’t have an online readership.
  • Keeping track of all the deadlines. With print, students have a deadline for interviewing, writing a rough draft, making edits and revisions and submitting a final draft. It’s much easier to manage, both for editors and the adviser. Also, motivating students to write for an online publication is challenging because they love seeing their work in a printed publication–at least, that is the case at my school.
  • School administration support…. the lack of it is why we aren’t online! 🙁
  • Understand the lack of traditional limitations.
  • We only launched a week ago, so I don’t have a ton of perspective on this, but so far, I am most concerned about maintaining readership. We’ve already been doing several things to encourage visits to the site (contests, giveaways, Valentine’s message sales), but it’s too soon to really judge how effective those have been. There has also been a small amount of pushback from some students regarding the change, both within and outside the staff. Although we plan to continue a print publication, not everyone knows this, and it will be less frequently distributed (quarterly rather than monthly). As with any change, there are always those who embrace it fully and those who protest.
  • Figuring out what is best to do when you have limited knowledge of websites yourself and little motivation to move to online publishing. I also have a hard time bringing our students to the website to even read the content that we have on there.
  • Updating daily. Putting a priority on quality coverage for the website. Our media staff still loves print, so we are trying to navigate the purpose of each media: yearbook, newspaper, online, social media.
  • Getting readership. Turning stories around fast enough without killing ourselves.
  • Getting kids to publish quickly enough and go in-depth when it’s needed.
  • Providing enough content so people have a reason to check us out every day.
  • IT support
  • Getting staff to buy in as student body traffic to website is very slow to migrate.
  • We have found that the most challenging thing is now holding reporters accountable for their work. Before with a print edition, students had to complete their story because that space needed to be filled. Now online, if a student doesn’t complete their story, to them, it’s no big deal. They just take the zero and move on with their life.
  • Right now for us, it’s my lack of expertise in even getting started–where do I get a domain name, do I have to build the site or can someone do it for me, how do I organize posting of stories, can my kids do it without me, etc.
  • Notifying the student body and having students read it.
  • Training and equipping students to be more efficient in their journalistic work and to recognize the variety of ways coverage can be completed and posted and a short turnaround time.
  • Not putting it in students’ hands. Getting them to the site.
  • Student interest and prior review.
  • Not allowing the online version to become the “ugly step-sister” or the dumping ground for people not making deadlines for the print edition.
  • Having students take it seriously. Daily posting.
  • It’s really tough to find that balance between the two. The online presence should not simply be just reposting the same stories that are in your print edition. You need to be able to have content specific items for both, and finding what those are can sometimes be challenging for students.
    Managing the deadlines, and reading through material. Getting our admin to be onboard with online management by students.
  • Instilling students’ sense of urgency for deadlines.
  • Readership. Management. Lack of layout/design.
  • Getting the students to buy in was the hard part. We’re over that hump, and my 29-student staff is producing about 3 stories/ day during regular school weeks.
  • I have seen several: – moving the students’ (and my!) paradigm from the once a month print schedule into a daily, responsive living publication – figuring out how to drive readers there – balancing timeliness with quality – knowing who is responsible for updating and monitoring the site.
  • Finding the balance between print and online publications so they can complement each other and push traffic among print, online and social media efforts.
  • We had to evolve over three online platforms before graduating to a professional-looking site (use SNO–terrific support). Also, feeding the beast every day is a challenge, as if getting the staff to buy into the online culture.
  • The staff knows that online readership is low and so they are not committed to it.
  • Kids don’t have a sense of urgency to get news up fast. Or even in timely manner.
  • Most student writers are used to having at least a week to write a story, but for the web, they have to write something in one class period. We only ask for a couple of paragraphs for the web site, but it is a challenge for some of the weaker writers.
  • Technology — getting students and adviser up to speed on the requirements of online publication.
  • For us, it was getting staff to see it as important and valuable and as more than just an archive. Our print edition has a rich history, so students think the good stuff goes there and the rest can go online. The main challenge beyond that is developing the structure model and a work flow that happens while the print work flow is happening.
  • Getting audience buy-in.
  • Teaching students the idea that a story is an ASAP proposition. If it’s news it must be NEW.
  • Keeping people working on several stories at once — my kids are supposed to have three assignments at all times or they do ASAP stories, one right after the other.
  • At our school, the biggest challenge has been consistency and willingness of staff to push news frequently. We have a very small staff and students feel overwhelmed trying to maintain a website daily or every other day. Another challenge is learning WordPress and teaching it to staff members.
  • My school doesn’t really see the need for it. Our compromise has been having students submit their articles to our school’s webmaster for placement on the school website.
  • The most challenging aspect of an online newspaper is getting the site to be what you want it to be. If anyone knows coding or knows how to use wordpress, it makes the process easier.
  • Administrators want to keep the status quo. Prior review and prior restraint are an entrenched part of the culture here, unfortunately. The administrators are adamant about not giving that up, and so I will be stepping down as adviser after this year as a personal protest. Also, the journalism program is housed in the English department, when students might be better served if it was housed in practical arts department where all the cameras, publication/graphics software, video equip, studio etc. are located. Besides all the journalism programs, I have 3 full rosters of AP English Lang and comp — the time and energy required to bring an online publication full-service would require someone fully devoted to publications/media. Yearbook in our school is a club, as is the Literary Magazine — no class time associated with either. The school might consider updating its curriculum so that publication programs can borrow from each other’s strengths.
  • For us, the website was seen as the ugly stepsister until this year–when I told the students that every story was going online. Before, we had a division–these stories are going online, these stories are print. Now that everything goes online, the website has just as much clout with the kids as the paper does. I was a little nervous about district admin buy-in, but my principal was so supportive.
  • My students are still very attached to the print issue–they are not willing to go only online. And because we are doing both print and have a website, the website gets secondary priority because we haven’t yet figured out a good way to get new content online with our current publication cycle. I, also, am not necessarily willing to be on call to the extent that needs to happen for the online presence to be updating consistently.
  • Frequency of posting hard to achieve. Even more central: getting people to read it without violating ethics around story choice or sensationalism.
  • Several things: 1. When I had a very small staff last year, I suggested doing online only because it was a little less labor intensive than print as far as publishing. My students protested and said they wanted a print paper, too, because no one looks at the online edition (which is still a comment this year). 2. And they’re right. It’s a challenge to drive students to the news website. Still haven’t figured out how to do that well. 3. Finally, because we want to do both, how to work out the schedule between the two is puzzling. Right now, we work on the print issues and do online stories to fill the weeks between the monthly print editions. Or, if the school schedule is full of days off or other events (as it was in November), we do online only. But that means that the online site isn’t updated very often.
  • The loss of a physical product. They know the work they put into it but losing the tangible product has been hard for them.
  • Believe it or not, student interest has been a huge challenge. My staff doesn’t want to be online. I’m trying to pique their interest, but it is not easy.
  • It is our goal to publish truly in-depth stories nearly every day, but we have a very small staff. It is difficult to recruit kids to be in the class because it is not AP or honors, but even when we do, I want them publishing the kind of in-depth we did in print, and it is hard to do so while also trying to get your everyday, engaging content up each day. It’s a real newsroom environment being run by amateurs who have a busy schedule outside of their roles on the staff.
  • Organization has been a problem for me. I have been doing yearbook forever, and the fixed deadlines imposed by the publication company are a lifesaver. Our manufactured print deadlines worked pretty well, but the open format of online is hard to navigate. Keeping the pressure on staff to produce timely stories and upload them quickly while also researching in-depth features and working on them until they are worth printing —well, I haven’t figured out how to do that well. SNO’s new Snoflo website may be the answer once I get the hang of it.
  • Our biggest obstacle is that the publications are extra-curricular clubs at our school, so simply figuring out a cycle that works is very hard. I feel I can only ask so much of my students before it will get to be too much for them — with nine academic classes and other sports, clubs, etc., they’re already overextended!
  • Planning and choosing design/arrangement; drawing readership to the site
  • Keeping the site fresh – getting students to recognize the fluid nature of online reporting
  • For us, it is re-envisioning tradition. The Triangle has been around for 90 years. What we need to do is to really look at a rebranding of our news without The Triangle losing its identity and without cnhsmedia.com becoming The Triangle online. And we want it to be the kids that move to that rebranding. It has to be theirs. Right now, we’re not getting the vibe that a need exists. Through informal polls, our students like getting The Triangle (in hand) monthly and visiting the website whenever they want. They like the in-depth of The Triangle plus the quick read of the site.
  • It’s difficult to get students to publish consistently to the website and promote it as a valid source of information about the school. Additionally, it’s hard to get them to take ownership in the design aspect of the online portion.
  • Changing the perception of what you do, getting people used to being online and accessing the website. Soliciting advertisers is difficult as well, most of our advertisers prefer to only advertise in print even though it is less expensive online.
  • We are in our first year of building a newspaper program. Most students who are assigned to this class don’t know what the word “journalism” means for the first two days. I am struggling to balance this as a reading/writing improvement class where we study great pieces of journalism and then adapt those skills to our own pieces… which slows down our writing process. We are not just a publishing class yet. We are starting our program from scratch, and the class has completely changed from 1 semester to the next, so I need to start from scratch again with the students. Fortunately, I have a lot of wonderful colleagues here and at other schools who have helped me figure out how to create and manage it. Biggest challenge to going online right now (besides what I mentioned above): It costs $600 to start the online newspaper website, and we are having difficulty fundraising for it (on top of fundraising for the cost of printing our physical paper). Our community is not in the practice of using online communications with our schools, so it seems right now a better way to reach out to parents and community partners is via paper. It also seems more tangible for my students. I would love to grow our program to go online, but funding is restrictive. I’m not a CTE teacher so we have no budget for the class. The school has no budget for it either.
  • The best thing about being online is the ability to deliver a timely news product. The most challenging thing about being online is the pressure to deliver a timely news product.
  • It’s the staffing/updating the site/keeping it current piece that’s been tough for us. I think our staffing arrangement has finally helped solve that piece of the puzzle … at least we’re doing it better than we have in the past.
  • Getting people to read it. Getting the staff to understand the immediacy needed for online stories and accepting that work along with their print stories/design.
  • Staff organization and work flow.
  • Restructuring production schedules/cycles. Frankly, it’s hard when your seniors grew up doing things one way and you try to change the way you think to incorporate the web. And, getting people to believe that going out and doing a web story for publication the next day is as prestigious as working on a story for a week or two that goes into print.
  • My students don’t embrace the immediacy of the web. They want to work on the print cycle, which doesn’t really work. We struggle to update the site with timely, relevant stories.
  • Convincing admin that having an online presence is valuable.
  • Posting stories often. I also think it is shocking that so few students go to our website. Part of the problem is us…I realize that. We need to market our website better. We also need to improve on our social media usage to complement the website.
  • Convincing any institution to change is hard, whether it be adult- or student-driven. It’s always easier to understand what’s actually happening in front of you, warts and all, than it is to guess what the future might look like.
  • Maintaining the website and security.
  • Figuring out the workflow in terms of staff responsibilities and handling stories.
  • Continuing to think about it from print perspective. We’d spend weeks perfecting our writing, when really the idea is to just get it online (accurately) as quick as you can and then publicize to your readers on their platform.
  • For a small liberal arts college with a small number of journalism students, the biggest challenge of the sheer logistics of trying to do both print and web without the manpower to do so. Our print publication continues to be the main focus — of both the staff and readership. A recent readership survey found few people read the website, which is not surprising since it is a ported version of the printed paper. The print paper is much more visible on campus and more likely to be read than a website that students would have to seek out or follow on social media. In that way, our second biggest challenge is awareness of the web version — it’s simply not a thought to most students or faculty to go online to actively look for us when they’re used to the paper being present and visible on campus.
  • I was not involved in the process of bringing it online, but my editor-in-chief was here and tells me that there were rebranding issues for a while and perhaps needing to realize this was not just a blog but a different version of the school paper.

If your staff has been successful in moving your publication online, please share what you attribute to be the chief reason for this success.

  • We had to. But we had started the website before. Now we are just putting the print issue of the paper there as well.
  • Our online site is news driven and is updated regularly. We are a small school with a small staff (11 first semester; 23 second semester). However, we published at least one story every week. This week, four or five. We use the print edition primarily for long shelf-life stories and feature type material. We also use social media to promote our stories and drive traffic to the site. We have a Facebook and Twitter account, an Instagram account, and we use the school’s Facebook and Twitter account to promote stories as well.
  • Online community editor position, timely coverage, low cost.
  • The students like that their articles are live and can be linked in social media.
  • Patience. Time. Using great resources like Aaron Manful. If I had done this survey a year ago, I’d say we were not successful. But we kept plugging and now, things are moving in the right direction.
  • It is different each year — some years I have a strong group that can balance both — other years one or the other publication is stronger.
  • Working with SNO to some extent.
  • This is their generation. It moves fast–you don’t have to wait for a month to see your name “in print” and the stories move as quickly as the day does.
  • The quest to be a timely journalistic publication that publishes new content daily. The first year we posted new content several times a week now we post new content in every section on a daily basis.
  • We have a large staff (around 60 students) and several great student leaders who have been on-board from the beginning. My department chair and administration have also been hugely supportive in every area.
  • Finally training editors to think web first.
  • I have a separate group of kids that work on the web. It is sometimes good, and sometimes not. I am working on getting my print kids to post more online, in addition to working on the print paper.
  • We are trying to incorporate more web only pieces, which makes people more interested in writing for the website.
  • Having the web staff and The Triangle staff meet during the same period in connecting labs is a great start; we’ve done that for three years now. We have two advisers — I advise The Triangle and my counterpart advises cnhsmedia.com. We both want our kids to collaborate and do more together. It hasn’t been as simple as the two of us think it should be. Communication is part of the problem. Some territoriality exists, too. cnhsmedia.com started out as a PR piece — the umbrella for our entire media group (newsmagazine, yearbook, broadcast, PR). It still serves that purpose, but we find that we need it to be more news-oriented as it can get info out faster and to a larger audience. We’re still working on it, seeing baby steps of improvement each year.
  • Time. Exposure to programs doing print and online together successfully. Shifting production cycle. Blending all media into one comprehensive program (includes these, yearbook and social media).
  • In 2007 the newspaper adviser decided to end the print publication, leaving the staff no choice but to go online. There was little readership initially, and for several years the online paper struggled, with staff size dwindling. We are reintroducing our print paper this spring in an effort to add excitement back to the program. Our 450-page print yearbook is going strong, and the students feel that printing the paper again will help bring back awareness of scholastic news and the issues that students enjoy dealing with in a high school print newspaper. Seeing their name in print is better than just online.
  • It wasn’t easy! Kids love the print paper, but by showing them the power of the immediacy and the ability to do simple, fast video, they bought in.
  • I think the success in our online presence has been our photo galleries and multimedia videos. We try as well to have stories that are specific to online including stories which may have a timeliness factor to them.
  • We tried to move the publication online a few times over the last few years, but we focused mostly on web design and not content. Last year, we were finally successful because we focused on a coverage plan and not on design.
  • Time and emphasis. We restructured the course to better balance the attention given to print and online, which allowed my journalists to build and maintain a robust, dynamic website. And time because it took a while for the site to become a normal part of the school and community. A few breaking stories drove a lot of traffic to the site, and some of that sticks.
  • This year, we have an online editor-in-chief who has been making sure to have fresh content several times a week. Some stories are online only. Sometimes online stories are longer than the one in print. We also have two to three new media editors, who are in charge of producing news videos or man-on-the street videos very week.
  • It took several years of fits and starts before we finally found an online editor who was tenacious enough to get the job done.
  • Our online edition compliments our print edition.
  • I wouldn’t call us successful, because hardly anyone looks at it yet. But it wouldn’t exist at all without http://www.schoolnewspapersonline.com/ I am hoping that by next year we will have gotten enough momentum to gain and keep an audience.
  • They wanted to do it. They had ownership for it.
  • The online move at this point has been entirely my work with my introductory journalism class. My Newspaper production class is lead by a wonderful EIC who is very committed to the print version of the paper. So we now have a hybrid online site where the print articles are uploaded after the paper is distributed, complimented by online stories I edit and place using beginning students’ work as well as information from the school bulletin,
  • We placed our issues on Issuu…couldn’t do a web-based news site. We also did Facebook news page.
  • Students who were passionate and creative–small need of kids who had goals for what we could achieve.
  • We all decided upfront that the print would be long-form, thematic content only, and the website would be short-form and timely news. That distinction has helped us organize our efforts instead of trying the online complementing the print concept. We have much to improve, but they have done well in their first year of doing online in addition to print.
  • It only took me 10 years to figure out a model that works for us. For nearly a decade, all we did was cut-and-paste completed content from our print product into the online product, and it was static and non-responsive. We made a couple of moves to a true online newspaper, but various issues (a colleague who was helping shifted his teaching assignment away from any journalism, key students graduated and moved on, etc.) were hiccups that sent us back to the cut-and-paste model. … But this year, I finally came up with a staff model that has worked much better. I have one of my co-editors-in-chief as the key online manager, but I appointed five different online editors, one per section (news, sports, features, entertainment, op-ed), and they are each assigned a day of the week. On their day, they must upload at least one story with accompanying photo, graphic or illustration. And … this was key … they each have full access to the back end of our website so they can make the posts go fully live. … Voila … we’re a real news website. Too bad it took me a decade to figure this out. … 🙂
  • For the first two years as online-only publication, I have had very organized and focused editors in chief. And as always it is crucial to have a dedicated class period for publication production- a “j lab class.”
  • I wouldn’t say we’ve been overly successful, but I do recommend this app for advisers, which was reviewed on the JEA DigitalMedia site. It’s called IFTTT (If This, Then That). It’s been a great way for me to keep track of when articles are posted.
  • Being able to upload daily.
  • We have been online for years, but recently switched to SNO sites. Working out the kinks with a relatively young staff.
  • It’s been online for 4 years, but always as an after thought. Having 2 webmasters definitely increased the content management online. Moving to a quarterly newsmagazine helped the staff to be able to take the time to write specifically for online. This year with a new adviser who has little print design experience and a mostly new staff they are realizing how much easier it would be to spend more time on the online content.
  • We still publish in both ways, but with the same staff of 20-25 students (and some years, it’s been as few as 12 students). The trick has been to go slow and steady and make online a valued part of the routine. You don’t want to overwhelm kids who are working in both areas. The other thing we did was appoint an Online Managing Editor as a parallel position to the Managing Editor. This position reports to the editor in chief. We have at least one student assisting with posting web content and one assigned to social media.
  • We started slowly. We incorporated Twitter and live tweeted sporting events. We posted one story a week, one video a week. Those were our goals.
  • It allows us to cover school events in a more timely way than we can with our print newspaper, which only comes out 5 times a year.
  • I set up a site through School Newspapers Online, showed the kids how to post stories, and they jumped on it. They “get it” because they live in the electronic world.
  • I had a student who was very motivated and a gifted web designer. I gave him a green light and creative control and a budget. He did all of the footwork, provided training, and a document that continues the training for posterity.
  • Much of our success has come from not just having a website, but by taking a look at the larger picture of how our students interact with media. Most of our student traffic to our website comes through links that we tweet out or teaser photos on instagram.
  • Students like the freedom that it brings, the ability to include more photos and videos, and the ability to publish more often.
  • I’m not sure what is meant by “successful,” but as we are using and posting content, I would attribute the JEA Web curriculum and JEA DIGITAL MEDIA to be the chief reasons for our success.
  • We were in a unique situation that I don’t know holds broader lessons for others. We had two established print newspapers, so we took one online and now have a print publication and an online publication. The success we have had online (I’ll let other judge how much that is) stems from a couple of things: 1) We planned for it. We had weekly meetings over many months, a parent meeting, staff charts, job descriptions, etc. No one except me loved the idea, but they followed me because it was clear where we were going. 2) We integrated with print afterwards (actually, we’re doing that part now). We built a separate online apparatus, and are now figuring out how to work with the print publication. Not sure that’s the right way forward for every situation, but it worked for us.
  • We use social media to involve our audience and produce both online-only and print-only content.
  • We used to have a print paper, but it was disbanded due to funds and lack of interest. For the virtually the same amount of money, we moved to online. The biggest problem is having the kids write as often as needed to print. High school has all kinds of stories to tell. The students need to buy into the fact this is important. I have had some success but each year is a learning experience. Last semester, was a blow off. Most students feel as though newspaper is a blow off class. Due dates helped and having them write a story once a week is also helpful We are still trying to make this project an honorable success, but since this is online, you really need a lot of stories to publish.
  • The staff wanted to do so, and we had a few students who really took on the work of setting up the site and then training the rest of the staff.
  • A good scheduling system to make sure we are covering all events and stories are posted in a timely manner.
  • We have a web editor and each staff member is expected to write one online story for each news cycle (3 week cycle) so we are constantly updating. The online requirements are for shorter stories with only one source.
  • Our print paper was done as a club and published extremely infrequently, so the students didn’t have a lot of attachment to it. We went digital the same year I started teaching journalism as a class, so the digital site is their “home.” We’ve used weekly emails with links to the latest articles and social media platforms to increase readership.
  • I’m first year. Most of my staff is first year. Only one student returned from last staff, so none of us know any better/different.

What advice would you give to staffs that are either in the process of – or are considering – bringing their publication online?

  • Think through a process that will help you avoid out Achilles heel … the cut-and-paste approach. It’s not what online journalism is supposed to be about, and it takes a different kind of editorial structure to avoid it, I think. Also, advisers have to be willing to give up some control. I simply cannot be involved in all the steps along the way. So, I have to trust students to make it happen. If we need to go back into a story to make changes, however, we can … that’s a nice element of online journalism, and we’ve done that a time or two.
  • SNO or other website design helps.
  • It’s just as important as anything you print. Eliminating the stigma that it’s not as “real” because it’s online is essential. Keep your administrators in the loop–don’t blindside them with the plan to go online. A little goodwill goes a long way in establishing autonomy.
  • Look at a lot of models of successful online papers (the Online Pacemaker winners are where we started our research) and make sure you have technical support as you create your site. Keep your design simple, but interesting. Take advantage of the opportunities for audio, video and interactive elements a digital site provides. Make sure you’ve set a regular publication schedule so the website it being updated consistently.
  • Figure out your philosophy about how the print and online stories will complement each other first. Try to distinguish your online offerings from the print newspaper as soon as possible — in other words, do what you can online that you can’t in print — so that your staff and your readers will see its value.
  • Just do it. There can be a lot of thinking and deciding. Just jump in and the kids will make it work.
  • Do it! But do NOT ignore or do away with the print edition. The skills learned from the print edition are vast, in addition to what the web site offers. Embrace ALL types of media to get the news to your readers including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The world has a wide variety of ways for people to get their information and we have to cater to them all.
  • Talk to experienced advisers who have seen success with their online publication and have a plan in place. Find a way to motivate the staff and help them understand the value of publishing online.
  • It’s the future. Have a plan for implementation. Get your kids to buy in to the plan. Stay with the plan. Keep it fresh. Always have a visual. Even if it’s a simple little graphic element — every story needs a visual online just like stories in your paper need visuals. Quality is important but so is timeliness. Strike a balance. Create a need in your audience so that they will need to go to your site.
  • The best advice we got was to post daily for a quarter before publicizing the site.
  • Have an editor for both versions. Those editors need to work together.
  • Get a webmaster — someone who will manage the nuts and bolts side of your website. This person doesn’t necessarily have to concern him/herself with content, but should know how to solve basic problems you might come across.
    Just get started. Don’t worry about quality at first — as long as you don’t advertise, no one will know you are there, so no one will see your mistakes. When you have something worth showing off — don’t. Be sure you have a second wave to publish, so that if you gain readers with your first edition, you will retain them.
  • Have a student who is specifically a web editor. While I am still trying to make this work, having one kid who loves it makes it easier to bring the print kids around.
  • Stand your ground on due dates….get the students to write at least one to two stories a week to keep the flow going. It is a class to learn and grow, not to goof off.
  • Have a print and online budget.
  • We really like SNO, as it provides structure and goals. Worth the expense. Don’t count on ad revenue for support. Editors and content producers need to become students of web journalism, SEO, and social media. Social media use goes hand in hand with web news. Get kids excited about multimedia storytelling–draws an audience. Don’t post editorials, opinions, humor spur of the moment–let those marinate.
  • Talk to schools who have done it to get a sense of how they manage. Look at Wayland Student Network. They do it beautifully!
  • Have clear expectations and deadlines. Focus on short, NOW stories that they couldn’t find elsewhere. Make the work manageable and hold the staff accountable.
  • Set goals, plan update schedules (who/when) and find the student or two who truly loves web design/WordPress/etc. to work the back end.
  • Determine the needs of your audience before going online.
  • Be patient. Learn as much as you can. Use the resources at JEA Digital Media. Embrace the failures that will lead to more success.
  • 1. Make sure your school technology, including hardware/software/wifi issues/servers, is up to the challenge. 2. Still set publication dates as you would if you were in print and stick to those. 3. Print less material more often. 4. Continue to talk about the responsibility of a journalist.
  • Students tend to see it as less formal since it’s online. It’s not. It’s official and real. It’s not a social media account.
  • Don’t be afraid. Going online provides so many more opportunities but you have to be willing to go all in and provide lots of new content.
  • Do it. Not doing it would be a disservice to student journalists who need to see how this will all work when they get into the field.
  • I feel strongly that you must have an online component to give today’s j students an authentic experience. Personally, I think you need both formats to prepare them, but if money is an issue, online should be the preference. So if finances are a concern, go web. Also, develop those positions and structures that I mentioned before.
  • I really like either/or because then the staff throws itself into ONE thing which, I think, makes a better product. But, since we’re teaching, I love exposing the students to online/social media/Wordpress AND InDesign/print concepts. Having a head online editor and a separate head print editor has been helpful. I leave it up to the editors to decide if they will switch roles at the semester or not.
  • Be patient with it. We used School Newspapers Online the first couple of years and the templates and tech support were easy to use. We are now coding our own stuff and have tried to take the site in new directions every year. Start small and build…don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Don’t end your print presence! Student readers are a somewhat captive audience who welcome great stories about people and happenings in their school.
  • Just do it. You can think about it forever, and it will never make sense. You just have to take the plunge.
  • Figure out what kind of presence you want and how you can maintain it. It also depends on what kind of structure you have in place for updating the web presence.
  • I would do everything you can to get your staff on board as early as possible and start promoting the launch as soon as you can. Set a date for launch and stick to it. Hype it up as much as possible in the weeks leading up to it. Print signs, encourage staff to tweet about it, put it in the announcements, etc. Because of all the different small stuff that was going on to get the site ready, I felt like I didn’t follow through on this as much as I would have liked, and the launch seemed a little anticlimactic as a result. Also, know your students’s strengths and figure out how you can use them to increase readership. Put someone on managing the site’s twitter account, get students to create interesting recurring features and publish them weekly to keep readers coming back, etc. Finally, update as frequently as possible once launching. I would try to have a healthy amount of content on the site before launch, as well as a lot of evergreen stuff on deck to allow for regular new content. If a site is updated infrequently, it will be visited infrequently.
  • Go for it, but do not forget the fundamentals of journalism.
  • Go very slowly. Do at least a year or two of hybrid online and print. Keep the online version update though, and if the adviser has to be a bit more active in the online version for a while that is fine. It is going to take quite some time to get people used to it.
  • Have everyone contribute.
  • If they want to do both, figure out a system for keeping the online site updated regularly. Secondly, you have to also figure out a way to drive traffic to the site regularly.
    Plan original content for the online publication; do not simply recycle print stories online.
  • Make sure the district publication policy allows for, the curriculum incorporates it, and that the powers that be are supportive. Being in NJ, we have special provisions ( I think Maine has them as well) which limit the information a publication under BOE/district control can publish regarding minors. Being trapped in prior review and a somewhat outdated publications policy, the reporting staff has no autonomy and is not able to host offsite. I guess, in a nutshell, try not to fall into the prior review trap.
  • I made the move to the middle school and will be starting an online newspaper with them next year. For an experienced print adviser it was very hard to wrap my head around the balance or print and online. I think starting a new paper as an online only will in many ways be easier than trying to do both.
  • Establish a beat system and consider as many storytelling tools as possible
  • Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Take risks. Change for the right reasons is crucial for improvement, growth and survival.
  • Find a way of generating enthusiasm in your Newspaper class and in your school. Use social media to heavily advertise your articles. Find ways of using video, gifs, and other media that you couldn’t use with your print edition.
  • 1) Have a clear vision. Know what you want to do and why. 2) Once you’ve given everyone a chance to have input, to buy in if they’re going to, and to understand where you’re going, do it. I’ve never been a huge fan of incremental change, especially with student media that turns over every year anyway. If you’re convinced that the changes you’re going to make are positive, jump off the cliff and make them. 3) Any change is going to have a better chance of success with students if it expands the chances for students to lead and be involved than if it contracts them. 4) Meet with students often. Listen to their concerns, and make the changes you can to alleviate their concerns. Build an adult-student team, even if some of the team members aren’t completely sold on the overall direction you’re heading. 5) One of the coolest things about online journalism is how many opportunities there are to innovate. Figure out what you’re kids are excited about. Encourage them to try some new way to communicate online about it. Do a podcast about student fashion. Livestream a sporting event. Make a weird video about whatever. Don’t plan endlessly for this stuff; get an idea, try it out tomorrow. Fail. Try again. The stakes are low (at least, start with low stakes stories) and the opportunities for innovation are endless. Quickly, you’ll get at least some kids who get excited.
  • Allow a student to take this on as a project. That is the only way I was able to get it done.
  • Start slowly and build it up. Don’t go cold turkey on the print editions unless finances dictate that you must.
  • Take small steps. Do not try to do everything at once. Start with providing your print articles online, then add media like photo galleries and short videos, then add short items in between print issues, before developing online-only coverage. It could take a few years to make the transition.
    Just jump in and go. There may never be a right time, and there will probably be growing pains, but once it is up and running you will be glad you did it. Plus, get the staff involved! Get their input, let them build it, make the site theirs, give them ownership.
  • Learn to do simple video shot with phones. (And photography too.) Focus on what your audience wants, and balance that with the responsibilities of a news organization. Let students cover diverse topics that interest them. Put as much control as possible in the hands of the students.
  • It is the future of the news reporting industry and students should be learning the necessary skill sets to be successful in the industry.
  • DO IT! Journalism today is a cross-platform business and we need to prepare our students the best we can for this field. Also, it widens your audience so much, because now parents, alumni, and others from around your community and the world can get a glimpse into the going-ons at your school.
  • Formulate a plan on how often you will publish and a system to drive readers to it. Twitter and Instagram have been vital in promoting stories. Google Analytics can help determine where you need to focus your energies.
  • Launch it while you still have your print edition just to get your feet wet. But if you truly want a successful online publication, you need to dedicate yourself to be online only. If you are blessed with a huge staff, then create a staff who strictly creates online content, and have a co adviser who focuses on online only content.
  • Publications need to be online. Teens get their news there, so we should reach them through that medium. You also need to incorporate social media into promoting your website.
  • Divide responsibility. There are so many website possibilities. Don’t weigh yourselves down with the idea of the way that the traditional paper had been handled.
  • Build it and they will come, usually after a real big story is published online only.
  • Be ready to think outside the box and look for ways to tell stories in alternative ways. Online offer so much more than the written page, so keep that in mind when presenting stories. You are writing AND doing something else. What can you do because you are online? Story quality shouldn’t suffer, but be creative.
  • A clear focus on process for web content. We have a tried-and-true structure for producing a weekly newspaper but we found the web floundered for years because there wasn’t the same structured focus on the process of producing web content. I also would caution advisers who would ditch the print in favor of the web, especially on small campuses. Yes, industry-wide the web is paramount, but on small colleges, the printed product is FAR more effective at reaching your audience than a web product.
  • I would advise them to create a deadline schedule for all staff members before they do anything else–then stick to it!
    Try to find a way to take the print version’s readership with you as you move online, and that may be in keeping the print version going. I didn’t know my staff had been ASKING to revive the print paper for two years before I came back to this school after an 8-year absence. I learned that I was the last teacher who was committed to working a print paper as well as keeping the online version. It will continue to be a work-in-progress.
  • Just go for it. It won’t be perfect and that’s OK.
  • I think it’s imperative for the person who takes control of the online portion to have a strong understanding of how the website is controlled and provide support to staff members who aren’t as skilled.

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