Research (Vol. 52): Campus media reflect changing information landscape

Efforts to serve their communities strengthening


Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series examining the state of college media advising. The first part discussed the role of the adviser, salary/compensation packages and job status. This part profiles student media operations, including demographics, budgets, financing support, and staffing.


By Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver
Associate Editor, CMR


At no time in the evolution of college student media has change been so rapid or provided so many questions and challenges as today. Nor is any media operation immune from the effects of this change.

lillian (2)
Lillian Kopenhaver

Newspapers command the status of the most numerous of campus student media, and, as such, have been affected to a greater extent by the changes in the way we deliver information today, just as professional newspapers have faced growing challenges.

Caroline Little, CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, commented, “Newspapers continue to command a huge audience and remain the most-trusted source of news and information. While that will not change, there has been a key shift in the way information is delivered and audience is engaged” (Little, 2014).

On the college and university level, the web has chronicled a number of papers tackling issues such as a decline in circulation or budget:

A growing number of papers are cutting or considering cutting the number of print editions they publish each week or month. Others are trimming their page sizes or reducing the number of copies or pages produced for each issue. Still others are experimenting with magazine editions, non-content revenue streams, social media schemes, mobile apps and web overhauls. A few papers have dropped print entirely, opting to reboot as online-only outlets (Reimold, 2014).

The quest is to develop a model that is sustainable. On the professional level, “newspapers’ business models have been uprooted by a dramatic decline in print advertising revenue, and news organizations have had trouble making up lost ground with online advertising revenue” (Magaw, 2014).

That has influenced the collegiate press as well: “Now, college papers are following suit, slashing print editions and other expenses to make up for losses in revenue, but also to emphasize the importance of the web to their students as they prepare for jobs in an increasingly multimedia-focused industry that places less of a premium on newsprint” (Magraw, 2014).

However, Western Kentucky University finds that print is “still working.” A twice-weekly newspaper, the Heights Herald, is trying a new distribution model: “instead of counting on students to pick up papers from racks, members of the staff help hand them out, pointing out what’s inside…and it has worked. ‘Students take it’…” (Hare, 2014).

Kevin Schwartz, former general manager of the newspaper at the University of North Carolina, “still believes heavily in the power of print for a multitude of reasons…he sees print as the main means for college media to remain solvent.” Schwartz says that “dropping print does not save money but rather costs the operation its ability to make money…reducing the number of print issues and pages is death by a thousand cuts, not a righting of the ship” (Reimold, 2014).

Papers at Oklahoma State, Columbia University, Kent State and the University of Akron, among others, announced they are cutting frequency of publication and relying more online. But online revenue is still minimal and not increasing. Schwartz argues that what is “mystifying to him is the failure of many student editors, advisers and publication boards to recognize what seems obvious: Print is still by far college media’s main source for advertising revenue” (Reimold, 2014).

This study confirms many of these latter contentions. Even though circulation is down, with some papers printing less frequently and generating less revenue from advertising (only 4 percent of papers have more than $1 million in revenue compared to 9 percent four years ago), there has been no parallel revenue increase generated by online from advertising over the last eight years of tracking online editions. So providing fewer print editions, and increasing an online presence, is not helping the bottom line. The professional press is facing the same situation.

Other campus media are also facing challenges. Yearbooks have fewer pages, and nearly half work with budgets of $10,000 or less. A number of radio and television stations are going online only, though their number and hours of broadcasting have grown. They are also increasingly relying on college and university funding for support. Convergence and consolidation are also having some effect. For example, Texas Christian University has merged its newspaper, magazine and television station into a single operation operating out of one newsroom (Yang, 2014).

Magazines are a brighter spot in the student media universe; they have grown in number, variety and frequency of publication, even with somewhat reduced revenues (two thirds operate on $5,000 or less annually).

Methodology

This survey is the eighth in a series of similar surveys begun in 1984 and conducted at approximately four-year intervals to this one in 2014.The results have been reported in College Media Review to provide longitudinal information on college student media operations.

In the spring of 2014 a 69-question survey was sent via Qualtrics to the 841 active members at that time of the College Media Association. A total of 379 surveys were returned, for a response rate of

45 percent. The survey was designed to solicit responses on a broad range of topics relating to college media advisers and the student media with which they work. The first 31 questions covered topics ranging from the role of the adviser to rank, tenure and compensation packages, and reporting responsibilities for these individuals. The results were reported in the first article in this two-part series.

The subsequent 38 questions of the survey requested demographic, financial and operational information on newspapers, online operations, yearbooks, magazines, and radio and television stations on college and university campuses across the U.S. with the goal of providing a profile of these media. In addition, there was an open-ended question at the end soliciting further comments from respondents.

Media operations represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with Illinois topping the list of respondents with 7 percent, followed by Texas with 6 percent, and Pennsylvania, New York, California and Georgia with 5 percent. Frequencies were run on all questions and cross-tabulations carried out on select questions to ascertain current and longitudinal data trends and demographic profiles.

Profile of Respondents

More than one third (40 percent) of the institutions represented have enrollments of 7,500 or fewer students; one fourth have 7,501 to 15,000; 10 percent have 15,001 to 20,000; 7 percent enroll 20,001 to 25,000; and 17 percent exceed 25,000 students.

The largest group of respondents (37 percent) advise newspapers and online. This is significantly different from 2009 when the largest group (49 percent) advised newspaper only, evidencing the rapid growth of online operations. The next largest group (20 percent) advise all media. That is followed by newspaper only with 17 percent; 6 percent who advise radio and online; 4 percent, newspaper and yearbook; 4 percent, newspaper, yearbook and magazine; 3 percent, radio and TV; 3 percent, yearbook; 3 percent, magazine; and 2 percent each, TV and online only. The broad range of combinations of media advised illustrates just how diverse student media operations are on our campuses and how rapidly they are changing.

In the open-ended section, one adviser noted advising eight specialty magazines and two radio stations. Another lamented, “I am having trouble finding students who are at all interested in the online newspaper…students in the last four years or so have just seemed to lose interest in the online. They often have to be really pushed to even upload stories done for the print version online!” Another noted, “We are undergoing consolidation, merging journalism program with broadcasting program. Current newspaper will no longer be print beginning in fall of 2014 but will be online.” And still another said that the TV station was going online only, that the TV and newspaper staffs have been combined for the past two years and that “this seems to work well for a small school.”

Profile of Newspapers

Newspapers are publishing less frequently in 2014 than in the 2009 survey. The number of dailies has decreased to 12 percent from 16 percent in 2009. There are more weeklies (42 percent) than any other frequency (39 percent in 2009). Nearly one third (31 percent) come out less frequently (27 percent in 2009). Of those publishing several times a week, numbers are comparable to 2009: twice weekly, 8 percent; three times a week, 2 percent; and four times a week, 5 percent. One adviser in the open-ended section said, “This is the last year we will have a printed newspaper. Next year we are going to online only with a digital/print magazine (new).”

At four-year public colleges, weekly papers are the norm (41 percent), an increase from 37 percent in 2009, followed by 21 percent of dailies, a substantial decrease from 29 percent in 2009; 13 percent come out two days a week. Those publishing less frequently than weekly increased to 12 percent from 6 percent in 2009.

At four-year private institutions, more than half the papers (55 percent) are weekly, a decrease from 61 percent in 2009; they are followed by twice a month and monthly papers, 17 percent each, and two days a week, 4 percent. Only 3 percent are dailies, comparable to 2009.

At two-year public colleges, most newspapers publish monthly (41 percent), an increase from 20 percent in 2009, or twice a month (39 percent), a decrease from 73 percent in 2009. Only 6 percent are weekly, and one is a daily. (See Table 1).

Table 1: Frequency of Newspaper Publication (in %)
Frequency 4year Public 4year Private 2year Public
Monthly 6 18 41
Twice a month 6 18 39
Weekly 41 55 18
2 days/week 13 4 0
3 days/week 4 0 0
4 days/week 9 2 0

5 or more

days/week

21 3 2

The greater the enrollment of the college or university, the more frequently papers tend to publish. Although dailies are found at all size institutions, 59 percent are at colleges with more than 25,000 students (63 percent in 2009), and only 16 percent are at colleges with enrollments of 15,000 or less, an increase from 7 percent in 2009. Nearly all (78 percent) of the weekly newspapers are found at colleges with 15,000 or fewer students, down from 84 percent in 2009, as are 89 percent of monthly publications. Most (94 percent) of those publishing four days a week, an increase from 88 percent in 2009, and 57 percent of those publishing three days a week, an increase from 40 percent on the last survey, are at institutions with enrollments exceeding 15,000.

Overall, circulation has slightly decreased over the last four years. Half the papers (51 percent) have a circulation of 1,001 to 5,000 copies, followed by 22 percent with 5,001 to 10,000, both comparable to 2009. However, 18 percent print 1,000 or fewer, an increase from 10 percent in 2009. Only 1 percent report more than 15,000, down from 7 percent in 2009. One adviser commented, “Circulation has decreased from about 3,500 to 2,000 over the past 15 years. Advertising revenue has been fairly flat.”

At four-year public colleges and universities, nearly half (47 percent) have a circulation of 1,001 to 5,000, an increase from 30 percent in 2009; 11 percent circulate 10,001 to 15,000, and 32 percent, 5,001 to 10,000. In 2009, 10 percent of papers had circulations exceeding 20,000; in 2014, none do.

More than half (54 percent) the papers at four-year private institutions have a circulation of 1,001 to 5,000, a decrease from 66 percent in 2009. Another third publish fewer than 1,000 copies, a substantial increase from 18 percent in 2009, and none exceeds 15,000. At two-year schools, nearly two thirds (60 percent) of public college papers have a circulation of 1,001 to 5,000, a decrease from 80 percent in the last survey. Only one paper prints more than 10,000. In most instances, circulation numbers have decreased (see Table 2).

Table 2:    Newspaper Circulation (in %)
Copies Printed 4year Public 4year Private 2year Public
1,000 or fewer 7 33 27
1,001-5,000 47 54 60
5,001-10,000 32 12 11
10,001-15,000 11 1 2
15,001-20,000 3 0 0
20,001 or more 0 0 0

The size of the news hole reported by respondents varies greatly. More than three fourths (78 percent) indicated their news hole was more than half, and more than half (58 percent) responded that it was more than 60 percent. More than one third (39 percent) said it was 66 percent or more. All illustrate higher percentages than in 2009.

At four-year public institutions, most (26 percent) listed their news hole as 66 percent or more, followed by 24 percent with 61-65 percent. At four-year private colleges, news holes are significantly larger, with 59 percent at 66 percent or more, and 14 percent at 61 to 65 percent.

At two-year public schools, news holes are also larger, with nearly half (48 percent) stating that they run 66 percent or more; 15 percent report a news hole of 61-65 percent or more.

Online Editions

Obviously, just as the professional press has realized the increasing importance of an online presence, so has the campus press. In the four years since the 2009 survey, online editions have increased from 87 percent to 97 percent on college and university campuses across the country. Most of the four-year public colleges and the four-year private schools (98 percent each) fall into this category, an increase from 94 and 83 percent, respectively, as do 94 percent of the two-year public schools, an increase from 72 percent in 2009.

Online editions are most frequently (41 percent) updated daily, an increase from 38 percent in 2009. Nearly one third (31 percent) update online editions on the day of publication. A smaller number (9 percent) update several times a week, and 6 percent update weekly. Several indicated the timing was “in flux,” or “when students are free,” or when new content comes in or news breaks, or “as often as possible.” Most respondents (80 percent) indicated that they generate new copy for the online edition that is not in the newspaper.

More than half (54 percent) the online editions have a separate editor. This is more prevalent at four- year private colleges (60 percent) than at four-year public schools (53 percent) and two-year public institutions (45 percent). All figures are comparable to 2009.

Two thirds of the online editions run advertising, a slight increase from 64 percent in 2009. This is more common at four-year public colleges (79 percent) than at their private counterparts (56 percent) or at two-year public schools (41 percent). Both four-year colleges have increased over 2009.

More than three fourths (80 percent) charge extra for ads, up from 77 percent in 2009. This is true at 89 percent of four-year public institutions (83 percent in 2009), 65 percent of four-year private colleges (69 percent in 2009), and 61 percent of two-year public colleges (64 percent in 2009).

Half of those that run advertising in their online editions generate $2,000 or less from this source; 28 percent earn more than $5,000; 10 percent generate $5,001 to $10,000, and 18 percent realize $10,001 or more from advertising. All figures are comparable to 2009 (see Table 3).

Table 3: Total Annual Online Revenue (in %)
Revenue 4year Public 4year Private 2year Public
Part of newspaper budget 21 51 53
$2,000 or less 30 28 37
$2,001-$3,500 11 4 0
$3,501-$5,000 4 7 0
$5,001-$7,500 6 4 7
$7,501-$10,000 2 3 0
$10,000 or more 26 3 3

In more than one third (35 percent) of the online operations, budgets are included in that of the newspaper. Nearly another third (31 percent) report that annual online budgets are $2,000 or less. Nearly one fourth (22 percent) of online operations have revenues exceeding $5,000, and 15 percent exceed $10,000; nearly all of the latter (91 percent) are at four-year public colleges and universities. At four-year private colleges, more than half (51 percent) of online budgets are part of the newspaper budget; that is true at 53 percent of two-year schools and at 21 percent of four-year public institutions. At the latter, 26 percent have annual budgets exceeding $10,000.

Almost all the newspaper advisers (92 percent) work with the online version as well, a decrease from 95 percent in 2009.

Newspaper Revenue

Nearly half the campus newspapers (45 percent) have annual revenues of $25,000 or less, a slight decrease from 43 percent in 2009. More than one third (34 percent) report revenues of $10,000 or less, an increase from 29 percent in 2009. Nearly another one third (30 percent) exceed $100,000, a decrease from 36 percent in 2009.

The number of newspapers with annual revenues in excess of $500,000 has decreased to 9 percent from 16 percent in 2009; 4 percent exceed $1 million, a decrease from 9 percent in 2009.

One half of four-year public college newspapers report revenues exceeding $100,000, a significant decrease from 61 percent in 2009. At four-year private institutions, revenues at that level dropped to 8 percent from 16 percent in 2009. Only two papers at two-year public colleges report revenues exceeding $100,000.

At four-year public institutions, 17 percent report revenues exceeding $500,000, a decrease from 28 percent in 2009; no four-year private colleges exceed a half million dollars, a decrease from 5 percent in 2009.

Of those 12 newspapers reporting revenues of more than $1 million, all (8 percent) are at four-year public schools. In 2009, two were at four-year private colleges, but none report that level in 2014.

A larger number of newspapers with budgets of $10,000 or less are at four-year public colleges (16 percent) in 2014 than in 2009 (8 percent). More than half the papers (52 percent) at four-year private institutions fall into this category, an increase from 44 percent in 2009. Two thirds of papers at four- year private colleges have budgets of $25,000 or less, an increase from 62 percent in the last survey. At their public counterparts, 23 percent have budgets of $25,000 or less, an increase from16 percent in 2009.

At two-year public colleges, nearly two thirds (60 percent) have revenues of $10,000 or less, comparable to 2009. Only four have budgets that exceed $50,000.

All of the newspapers with $1 million or more of revenue are at institutions with more than 25,000 students.

Newspaper Revenue Sources

Nearly all (97 percent) college and university student newspapers have revenue from advertising.

Of those running ads, 36 percent receive more than half their revenue from this source, down from 48 percent in 2009.

In fact, 10 percent of papers receive more than 90 percent from advertising, a significant decrease from 22 percent in 2009; 7 percent are totally supported through advertising revenue, a decrease from 10 percent four years ago. Only 20 percent receive 10 percent or less of their revenues from ads, down from 12 percent in 2009.

More than half (52 percent) the papers at four-year public colleges receive more than half their revenue from advertising, a substantial decrease from 65 percent in 2009. At four-year private institutions, that percentage has fallen sharply to 16 percent from 32 percent in 2009. At two-year public institutions, 24 percent fall into this category, a significant increase from 13 percent in 2009.

Fewer newspapers (15 percent) are funded more than 80 percent by advertising than in 2009 (33 percent). Those numbers include 24 percent of papers at four-year public colleges, down significantly from 46 percent in 2009, and 7 percent at four-year private schools, a substantial decrease from 26 percent in 2009. Additionally, 12 percent of papers at the former (up from 11 percent in 2009) and 3 percent of those at the latter (down from 13 percent in 2009) are totally funded by advertising revenue. Only one two-year college paper is funded more than 80 percent by advertising, comparable to the last survey.

One adviser noted, “In the past, staff salaries were funded by ad revenue. However, ad revenues no longer are sufficient and this year student government helped cover the shortfall. For next year, the paper staff is taking a 65 percent cut in pay.”

Nearly half (46 percent) the college papers are funded by student activity fees, comparable to 2009. More than half of those (54 percent) receive more than half their revenue from this source, the same as in 2009; one forth receive more than 80 percent from these fees, comparable to 2009, while 17 percent are funded in excess of 90 percent, an increase from 11 percent, and 10 percent are funded totally in this manner, an increase from 7 percent in the last survey.

Of these papers, more than two thirds (69 percent) at four-year private colleges receive more than half their revenue from student activity fees, a sizeable decrease from 80 percent in 2009. Four-year public colleges rank next with 49 percent, a significant increase from 34 percent in 2009, while two- year public schools have the least, with 46 percent receiving more than half their revenue from this source, a sharp decrease from 87 percent in 2009.

Nearly one third (31 percent) of the two-year public colleges receiving student activity fees secure more than 80 percent of their budgets from this source, a decrease from 47 percent in 2009; so do 45 percent of four-year private institutions, comparable to 2009, and 15 percent of four-year public schools, an increase from 9 percent in 2009. Those funded totally by student activity fees include 8 percent of two-year public schools (a decrease from 13 percent in 2009), 19 percent of four-year private colleges (an increase from 15 percent in 2009), and 7 percent of four-year public institutions, a significant decrease from 21 percent in the last survey.

Another significant source of revenue for newspapers is general college and university funds; 39 percent of papers are funded by this source, a significant increase from 25 percent in 2009. Of these, two thirds receive more than half their revenue from these funds, the same as 2009. More than one third (42 percent) receive more than 80 percent of their revenue from college funding, an increase from 37 percent four years ago, and 21 percent are totally funded in this manner, the same as 2009.

College and university funding provides more than half the budgets of papers as follows: four-year private institutions, 82 percent (the same as the last survey); two-year public colleges, 67 percent (down from 83 percent in 2009); and four-year public schools, 41 percent (an increase from 29 percent in 2009). Of those funded more than 80 percent in this manner, 58 percent are at four-year private colleges (an increase from 47 percent in 2009); 45 percent at two-year public schools (a decrease from half); and 15 percent at four-year public institutions (the same as 2009). Nearly one third of the papers at two-year public schools are totally funded by these fees, as are 24 percent of those at four-year private colleges and two papers at four-year public institutions. All are increases from the last survey.

Subscription sales are minimal as a source of revenue; 7 percent of papers report this funding, a decrease from 17 percent in 2009. Of the colleges that sell subscriptions, 85 percent report it as 10 percent or less of revenue.

Very few newspapers receive student government funding, only 11 percent, up from 9 percent. Of these 18 papers, 56 percent report it as more than half their income, eight more papers than in 2009. Twelve papers report student government funding of more than 80 percent, up from two, and three papers, all at four-year private colleges, are totally funded by student governments.

One other source of income listed for nine schools, up from four in 2009, is commercial printing and production jobs, all generating less than 40 percent from this source. Finally, six schools, five of which are at four-year public colleges, list investment income as a source of revenue, all 10 percent or less (See Table 4).

Table 4: Sources of Newspaper Revenue (in %)
Percentage Advertising

Student

activ. fees

Student

gov’t

General college /univ.funds Subscr.
0 – 10 20 9 13 9 85
11 – 20 11 7 13 9 5
21 – 30 9 10 9 4 0
31 – 40 13 9 6 7 5
41 – 50 10 9 3 6 0
51 – 60 6 11 3 6 0
61 – 70 6 9 3 6 0
71 – 80 9 9 13 13 0
81 – 90 5 8 22 12 0
91 – 99 3 7 6 9 0
100 7 10 9 21 0
Note: Percentages are of those that do receive this type of funding and are rounded to the nearest whole number so may not total 100 percent in all instances.

Profile of Yearbooks

More than two thirds of yearbooks have 300 or fewer pages, an increase from 58 percent in 2009; only one book at a four-year public college has more than 500. At four-year private colleges, 8 percent of books exceed 400 pages, as do 7 percent of those at four-year public colleges.

The typical four-year public college book has 201 to 400 pages (67 percent), a decrease from 78 percent in 2009. The typical four-year private school yearbook has the same number of pages (71 percent), and is larger than in 2009 when the typical book had 101-300 pages (64 percent). (See Table 5). Only two two-year public colleges reported having a yearbook, one with fewer than 100 pages and one with 301-400 pages.

Table 5: Number of Yearbook Pages (in %)
Number of pages 4year Public 4year Private
Fewer than 100 14 4
101 – 200 10 17
201 – 300 41 50
301 – 400 26 21
401 – 500 7 8
501-600 2 0

Only 8 percent of schools do a CD-ROM yearbook, a decrease from 9 percent in 2009; half are at four-year public colleges and the other half at four-year private schools. Of those colleges that do a CD-ROM, nearly all (80 percent) do it in addition to the regular yearbook, an increase from two thirds in 2009. In the open-ended section, one adviser commented, “Our yearbook is no longer produced by us but is an on demand purchase. We supply the core book and students have an option to add 10 pages of their own photos, and they purchase their own customized book on line from Custom Yearbooks, Inc.”

More than half (58 percent) the college yearbooks have a fall delivery, comparable to 2009.   At four- year public colleges, more than half (52 percent) deliver in fall, as do 71 percent of four-year private colleges.

Yearbook Revenue

Yearbook revenues across the board have significantly decreased from 2009. Nearly three fourths (73 percent) of the college yearbooks have annual revenues of $50,000 or less, a significant increase from 51 percent in 2009. More than one half (56 percent) operate on $25,000 or less, a substantial increase from 35 percent four years ago, and 40 percent operate on budgets of $10,000 or less, an increase from 28 percent in 2009. Only 11 percent have more than $100,000, a decrease from 21 percent on the last survey.

In 2009, 27 percent of four-year public college yearbooks had budgets ranging from $100,001 to $300,000; in 2014, only 9 percent have that level, a substantial decrease. At four-year private schools, 9 percent of yearbooks operate at that level, a decrease from 14 percent in 2009. More than half the four-year private college books (56 percent) have revenues of $10,000 or less, and more than half (54 percent) the four-year public college books, double the percentage of 2009, have revenues of $25,000 or less. One four-year private college book has a budget of $300,001-$500,000 annually.

Yearbook Revenue Sources

The two most substantial sources of revenue for college yearbooks continue to be student activity fees (51 percent) and sales of books (32 percent).

Student activity fees as a major source of income have decreased slightly to 51 percent from 56 percent in 2009. More than three fourths of books (78 percent) that rely on these fees receive more than half their revenue from this source, an increase from 73 percent in the last survey; more than half (58 percent) are funded more than 80 percent by activity fees, the same as 2009.

Nearly three fourths (72 percent) of the yearbooks at four-year public colleges, an increase from 69 percent in 2009, and 82 percent of those at four-year private schools, an increase from 77 percent in 2009, receive more than half their revenue from student activity fees. Those funded more than 80 percent include half of the four-year public college books, less than 54 percent, and 65 percent of those at four-year private schools, a slight increase from 62 percent in 2009.

Nearly half (46 percent) the college yearbooks are fully funded by student activity fees. That is true of 44 percent of those at four-year public colleges, an increase from 39 percent in 2009, and 47 percent of those at four-year private institutions, a decrease from 62 percent in the last survey.

Sales of books as a revenue source have decreased substantially from 49 percent in 2009 to 29 percent in 2014. Nearly half (45 percent) the books that rely on sales as a revenue source receive more than half their budget from this source, an increase from 41 percent in 2009, and three books are funded more than 80 percent from sales. Of these, nearly half (47 percent) the four-year public college yearbooks, an increase from 43 percent in 2009, and 40 percent of those at four-year private schools receive more than half their funding from sales, a slight increase from 38 percent. One book at a four-year public college is totally funded from sales.

Nearly half (47 percent) the college yearbooks report advertising sales, a decrease from 62 percent in 2009. That includes 48 percent of four-year public college yearbooks and 43 percent of those at four-year private schools. Only one book at a four-year public college received more than 50 percent of revenue from ads, and that was at the 81-90 percent level, comparable to 2009.

General college and university funding for yearbooks has declined to 18 percent from 20 percent in 2009; of those relying on this type of funding, half receive half their revenue from this source, a decrease from 56 percent four years ago: in fact, half receive more than 80 percent of their funding from general college money, a increase from 44 percent in 2009. Half of both the four-year private college books and those at four-year public schools receive more than half their revenue from the college or university. One fourth of the books at both four-year public and four-year private colleges are totally funded by the college or university.

Sales of pages provide revenue for 9 percent of the nation’s yearbooks, a decrease from 11 percent in 2009; all books report less than 20 percent of their income from this source. Four books report minimal revenue from portrait sales and photo contracts. Student governments fund two books; one at a four-year public school receives total funding from this source, and one at a four-year private college receives more than 80 percent from student government.

Profile of Magazines

Nearly half (45 percent) the magazines on U.S. college campuses are general interest in nature, a significant increase from 21 percent in 2009 and a change from four years ago when most were literary (40 percent); those have decreased to 14 percent in this survey. Other types include art/literary (24 percent), an increase from 15 percent in 2009, and news magazines (2 percent), a decrease from 10 percent four years ago. Others listed with one or two each include new student, alumni (produced by students), orientation, regional and travel. One adviser works with general interest, literary, orientation and housing; another with an online e-zine, literary magazine and cultural/news journal. Several noted that they advise multiple magazines. The great diversity in types and numbers advised continues in this survey.

In 2009 the majority of magazines at all four-year colleges were literary, a substantial sea change to2014, when general interest are overwhelmingly the publication of choice on campus. Nearly two- thirds (65 percent) of the magazines at four-year private colleges are general interest, an increase from one third in 2009, followed by art/literary at 22 percent and literary at 4 percent, the latter down from 44 percent four years ago. At four-year public colleges, 40 percent are general interest, up from 8 percent in 2009. Art/literary magazines rank next in number at four-year public schools with 23 percent, an increase from 18 percent in 2009, and 3 percent are news magazines.

At two-year public schools, most are art/literary magazines (40 percent), an increase from 2 percent on the last survey. Nearly one third (30 percent) are general interest in nature, a decrease from half in 2009.

The frequency of magazine publication has slightly increased. More than one third (38 percent) of campus magazines are published two to three times a year, an increase from 34 percent in 2009. Slightly more than one third (35 percent) publish a single annual issue, comparable to four years ago. Magazines coming out four to five times a year increased to 15 percent from 11 percent in 2009; nine magazines (9 percent) are issued six to eight times annually, an increase of three magazines from 2009, and two publish nine or more, half that of the last survey.

At four-year public colleges, most (40 percent) publish two to three issues a year, comparable to 2009, followed by one third which publish one annually, an increase from 25 percent in 2009; 16 percent publish four to five, 9 percent issue six to eight, and one distributes nine or more.

More than one third (38 percent) of the magazines at four-year private schools are issued two to three times a year, a substantial increase from 22 percent in 2009. One fourth publish one a year, a decrease from 44 percent in 2009; one fourth are published four to five times a year, an increase from 4 percent in 2009, while 2 percent publish six to eight, and one, nine or more.

Nearly three fourths (70 percent) of the magazines at two-year public institutions are published annually, an increase from two thirds in 2009. The other 30 percent publish two to three issues a year, an increase from one third in 2009. (See Table 6).

Table 6: Number of Issues of Magazine (in %)
Number of issues 4year Public 4year Private 2year Public
1 33 25 70
2-3 40 38 30
4 – 5 16 21 0
6 – 8 9 13 0
9 or more 2 4 0

The data show magazines having slightly more pages, with 28 percent running 17 to 32, the same as

2009, 35 percent having 49 or more, an increase from 32 percent in 2009, and 28 percent printing 33 to 48, fewer than 32 percent in 2009. Only 10 percent print 16 or fewer pages, an increase from 5 percent in the last survey.

At four-year public colleges, the percentages of pages are relatively evenly divided, similar to 2009; 29 percent of magazines have 33 to 49 pages, 32 percent run 17 to 32, and 32 percent, 49 or more. At their private counterparts, magazines with 33 to 48 pages (32 percent) and with 49 or more (32 percent) are more common; 18 percent publish 17 to 32 pages, all comparable to 2009. At two-year public schools, 60 percent run 49 or more; 30 percent have 17-32 pages, and 10 percent, 33-48.

More than one third (37 percent) of the colleges and universities publish web magazines, a decrease from half in 2009. They are more common at four-year public institutions (41 percent), a decrease from 55 percent in the last survey. At two-year public colleges, 18 percent have web magazines, down slightly from 20 percent, and at four-year private schools, 36 percent do, a significant decrease from half in 2009.

Of those having web magazines, 73 percent at four-year public schools report that they are online versions of the present publication; in 2009, in contrast, 68 percent were new creations. Two thirds of the two- year public college online magazines are versions of the print publication, as are more than three fourths (79 percent) of those at four-year private institutions, a decrease from 100 percent four years ago.

Magazine Revenue

Magazine revenue has decreased on many levels in 2014. Nearly two thirds of the magazines (65 percent) report annual budgets of $5,000 or less, a substantial increase from 48 percent in 2009. Another 10 percent have revenues of $5,001 to $10,000, and 12 percent, $10,001 to $20,000. Only 12 percent have revenues exceeding $20,000, a significant decrease from 23 percent in 2009, and 2 percent have more than $50,000.

At public four-year colleges, 16 percent of magazine budgets exceed $20,000 annually, a substantial decrease from 25 percent in 2009; 9 percent have budgets of more than $30,000, a decrease from 13 percent in 2009. Two report annual revenues of more than $50,000, up from one four years ago, and 60 percent report $5,000 or less. One two-year public college magazine reported a budget of $10,001-$20,000, similar to 2009.

At four-year private colleges, nearly two thirds (63 percent) have budgets of $5,000 or less, comparable to 2009. Two have budgets of $20,001-$30,000 (See Table 7).

Magazine Revenue Sources

Student activity fees are still the primary funding source for campus magazines (51 percent), a decrease from 60 percent in the last survey. Of those receiving revenue from this source, 89 percent receive half or more, a decrease from 100 percent in 2009, and three fourths are funded more than 80 percent, the same as 2009. In fact, 63 percent are totally funded by student activity fees.

All the two-year public college magazines funded by these fees are totally paid for in this manner, a significant increase from two thirds in 2009, as are 55 percent of those at four-year public colleges, an increase from 52 percent in 2009, and all of those at four-year private schools, a significant increase from one third in 2009.

Nearly half (48 percent) of the college magazines carry advertising, less than 51 percent in 2009; of those, 21 percent are totally funded by ads, an increase from 13 percent four years ago. At four-year public colleges, one third of magazines that take ads receive more than half their revenue from this source, a decrease from 41 percent in 2009, while 23 percent are totally funded through advertising, a sharp increase from 12 percent in 2009. At four-year private colleges, 43 percent of those running advertising are funded more than half, an increase from one magazine in 2009.

Nearly one quarter (23 percent) of college magazines receive revenue from general college and university funds, a slight increase from 21 percent in 2009. Of those, 82 percent receive more than half their budget from these funds, a significant increase from 40 percent in 2009; 40 percent also receive more than 80 percent from this source, the same as 2009, and 59 percent are totally funded in this manner, a substantial increase from 30 percent in the last survey. Of those receiving these fees, half at two-year public colleges, three fourths at four-year public colleges and 58 percent at four-year private schools are totally subsidized in this manner.

Donations and fund-raising provide support for 7 percent of magazines, ranging from 11-20 percent to 100 percent; the latter is at a four-year public college. Three magazines receive student government funding, with one at a four-year private college funded at 100 percent. Two magazines receive some revenue from sales, none more than half.

Profile of Radio

More than half the campus radio stations (58 percent) have between 100 and 3,000 watts of power, an increase from 53 percent in 2009. This includes 64 percent of four-year private schools, up from

77 percent in 2009, one third of two-year public colleges, down from two thirds in 2009, and 64 percent of four-year public institutions, up significantly from 40 percent four years ago. Another 20 percent have between 3,001 and 50,000 watts, a decrease from 28 percent in 2009. This includes one fourth of four-year public colleges, down from 37 percent in 2009, and 18 percent of four-year private schools, a slight increase from 15 percent in 2009. One station at a two-year public college has 50,001-100,000 watts.

Twenty percent operate on carrier current, up from 15 percent in 2009; half of the two-year public schools, 17 percent of four-year public colleges and 18 percent of four-year private institutions fall into this category.

Most (85 percent) of the stations are on the air 19 to 24 hours a day, an increase from 80 percent in 2009. That includes 83 percent of four-year public stations, up from 77 percent in the last survey; 85 percent of those at four-year private schools, down slightly from 88 percent; and all of those at two- year public colleges, an increase from 76 percent in 2009. Another 7 percent broadcast 13 to 18 hours a day, a decrease from 15 percent four years ago; they are found at 6 percent of four-year private colleges, a decrease from 17 percent in 2009, and 6 percent of four-year public institutions, a decrease from 12 percent in the last survey. Only four stations are on the air 7 to 12 hours, one more than 2009.

Another 14 percent state that their radio station is Internet only, an indication of just how fast student media are changing when no stations were transmitting in this manner four years ago.

One adviser in the open-ended section said, “The 24 hours radio and TV are on the air are not all student-produced programming. The radio station has students on air from roughly 8-midnight and overnight runs automation.”

Radio Revenue

Radio revenues have headed significantly downward since 2009. Nearly two thirds (65 percent) of the campus stations have annual revenues of $10,000 or less, an increase from 44 percent in 2009. This is true of two thirds of the four-year private college stations, an increase from 44 percent in 2009; 86 percent of those at two-year public institutions, a significant increase from one third four years ago; and 62 percent of those at four-year public schools, an increase from 46 percent in 2009.

On the other end of the scale, more than three fourths (78 percent) of the campus stations receive $30,000 or less annually, an increase from 51 percent in 2009, and15 percent receive more than$50,000 in annual revenue, a significant decrease from 32 percent in 2009. That includes 17 percent of stations at four-year public colleges, down from 37 percent in 2009, and 10 percent of those at four-year private institutions, down from 25 percent in 2009 (see Table 7).

Radio Revenue Sources

General college and university funds are the largest source of revenue for radio stations (43 percent), an increase from 39 percent in 2009. A majority of stations that receive these funds (86 percent) secure more than half from this source, up from two thirds on the last survey, and 86 percent receive more than 80 percent, up from 57 percent in 2009. Nearly two thirds (63 percent) are totally funded in this manner, a significant increase from 29 percent in 2009. The latter includes 71 percent of the stations at four-year private schools, an increase from half on the last survey; 83 percent at two-year public institutions, an increase from half in 2009; and 30 percent of those at four-year public college, when none were reported in 2009. Those receiving these funds that receive more than half their revenue from the college include 88 percent of four-year private institutions, 70 percent of four- year public colleges and all the two-year public schools.

Student activity fees are a close second as a source of revenue for radio stations (42 percent), a significant decrease from 57 percent in 2009, when it was the largest source of revenue. A majority (88 percent) of the operations that receive money from this source secure more than half their revenue from these fees, up from 77 percent in 2009. More than three fourths (77 percent) are funded more than 80 percent from these fees, a significant increase from 36 percent in 2009, and 44

percent, up from 19 percent, receive 100 percent of their funding from student activity fees. The latter includes 60 percent of those at four-year private schools, a significant increase from 13 percent, and 41 percent of four-year public school stations, an increase from 22 percent in 2009.

More than one fourth (28 percent) of the stations receive revenue from advertising, a significant decrease from 54 percent in 2009; half are funded 10 percent or less from ads. Only one station at a four-year private college is funded more than half by ads, the same as 2009.

Student government is the smallest funding source, with 13 percent receiving such support, a decrease from 20 percent in 2009. A majority (84 percent) of the radio stations receiving these funds are supported more than half in this manner, an increase from 55 percent in 2009, while 59 percent receive more than 80 percent of their budget from student government, down from 36 percent on the last survey. One fourth of these are totally supported by student government. That includes one at a four-year public college and half of those at four-year private institutions.

More than one fourth (26 percent) of radio stations list underwriting, fundraising, donations, rental of space on tower, grants, pledge drives and mobile DJ services as funding sources, a decrease from

41 percent in 2009. Nearly all (88 percent) receive half or less of their revenue from these sources, and more than half (58 percent) receive 10 percent or less. One station at a four-year public college receives 81-90 percent from these areas, and 29 percent at four-year private schools receive 51-70 percent from these sources.

Profile of Television

Of the 55 campus television stations represented, an increase from 28 in 2009, nearly all (98 percent) are cable, an increase from 89 percent in 2009; one is UHF. In the open-ended section, a number of advisers indicated that their stations are now on the Internet or will be in the near future.

More than half (53 percent) the television stations broadcast 12 or fewer hours a day, an increase from 46 percent in 2009; most of those (49 percent), are on the air 1 to 6 hours, an increase from 43 percent on the last survey. Conversely, 47 percent broadcast 19 to 24 hours a day, an increase from 43 percent in 2009.

At four-year public schools, 1 to 6 hours a day is the norm (55 percent), an increase from 47 percent in the last survey; at four-year private colleges it is 19 to 24 hours (52 percent), a decrease from 63 percent in 2009. Most (80 percent) of the stations at two-year public institutions broadcast 19 to 24 hours a day, a change from 2009 when the only one station at this type of college was on the air 1-6 hours.

As to format, an adviser added, “Until last year, our TV station operated on a closed circuit on campus, with an online presence. This year the residence halls stopped offering cable—because of students’ changing viewing habits—and the TV station moved entirely online.” Another adviser faced

a similar situation because of the loss of cable in residence halls and commented, “Today we operate the same amount of content online. However, we’ve gone from being ‘on’ 24 hours a day on multiple channels to being on-demand and online.”

Television Revenue

Half (51 percent) the television stations operate on $5,000 or less in annual revenue, an increase

from 41 percent in 2009. That includes half those at two-year public schools, 46 percent of stations at four-year private colleges, an increase from 43 percent in 2009, and 54 percent of those at four-year public institutions, up from 37 percent in 2009.

Nearly three fourths of television stations (72 percent) receive $30,000 or less annually, an increase from 63 percent in 2009, while 19 percent have more than $50,000 in revenue, a decrease from 26 percent on the last survey. Of the latter stations, 20 percent are at four-year public colleges, 13 percent at four-year private colleges and 38 percent at two-year public schools (See Table 7).

Television Revenue Sources

General college and university funds are the main source of revenue for campus television stations, with 45 percent of funding coming from this source, an increase from 41 percent in 2009. Of those that receive these funds, only one school receives less than 50 percent from this source. Most (80 percent) campus television stations are totally supported by the college or university, a

substantial increase from 46 percent in 2009. This includes all the stations at four-year and two-year public colleges, and most (81 percent) of those at four-year private schools. In fact, all those at both two-year and four-year public institutions that receive these funds are totally funded in this manner, as are more than two thirds (69 percent) of those at four-year private universities.

The next prime source of revenue is student activity fees, which support 31 percent of the stations, a substantial decrease from 47 percent in 2009, when these fees were the major source of revenue for television. All are funded more than 80 percent from this source, and 71 percent are totally supported in this manner. Of the latter, nearly two thirds (64 percent) at four-year public colleges, a substantial increase from 37 percent in 2009, and all of those at four-year private colleges, an increase from two thirds in 2009, receive 100 percent from this source. No two-year school receives student activity fee funding.

Only 16 percent of the stations receive advertising revenue, a substantial decrease from 37 percent in 2009; at all of these operations but one, the amount is 20 percent or less.

Seven stations (13 percent) have student government funding, an increase of two from 2009. Three are totally supported from this source. One station at a four-year public school and two at four-year private colleges are totally funded by the student government. Several stations list pledges, underwriting and donations as minor sources of revenue, 10 percent or less.

Table 7: Annual Revenue for College and University Media Operations (in %)
Revenue Newspapers Yearbooks Revenue Magazines Radio Television
0 – $10,000 34 40 0 – $5,000 65 52 51
$10,001 – 25,000 11 16 $5,001 – 10,000 10 13 16
$25,001 – 50,000 15 17 $10,001 – 20,000 13 9 3
$50,001 – 100,000 10 17 $20,001 – 30,000 7 3 1
$100,001 – 300,000 16 9 $30,001- 50,000 3 9 9
$300,001 – 500,000 5 2 $50,001 or more 2 13 19
$500,001 – 1,000,000 5 0
$1,000,001 or more 4 0

Conclusions

With the rapidly changing broadcast landscape, a number of radio and television advisers described scenarios on their campuses that did not fit into the questions on the survey. This rapid change is indicative of all campus student media and provides a snapshot of the challenges advisers and the students who work with them face.

The 2009 survey concluded that many of the gains in media operations, especially newspapers, in previous years were lost. In 2014, we see some of the same conclusions. A profile of college and university student media operations is one of diversity and cautious experimentation. But there are still some constants.

The small weekly newspaper operation is still the norm, with a circulation of 1,001-5,000, and the added value, in almost all cases, of an online presence that is updated daily with new content. The number of dailies has decreased from 16 to 12 percent in the last four years. Advertising is still the largest funding source for newspapers, even at the decreased level reported in this survey, while college and university funding has substantially increased to fill the void. Funding for online operations remains minimal, less than $2,000 annually, comparable to four years ago.

Yearbooks have seen a decline in budgets as well. The typical book is 300 or fewer pages, with 40 percent reporting a budget of $10,000 or less. Sales have significantly decreased as a source of revenue, while student activities fees provide the main support for this publication.

General interest magazines are the norm on campus, with increasingly more putting the print publication online as well. Frequency of publication has increased to two to three a year, and the number of pages has grown to 49 or more. However, more than three fourths have budgets of $5,000 or less annually, and support from student activities fees has decreased.

Even though a number of radio and television stations are moving online, the typical radio operation still reports 100 to 3,000 watts of power, broadcasts 19 to 24 hours a day, and has revenues of

$10,000 or less a year. The norm for television stations is a cable operation broadcasting 17 to 24 hours a day, with an annual budget of $5,000 or less. Both radio and television operations are increasingly being financed by college and university funding, many at 100 percent.

The numbers of student media operations are stable, even with decreased funding. Change will continue to bring challenges, but also opportunities that have to be weighed carefully so that it does not become “change for change sake.” Little warns that “one of the biggest mistakes leaders in any industry could make today is eschewing one platform for another, trendier medium without considering how they complement each other” (Little, 2014).

The same is true for campus media.

References

  • Kopenhaver, Lillian Lodge ,”2009 Study of Advisers Shows Improvements, Causes for Concern,” College Media Review, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Summer 2009).
  • Hare, Kristen, “College newspapers are following students online, but will revenue come along, too?” www.Poynter.org, May 6, 2014.
  • Kopenhaver, Lillian Lodge, Many Campus Media Operations Reflect the Economy,” College Media Review, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Fall 2009).
  • Kopenhaver, Lillian Lodge, “The Adviser’s Role: CMA survey reveals broad differences in salaries, job descriptions of student media advisers,” College Media Review 23, No. 4 (Summer 1984).
  • Little, Caroline, “What the Newspaper Trends of 2014 Mean for the Industry’s Future,” www.naa.org, June 2014.
  • Magaw, Timothy, “Evolution of college newspapers: What does it mean for future of journalism programs?” www.crainscleveland.com, June 22, 2014.
  • Reimold, Daniel, “Student newspapers move to mobile as interest in print wanes,” www.Poynter.org, April 10, 2014. Yang, Nu, “The Evolving Newsroom,” www.editorandpublisher.com, July 18, 2014.

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