From Chuck Clark, WKU Student Publications/College Heights Herald
I’ve said it since March 2020: This pandemic has kicked evolution into high gear for all news organizations – and especially college newsrooms.
And my view today: That’s not a bad thing.
At WKU, we are repurposing the print edition of the College Heights Herald into a monthly newsmagazine that will have enterprise content that has not previously appeared on the web. Our August issue focused on changes on campus, and the students already have plans in place for strong enterprise for September, October and November.
The newsroom’s focus has shifted in dramatic ways, led by the success of the Herald’s daily email newsletter. I think we’re the only college in Kentucky, and one of the few in the country, to take on the ambitious goal of producing a full newsletter every weekday during the fall and spring semesters, and then weekly during winter and summer breaks.
The results have been impressive. As of a couple of weeks ago, the Herald daily newsletter had 28,691 subscribers, with an open rate typically in the upper 20s and a click through rate in the mid to upper 10s. That means, on any given day, more people are accessing Herald content through the email newsletter than were picking up a printed newspaper in an entire week.
Interested in subscribing? Here’s a link to do that — WKUHerald.com/newsletter.
And, more important in our market, when you ask random students about the Herald, they respond – Oh, that’s the email I get every afternoon.
That success convinced our student leaders in the spring to make the momentous decision to shift print to monthly and go all-in on digital. And, with analytics, our numbers are quantifiable, which makes it more attractive to advertisers.
So do I weep for the diminished role of print? No, because it is merely different, not dead. And it is far more tuned to how and what the WKU market expects – daily coverage now, available on their phones and computers, and in-depth topical coverage in an easier-to-read print format.
This, it seems to me, is our chance to thrive, not to mourn.