Slight Update: Here’s John Robinson’s original post announcing GoTriadU.
The Greensboro News & Record has launched GoTriadU as a potential information hub for the Greensboro area colleges. The effort bears a few similarities to BigLickU, the Roanoke Times’ ill-fated effort to tie together schools in the Blacksburg area (see our coverage here), with a couple of differences. The Greensboro effort isn’t quite so ambitious in its beginning stages, and they don’t seem to be competing with Facebook in the social networking arena.
I e-mailed editor John Robinson to ask about the initiative and he forwarded my e-mail to Kathy Lambeth, new ventures director for the N&R. Below the fold is her detailed response to my query.
The purpose of gotriadU is to connect the students to each other and their local communities. We want the site to be driven by the students, for the students, so we’re trying to be somewhat fluid with its plan.
We realized that with our current lineup of information products, we weren’t really reaching a significant community in our area – college students – so we decided to talk to them (a la Newspaper Next) to see what jobs they needed to be done. We asked a number of students through focus groups and interviews on the different campuses what type of local information or interactions they need that they don’t get now, or that they find hard to get done.
We found that they talked about four primary areas: events and news on other campuses, entertainment, jobs/internships/volunteer options, and local deals/cheap stuff.
On the first leg of the stool – events and news on other campuses – we heard that they often find out after the fact about speakers or events that they would have liked to attend at the college down the road, but they didn’t know about them.
Because we have 2 major state universities, 5 strong private colleges and 2 growing community colleges right in our area, more than 60K students, we felt that if we could connect them with this type of local information in a convenient way, they would use it. (campuses are Bennett College, Elon, Greensboro College, GTCC, Guilford College, High Point University, NC A&T, and UNC-Greensboro – ed.)
The first phase is a simple blog, to get our interns underway, writing about news, sports and events on campus. We’re just getting started (last week) and many of the students haven’t started actively posting yet.
The next phase – early next year – will be the full website, with a more comprehensive calendar widget as a key component, but it also will continue to have the blogs as centerpiece content areas. We actually have two web design classes at Elon University working on the design for us as a class project.
We also plan to develop email and mobile channels, e.g. a text message about which parking lots still have spaces each morning. Another product will be a printed calendar that is compiled for each semester, with all the primary events in the area in one place.
We are working with campus media outlets – newspapers, radio stations, TV stations – to develop partnerships for feeds from their sites and an integrated page for each school… sort of the syndicated college wire for our area.
The question for the student media at these schools is how this effort will pull focus away from the student news web sites. While BigLickU wasn’t successful, one other site aimed at a geographic region still seems to be functioning – the Rochester-based Loop. Swocol, an ohio-based site, seems to be dormant, as I couldn’t find anything updated since June of this year.
A larger question for college news organizations is whether they want to try to play in this space. Could a group of colleges in, say, Houston, Texas, or Pittsburgh, Pa., get together and put up their own college-specific geographic information portal, using their own staff resources? I think it could be done.
When these geographically-based information portal/social network sites for colleges started popping up last year, I wondered if it was a trend. So far, such efforts seem to have been isolated as the newspaper industry grapples with bigger issues. Perhaps GoTriadU is the harbinger of the next push into the college student market.