ideas

Three easy features that add value to your site

1. Crime map
Estimated time to produce: 30 minutes a week

If your campus puts out a regular police log — which most college police departments do — setting up a crime map like this one is easy and your readers will love it. Go to Google Maps and under the “my maps” feature, set up your new map. Plot each crime from the police log onto the location in which the crime took place and spice it up using relevant icons and colors.

Why your readers will love it: It’s a digestible way to read about crime on campus. It’s also more personal because they can see where crimes happened in relation to their own locations.

Update the map once or twice a week.

2.  “Trending topics” pages
Estimated time to produce: 1 hour initially, 15 minutes for each additional update

I stole this idea from Twitter. Much like Twitter lists “trending topics” on their home page, you can maintain go-to pages for the trending topics and issues on your campus. After the initial setup, maintaining the pages is simple.

For example, at Cal Poly, a big issue is a possible college-based fee increase. It’s something students care about and want to read more about. On our “trending topics page” (which we call “hot topics” but you can come up with a catchier title than that) we link to recent articles about the topic, letters to the editor and columns, as well as all relevant multimedia.

Students can find everything they need to know, and it’s accessible from our homepage (our brand new homepage on our brand new web site, might I add).

3. Event calendar using Google Calendars
Estimate time to produce: 1 hour a month

Although I couldn’t find an example of a college publication doing this (if you have one, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the post), a Google Calendar of campus/community events could easily become a popular feature for college students. UPDATE: Batmoo from the comments informed me of a gCal system on The Boar (a student-run magazine for the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo) and adds some insight: 

 The flexibility of gCal allows us to embed a small version in our sidebar on the home page, and full-scale version on its own page. It’s super easy to use, and changes propagate instantly, plus it has built-in support for RSS and iCal, which is a nice bonus. Downside is that it’s not searchable.

At the start of each month, editors can compile a list of events — which they’re probably doing anyway for story ideas — and throw them onto a calendar.

It’s a win-win situation: reporters can use it as a resource for staying on schedule, and readers can use it as a resource when planning their weekends.

Now comes the bonus: Spend the time to develop these pages and promote them (in print if possible) so they gain a steady flow of traffic. After that happens, throw a few ads on each of these three pages and you’ve got yourself an extra flow of money every month.  Not bad, eh?