College Media / College Publisher

College Publisher's response

Editor’s note: This week, CICM intern Lauren Rabaino wrote about the Mustang Daily’s recent switch from College Publisher to WordPress. The following is a response submitted by Rusty Lewis of College Media Network.

CICM typically presents well-argued discussions of the technology angle of college media and so it seemed appropriate to present both sides of the Content Management System conversation occurring here.

For context, College Media Network [CMN] has been in this market for 10 years and over 600 college news organizations use our College Publisher software.  Working with thousands of newspaper webmasters over the last decade has afforded us a unique perspective and understanding of this segment of college media.

Choice in CMS seems to be an endless debate for college students.  The desire to reinvent the digital platform is always attractive to student innovators.

However, rather than building a CMS, we often wonder why innovators do not focus their energies on building up traffic with content and multi-media packages to raise the profile of college journalism.  In the end, college newspapers are in the news business, not the web business.
Let’s address some of the concerns as outlined by Lauren:

Freedom of ad positions:

While it may be frustrating to not control certain ad positions, the alternative is to create sales resources in your organization that are responsible for monetizing online ad positions in a market where advertising dollars are shrinking and the banner ad method of advertising is becoming less attractive.

Unfortunately, most newspapers do not individually have the traffic to sustain ad campaigns and the quotes of impressions that advertisers are looking for.  When combined with the fact that the Mustang Daily’s traffic took a dive after the switch to CoPress seems to exacerbate that problem.

With CMN, you can still sell ads above the fold and you will never see a bill from us; and most importantly, CMN frees up your innovators to discover and build components to supplement the online edition’s offering that may yield a return on investment (such as listings and guides).

More intuitive user-interface:

Over 10 years, our software, support and services have become a constant in the market.  While some newspapers have shown themselves capable of adequately training incoming staff on CP tools, many lean on our resources to get staff up to speed (semester to semester).  This training is provided at no cost.

CP4 was a heavily templated CMS, and we recognize that progressive newspapers wanted more freedom in design.  That was the impetus for the upgrade to the new version of College Publisher with CP5.
Rather than customizing a blog platform or open source software, this new version is a customized instance of a CMS that is used by the largest software provider to the media industry in the world, Atex.  (meaning, students who learn it in college will likely see it again at any of the 800+ clients of Atex).

Sites look alike:

This is somewhat an ironic criticism of the College Publisher CMS as the adage “form follows function” governs how all newspapers design themselves.  However, CP4 and CP5 alike provide the tools for our partner sites to be customized independently.  We empower the student staff with full editorial control of the site, so the burden to individualize the look and feel of a site is on the newspaper staff (notwithstanding, we offer free design services upon request).
The results speak for themselves…

CMN sites:
http://www.lsureveille.com
http://www.tuftsdaily.com
http://www.dailytexanonline.com
http://www.gwhatchet.com
http://www.dennews.com

CoPress/WordPress designed sites:
http://www.mustangdaily.net
http://www.thewhitonline.com
http://www.themiamihurricane.com

New doesn’t always mean different.

Quick and Easy Publishing:

Any GUI has a learning curve.  The idea that blog software is easier to pick up than a CMS is a logical suggestion to make because a CMS has more capacities to render and manage content than a blog.  Please feel free to call CMN for a demonstration (866.733.9231).

Our aim is to provide the best tools for digital publishing as possible – to raise the profile of college journalism as well as prepare student journalists for the commercial market.  Our tools are developed with the direct feedback of college newsrooms.

In our newest software, XML and image bulk imports save time and automated publishing features allow for convenience in layout.  Drag and drop design tools are available to create new layouts on the fly.  The design capabilities are flexible to those who exercise the desire.  Above everything else, these changes can be made in CP5 with little-to-no HTML/CSS knowledge.

However, hosting, maintenance and support are items often under-valued in the college market as most college innovators neglect the importance of security in web site management.  There are parties (SPAMers, PHISHers, etc) that attempt to infiltrate sites all the time – and the applications deployed are more and more sophisticated each semester.  Fighting this battle is an unsung service CMN provides.

We are always willing to discuss the merits and challenges of our product; and specifically, the ways to optimize your newspapers processes.  You only need to reach out and speak with any member of our team and we can share strategies employed by newspapers all over the country.