Way back in the dark ages of college online media (2006), I wrote a post outlining options for college news media to host their online presence. At that time, the options were very limited. There was College Publisher or some sort of host-your-own CMS set-up, the main variable being where the site was hosted: on-campus, on your servers, or on an off-campus hosting solution.
I won’t rehash what I wrote in that post, since most of it still applies, but I will point to four commercial options available to student media in the wake of the closing of CoPress last semester. These are companies that are aiming specifically at the college media market, not a standard commercial web hosting service.
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Also, this post deals strictly with the hosting/server end of the web site equation. I am making no judgment as to the relative merits of various content management systems. Perhaps I’ll write more about that later.
I should also mention that the Daily Eastern News is in the process of updating our web site design, so I’ve been examining these options over the past couple of months.
College Publisher: College Publisher is the CMS/hosting system run by College Media Network, a division of MTV, which is owned by Viacom. It is the oldest, and by far the largest, player in the college media web hosting universe. College Publisher is on version 5, which is based on a CMS created by Polopoly (now a division of Atex). Unlike the other options listed here, CP is a “turnkey” solution. Student media sites are hosted on College Media Network servers, and technical support is provided by CMN. In exchange for hosting the site, CMN sells advertising in the top ad positions on each student media site. Student media outlets are able to sell other advertising spots as they are able.
• Alloy Media + Marketing: Alloy is an advertising and marketing company that aims at the college market, and they are providing a hosting solution similar to what CoPress provided. The set-up is much like what you would find on any commercial hosting service, except they hope to offer some added benefits to college media in the future (like an ad network, for instance), and they will be offering more focused support for the service. The basic cost is $250/mo. plus a set-up fee. They are currently supporting WordPress installs. Here’s a PDF that explains some of the technical details. The Cal Poly Mustang Daily is one of their clients, switching from CoPress.
• TownNews.com: TownNews.com is the content management system company that runs the online sites for newspapers in the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain (the Decatur Herald-Review in Illinois is one such newspaper). The company’s CMS is named Blox. It’s built on PHP, and hosted on the TownNews.com servers. It’s a drag-and-drop system that has some pretty sturdy features. However, you are limited in the number of design choices you can make to their templates at the moment. The Iowa State Daily and the Independent Florida Alligator both run on a TownNews.com system. The company is currently looking to expand into the college market, and I would encourage you to discuss the price with them. Like Alloy, they charge a one-time set-up fee and then a per-month fee. Paul Wilson was the salesperson who I spoke with about the system. If you’re interested, you may contact him at pwilson -at- townnews.com
• Detroit SoftWorks: Detroit SoftWorks has a CMS, Gryphon, that was originally created for the State News at Michigan State University. The company also integrates a web ad management system, a photo sales system, and a new housing guide system into a total online package. Costs of the DS system are: $250/mo. for weeklies (up to three publications per week); $375/mo. for dailies. Set-up charge is $1,500 for a basic set-up, with a $2,000 charge for data migration (which means someone switching from College Publisher would have to cough up $3,500 in start-up fees). Clients include The Grand Valley Lanthorn, the New Mexico Daily Lobo, and the Eastern Echo at Eastern Michigan University, among others.