WHAT COLLEGE STUDENTS WANT FROM ONLINE NEWSPAPERS

By: Karim Mostafa

One Panel Says They Don’t Visit Many



NEW ORLEANS – Many publishers rightly fear that today’s young people
will never become print newspaper readers. Well, things don’t look much
better for their online versions.



Ten college students from Tulane and Loyola University visited E&P’s
Interactive Newspapers Conference here this week to discuss how they
interact with the Internet. Even the journalism students among the
group said news was not a primary reason for going online.



Newspapers fared even worse when the students discussed which news
sites they do hit. CNN.com and Yahoo! headlines were the most popular
sources. After much prodding from the newspaper industry audience, the
students finally responded to: ‘If you were to go to a newspaper Web
site, which one would you use?’


Several said they occasionally visit hometown newspapers to remain in
touch with home while away at college. Large newspaper sites mentioned
included washingtonpost.com, chicagotribune.com, oregonlive.com,
charlotte.com, newsday.com, chron.com, and nytimes.com.


By far the strongest draw to the Internet for these students is e-mail.
The editor of a college newspaper said he answers e-mail before
listening to his answering machine. If newspapers offered free e-mail
accounts similar to those provided by Yahoo! or Hotmail, would young
people come? Not unless the technology was extremely superior to those
services already available, the students said.



Research online for coursework ranked second for the college students.
Much of their research is conducted online from their dorm rooms prior
to even setting foot in a library. When their research took them to
newspaper archives, they found the fees prohibitive, although some of
them did register for student access which some newspaper sites offer
for free.


Sharp, witty prose with a bit of cynicism was what kept the students on
a site when they surfed for fun. Conversational writing that was short
and to the point kept their attention. News analysis and shorter
article synopsis were their favorite types of articles. One student
found slate.com and its daily round-up of newspapers to be the best
example of good online writing.


The students finally made recommendations as to what they would like to
see on Web sites. One student wanted an auction feature to buy cheaper
calling cards. Another wanted anything that keeps you better in touch
with people: e-mail cards, travel information, and discussion groups
for pen-pals. More entertainment listings was a popular request,
particularly if the local newspaper sites offered coupons to clubs and
concerts.


The final suggestion, which came from the editor, in true form, was for
sites to provide interactive steps on how to make beer.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Karim Mostafa (karimm@mediainfo.com ) is
assistant editor of Editor & Publisher Online.






(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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