Jan 282007
 
Authors: Bob Shipton

Hey, USA Today doesn’t provide witty student musings, but at least it’s free – for CSU students at least.

As students get used to the Collegiate Readership Program – which provides free copies of USA Today, The Denver Post and The New York Times in spots around campus – Rams don’t seem to mind the influx of newspaper copy on campus.

Addison Welsh, a freshman open-option major, recently stopped by a stand in the Lory Student Center and grabbed one copy each of USA Today and the Collegian.

“You’ve got to love RamTalk,” Welsh said about the popular Collegian feature. “Normally I probably wouldn’t read them (the papers offered by the program) without a subscription, but it’s something that’s right in your face.”

The program makes 1,000 newspapers available each weekday at a cost of $25,000 per semester paid for through student fees.

“We are getting overwhelmingly positive remarks,” said Jason Green, ASCSU president. “The program definitely reaches all students and students can see their student fees at work.”

It does have its skeptics, however.

Jeff Browne, director of Student Media, which oversees the Collegian, College Avenue magazine, CTV and KCSU – has been working to ensure the program doesn’t step on student-run media’s toes.

He said that ASCSU did not bring Student Media into the negotiations with media giant Gannett, USA Today’s parent company, quickly enough, but remained confident in the continued success of the Collegian, which was named “best student newspaper” in Colorado by the Denver Press Club last week.

“As a 115-year-old tradition, we think the Collegian, who does not take student fees, will always be a necessity for this campus,” Browne said.

The $25,000 in student fees from CSU is only a tiny speck of revenue on the scope of USA Today’s parent company Gannett. The corporation earned about $10 billion last year, according to a Google finance report.

Jennifer Kennedy, the regional marketing manager for USA Today, said the main goal of the Collegiate Readership Program is to engage college students by increasing knowledge of local, national and international events.

“We are trying to bring an educational tool to these students and get them out of the college bubble and involved in more worldly issues,” Kennedy said.

The newspapers are up for grabs at the Durrell Dining Center, the Lory Student Center Info Desk, Morgan Library, the Clark Building, and in the Braden Hall dining area.

Penn State University President Graham Spanier created the Collegiate Readership Program in 1997 to expose his students to the world outside campus (he was also the first university president to sign a contract with Napster).

Since then, the program has sprouted up at more than 400 U.S. campuses.

Kennedy said that if things go well, CSU could have a multi-year contract with the program. This would add another 15 locations on campus, a card reading system for stands in public areas, all for a couple of dollars more in student fees per student, per semester, according to Kennedy.

Kennedy also said that the program is here to help the Collegian.

“Our goal is to never dig into any of the readership from the school newspaper,” she said.

Browne, however, said he questions the motive behind the program and suggested that it might not be as altruistic as presented, but a ploy to hook readers and sell more newspapers in the long run.

While newspaper readership is up online, average weekday readership of print papers among adults is down nearly 9 percent since 1998, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

Making these papers available to the students could form a life-long routine for the future. As young college students emerge into the work force, they could potentially bring with them a continued tradition of stopping at the newsstand on the way to work.

“Young people don’t make newspapers a habit,” Browne said. “They need affluent readers. They want to hook an upwardly mobile readership for the future and that’s just good marketing.”

Kennedy said USA Today is working with ASCSU and Student Media to conduct surveys, bring in speakers, and hold events at residence halls to maximize the benefit of the program for the students.

“I figure once you pay for it you might as well use it,” said Katie Lumian, an equine science major, about the readership program.

USA Today is hoping to sponsor several events, including CSU’s annual Journalism Day at the school, and it’s planning to incorporate the Collegian onto its racks.

And even Browne thinks the two can coexist, barring any student complaints.

“I just hope they take advantage of it,” he said. “It really is a great deal for the students if they don’t mind paying the fees.”

A copy of the fall 2006 readership survey obtained by the Collegian shows that students don’t mind.

Of the students surveyed, 27 percent said they would be willing to allow a $5 increase to their student fees per semester in order to continue to receive free papers. About 33 percent said they wouldn’t allow for any increase.

The poll also revealed that students aren’t reading the Collegian any less, with 60 percent of respondents saying they read it at least as often as they did before.

Staff writer Bob Shipton can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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By the numbers: Collegiate Readership Program

*Active on 400 campuses worldwide

*Brings 1,000 papers to CSU students each weekday

*Costs $25,000 per semester, which comes from student fees

*82 percent of students surveyed said the availability of free newspapers increased their readership

*83 percent of students surveyed said they read the newspaper in the last seven days

*61 percent

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