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Archive for the ‘LSU Student Media’ Category

I was the keynote speaker last night for the Future of Student Media Summit hosted by the Post, the student print and digital news operation at Ohio University.

Below is the blog version of the prepared part of my session, interspersed with tweets from the participants and hyperlinked. It’s not exactly what I said because I wasn’t reading a script. At the end of the post, I’ll explain how I prepared the speech and post and why they’re not identical. (more…)

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This is a slightly edited version of an email I just sent to LSU Student Media alumni:

The LSU Office of Student Media will host a meeting of students and alumni interested in discussing the strategy for Student Media Saturday, Aug. 22, at noon in the Holliday Forum on the ground floor of the Journalism Building. Please spread the word to alumni you might know, either by sharing this link or by word of mouth.

We hope that people who have expressed interest in the future of the Daily Reveille and other Student Media matters will join us for this discussion.

No decisions will be made at this meeting — or have been made yet. But we want to hear from students, alumni, faculty and other interested members of the LSU community. We are holding this meeting on a Saturday to reduce conflicts with people’s jobs, though we know that we can’t pick a time that is ideal for everyone.

Students will be invited to attend this meeting as well, and some student leaders have been invited to speak at the opening of the meeting. We also will be discussing the strategy and related issues extensively with students at staff meetings the week of Aug. 17, expanding and continuing the discussions we’ve had by email, Google documents and in individual conversations since May.

The Manship School has graciously offered to sponsor lunch, since we didn’t want to spend Student Media funds on this meeting. We’ll start gathering around noon. After about a half-hour of lunch and informal discussions, we’ll start the discussion of strategy at about 12:30.

Please email me (stevebuttry@lsu.edu) if you plan to attend in person, so we have a number to plan for seating and refreshments.

Remote options for joining the meeting

We will offer options for those who cannot attend to join the discussion by audio or video. Below I outline the options for either a conference call the evening of Monday, Aug. 24 or joining the Aug. 22 discussion. Audio quality in the conference room likely will vary (we will try to encourage people to use microphones when commenting or asking questions, but some may not wait for the mic to reach them).
If you want to join the meeting by telephone and/or web:
 
Date and Time:
08/22/2015 12:30 PM US/Central (GMT-0500)
Online Meeting Link:
Dial-In Number:
(712) 775-7031 – United States
Please note: We are using a free conference-call service, so this is not a toll-free number. I recommend using a cellphone instead of a landline, presuming you have unlimited minutes or a high limit.
Access Code:
791-840
International Dial-In Numbers:
Instructions:
At the scheduled date and time of the meeting, dial into the conference line.  When prompted, enter the Access Code followed by the pound key. To join the online meeting, click on the online meeting link listed above and follow the prompts to join the meeting.
If you’d like to join by video using Google+ Hangout:
Email me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send you an invitation shortly before we start. Hangouts are limited to 10 people, so the first nine (I think the host counts) who request invitations will receive them.
If you’d like to watch a live video stream: 
I will be seeking student volunteers to shoot and livestream the discussion. If you want to watch a livestream, email me at stevebuttry@lsu.edu or stephenbuttry@gmail.com and I will send you a link if we will be doing that.
Because our time won’t work for everyone, and because audio of an in-person meeting is not always good, we will provide a separate conference-call opportunity to discuss the same issues. This conference call will be Monday, Aug. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Use the same call-in number and access code as provided for the Aug. 22 meeting.

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No decisions have been made about the future of the Daily Reveille or any other product of LSU Student Media, and all decisions will be made in extensive consultation with the students working in our various media products.

A recent story in the Advocate, mentioning the possibility of cutting the Reveille from five days a week to one or two, generated a strong reaction among alumni and students, which we understand and welcome. Our driving concern in pursuing a new strategy for LSU Student Media is to continue providing an experience that will create such strong and passionate livelong connections.

Some of the reaction has understandably focused on the possibility of print frequency and has incorrectly presumed that this would be a decision made unilaterally by administrators. To ensure that everyone in this discussion knows all the facts, we want to clarify this situation:

  • The most important factors in whatever decisions we make will be serving the university community’s needs and providing relevant experience for our students to help them prepare for media careers. Our community’s heavy digital use is clear, and the importance of digital media will only grow during the careers of our students. We need to provide more and better digital products and more and better opportunities for today’s and tomorrow’s students to practice journalism and sales in digital media.
  • We have not decided to reduce the print frequency of the Daily Reveille, and we won’t in the fall semester at least. In fact, we are considering increasing the frequency this fall with Saturday editions, to be distributed at tailgate parties across campus, for every home game. While no final decision has been made in either matter, the game-day Reveille decision will come first, since we have to prepare quickly if we are going to launch that product.
  • Any changes to the Student Media leadership structure must be approved by the Student Media Board, which has student government, university and professional representation. We have informed the board about the discussions already taking place. We welcome board input on all matters we are considering and will submit all required matters to the board for approval.
  • Students have been involved in our discussions about the future from before Dean Jerry Ceppos hired me as director of Student Media. I explained my vision for a prosperous future for LSU Student Media in detail in the interview process, including at two meetings with students. Immediately on being hired in mid-May, I shared that vision in writing and in personal and telephone discussions with student leaders in the organization.
  • The timing of my hire, right as students were scattering for the summer, did not allow for a large meeting of all student leaders, but I continued the discussions by email, telephone, in individual meetings and on collaborative Google documents. In all of those conversations, I made clear that students would be involved at every step, and they have.
  • The only decision to change any existing product was initiated by Akeem Muhammad, the student editor of Legacy magazine. He proposed cutting print publication from four issues a year to two, with a stronger digital presence using Tumblr. I encouraged him to get started on those changes right away, and they have been incorporated into the 2015-16 budget.
  • Financial challenges facing LSU Student Media are serious, and we cannot continue to draw on our reserve fund at the rate we have the past two years. In trying to balance this year’s budget, we gave serious consideration to cutting the print frequency of the Reveille as early as the spring semester as a matter of necessity. We rejected that measure, for now, specifically because we wanted this decision, if it happens, to come only after discussions with the students and as part of an overall strategy to aggressively pursue digital opportunities. If we do not succeed in generating more revenue for LSU Student Media, finances may force such a decision in the future. But the only decision that has been made about the Reveille’s printing schedule is that it will continue at five days a week for the fall, unless we add a sixth day for home football games.
  • Our new advertising and marketing director, Molly Holmgren, just started Monday. We are confident that she will lead our sales and marketing teams to improved revenue performance. But in a time when newspaper ad revenue has been plunging nationally for nearly a decade, we cannot assume a return to our peak advertising levels. Our strategic discussions also include possible new products that could provide a healthier, diverse revenue stream to support Student Media.

We welcome the interest and passion about the Daily Reveille and the journalism experience and education we provide in LSU Student Media. All discussions and decisions about our future strategy will involve the students and will be made to provide the best experience and education for current and future students.

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reveille logoUpdate: The numbers used in this post were preliminary numbers. I will update after we get the final numbers.

The Daily Reveille and other LSU Student Media products need a new strategy and stronger revenues to continue producing excellent products and providing valuable experience to our students.

I blogged earlier today, in response to a story in the Advocate, about our process for developing a new strategy.

The Advocate’s reporter, Elizabeth Crisp, asked me for revenue figures for her story. I could not provide the figures in time for her story, but here’s what I emailed her this afternoon:

Total Student Media revenue for FY 2015 (all numbers are FYs): $1.4 M. Total operating loss for 2015: $128K. (The loss is covered by a rainy day fund whose name I do not remember, but this was a huge chunk of its balance.)

2014 total revenue for Reveille: $712K, including $219K in student fees. Total expenses: $854K. Loss: $142K

2015 total revenue for Reveille: $563K (a drop of 21 percent): Subtract the student fees, which were $219K both years, and the drop in advertising was 30 percent. Loss: $283K.

I am optimistic that we can turn that around with some new products and with a successful new professional leader for our advertising and marketing teams. And I had some pleasant news on the revenue front this week:

Our Tiger Survival Guide, a print product mailed to incoming freshmen and distributed in the dorms, brought in $14,759 in sales. Last year we got $7,303 for this product and we had budgeted $10,650 for the sales this year. We’re still down from $15,128 in 2013 and $21,671 in 2012, but we are celebrating a significant, if small, change in direction. (These are not fiscal years, since the product comes out in the first month of the fiscal year, the summer before; I had the fiscal-year numbers in my message to Elizabeth, but clarified them here.)

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Advocate storyLast week Elizabeth Crisp of the Advocate emailed me saying she wanted to write a “story about the direction things could be heading and your thoughts on the future of student media at LSU.”

I had four reactions in rather rapid succession:

  1. Why do I have to deal with this already?
  2. What took so long?
  3. For more than 20 years, I have said it’s an important experience for journalists to be the the subjects of journalism. I can’t complain (much) when it happens to me.
  4. It must be time to widen the conversations we’ve been having internally for more than two months.

Elizabeth’s story generated an immediate and strong reaction among alumni and staff of the Daily Reveille, because the focus of her story was our consideration of cutting back the frequency of print publication.

If you want to read Elizabeth’s story first, I hope you’ll come back and read my explanation of what’s going on and how LSU Student Media alumni can participate. But I’ll post the link again at the end if you’d rather hear from me first.

My student media consulting

I’ll start with some background: I have been advocating for years that professional journalists and news organizations need to move more swiftly to embrace and figure out their digital future. Because I harp a lot about linking, I thought about hyperlinking “advocating for years” to an earlier post. But that would just have to be my home page. More than anything else, this blog has been about the skills, tools, ethics, business and leadership of digital journalism. (more…)

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Molly Holmgren

Molly Holmgren

I am pleased to announce that Molly Holmgren is joining LSU Student Media next Monday to lead our advertising and marketing teams.

Molly brings a wealth of experience to Student Media, most recently as an integrated project manager and account executive at Zehnder Communications in Baton Rouge. She also has worked in advertising, marketing and community organizing for Otey White and Associates, Capital Area United Way, Louisiana Delta Service Corps and Concept Group.

Molly will direct the student teams that sell advertising to support The Daily Reveille, Tiger TV, Legacy magazine, Gumbo yearbook, lsureveille.com and other digital products we might launch. The teams also sell transit ads on Tiger Trails buses and underwriting for KLSU-fm radio. Molly’s students design ads, market Student Media and plan events. She will be a key player as we develop new Student Media products and plan revenue strategies for them and guide the students in generating revenue to support those products.

In interviews earlier this month, she made a quick and strong connection to the students she will be leading. As a courtesy to the candidate, I try to stick pretty close to the day’s schedule when we have someone in for an interview. So when the 11 a.m. time slot for my chat with Molly came up, I went to the colleague’s office where I thought she would be interviewing. No one there. I wandered down the hall and learned that the colleague had brought Molly down to meet some of the advertising and marketing students.

Molly was deeply engaged in a conversation with one of our student leaders. Hey, that’s exactly what I want, a leader who excites students about the challenges and opportunities of generating revenue to support Student Media. I backed away and told my colleague to bring Molly my way when she wrapped up with the student. I didn’t get my turn to talk to her until after 11:15. And that was OK. That 15 minutes with the student probably told me more than 15 more minutes of Q&A with me. (By the way, the Q&A went well, too.)

The student also met with Molly on schedule that afternoon along with other students. I sent the students a questionnaire, asking their impressions. The responses from the student who threw off my schedule pretty much described what I was looking for in an ad director:

I felt like I could trust her and that she could walk in here and immediately turn things around.

She’s been a project manager, account executive, and coordinated events for United Way. I feel like she has strong leadership experience.

She has a lot of experience when it comes to servicing the account and customer service. She also has experience in negotiating.

She is familiar with selling and marketing on different digital media including: social media, apps, mobile, and online.

I really liked her! She’s easy to talk to, but also gets straight to the point and doesn’t mess around.

All the questions we asked her she answered quickly and efficiently.

That matched my own impressions and observations. And it described the person I wanted to hire. So I did.

Molly’s a graduate of Winona State University who moved to Louisiana to join her husband, Per, who’s been working in sales in Baton Rouge for 10 years.

They live near the LSU campus with their Bernese Mountain Dog, Bernie. She’s biked Hawaii’s big island, run more half marathons than she can remember and two marathons. That’s good (if a little intimidating). We’re planning to go the distance here in Student Media, so I’m glad to have leaders with stamina.

I can’t wait to get started working with her.

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This post below originated as a document I shared with Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos and the search committee in April when they were considering me for to be LSU’s next Director of Student Media.

I got the job and have shared the document since with students leading various operations in Student Media and with job candidates. I was planning to share it here at some point, but wanted to use it to stimulate internal discussion first. (It’s worked; we’re discussing how to execute this strategy in meetings, conversations and Google documents.) 

In a few weeks, Student Media will gear up for the fall after our slower summer pace. This feels like a good time to share my strategy with a wider audience (I’ll encourage the editors and station managers to share the link with their staffs). I welcome feedback on the strategy from LSU students, faculty and alumni, as well as from outsiders interested in student media.

I have updated the document slightly to change “if I get the job” sorts of references and to add a couple links (not as many as if I had originally written it for digital publication, but I wrote it to print out and hand copies to search committee members during my interviews). That was a long intro. Here’s my strategy finally:

The director of LSU’s student media needs to lead a swift transformation to an operation that ensures a prosperous future for the student media operation and relevant experience for students.

What we have now is a comfortable and familiar mix of traditional products. And that includes the website. Seniors graduating next month have lived their whole lives in the era of the World Wide Web. We should not pretend that we are on the cutting edge because we have a website and apps from an external provider. Our current mix of products simply is not sufficient for the future. Maintaining the status quo accepts a continuation and probably acceleration of the current declining revenue, provides an outdated experience for students working in student media and fails to meet the media needs of an increasingly mobile and scattered university community.

The next director of student media needs to lead a transformation into a dynamic media laboratory that is constantly experimenting, updating and developing new products. The media operation I lead should focus on five goals:

  1. Meeting the media needs of the immediate university community.
  2. Expanding our audience more effectively to the extended university community.
  3. Developing new and effective products to serve these audiences.
  4. Building strong revenue streams for the future based on these audiences and products.
  5. Providing LSU students with valuable experience in journalism, media management, digital sales and product development.

I’ll address each of these goals:

University media needs

A quick walk around campus shows that student media are not meeting the needs of the LSU community. I’ve done this several times, walking through the Student Union, library or some other place where students pass time, looking for a student using any form of LSU student media. They are rare. But the students are avidly using media, looking into phones, tablets and laptops, whether they are alone or gathered with friends. Outside each of the buildings, check the racks full of unclaimed copies of Reveille and Legacy. And this is not a generational issue. Faculty, staff and administrators are heavy users of digital platforms, too.

I would lead efforts to use social media more effectively and produce a more dynamic website. I also would identify, plan and launch the digital products we need to serve the LSU community the way that students, faculty and staff actually live their lives (more on that in product development).

Extending audience

Despite the unlimited potential reach of the website and apps, all LSU student media are produced essentially for a campus audience. But the LSU community includes sports fans, alumni, parents, lawmakers and others around the country and around the world with interest in what happens here. These people are not ignored, receiving alumni magazines and other PR material from LSU. But development of new digital products will give student media an opportunity to expand its audience and to become a valuable source of LSU news for these distant constituencies.

Product development

We can meet some of the media needs of the LSU campus and extended communities through improvements to our existing digital products: the website, apps and social media accounts. But we need to explore whether we want to develop and introduce new digital projects, such as customized apps, email or text alerts, email newsletters, niche sites or commercial products designed to serve students as well as campus-area businesses or businesses interested in reaching the extended LSU community.

Of course, without unlimited student time, part of the process of developing new products will involve shifting effort from existing products to the development and execution of new products. This will involve frank discussions among student media leaders and constituencies, with all options on the table, including elimination of existing products, reducing size and/or frequency of existing products and finding more efficient ways to produce products that should continue.

The Director of Student Media should be a leader, but not a dictator, in this process. I plan to contribute ideas to the discussion, but I think my most important role will be to convene, stimulate and lead the discussion, rather than to make all the decisions. However good my ideas are, the full group involved in these discussions will come up with more and better ideas than any individual. And a heavy-handed approach in implementation can hurt the chances for success of even the best ideas. The support we can build for a new approach in these discussions will be more important than the details of the approach. So any examples I offer here are illustrations, not promises of what LSU Student Media will do under my leadership. What I will do is lead a planning process to transform LSU student media, and push that process to be adventurous and experimental. But that process will succeed best if we are carrying out a consensus, rather than following a single person’s agenda.

Building revenue streams

Advertising revenues for student media are declining and will continue to fall unless we update how we serve businesses as well as the university community. When I was leading a workshop last year for student media publishers around the country, I asked them about the motivations of their advertisers, and they said, nearly unanimously, that the primary motivations were reaching the student and faculty audience and supporting the university and student media.

That second motivation, philanthropic in nature, gives us an opportunity to bring existing business clients along as we make dramatic changes in student media. At the same time, expanding digital media products will help student media do a better job of serving the primary motivation of advertisers: reaching the university audience. Advertisers know how digitally oriented students and faculty are, so we can make a strong – and, I’m sure, successful – pitch that we can help them spend their advertising dollars better by sponsoring a mix of our digital and traditional products.  Businesses with a philanthropic motive will be more patient during a transition time than advertisers supporting professional media. It will be critical for the Director of Student Media to join the advertising director and staff in explaining our transformation to key advertisers, winning their support for our plans and providing them better ways to reach the university audiences they want.

If, for instance, we cut back on the frequency of Reveille print publication, we don’t merely accept a cutback in print advertising revenues. Instead, we go to our existing advertisers and tell them they can still buy print ads on our remaining day(s) of publication, but we pitch them on our digital options as well. Texas Christian University’s student media cut print publication from four times a week to once a week (following a recommendation I made as a consultant) and actually came out ahead financially. They were able to shift nearly all their print advertisers to the remaining print day and/or to digital ads, so they had no decline in advertising revenue. They also saved money in production and distribution, while printing the one weekly edition on improved paper stock (which advertisers liked).

But we can’t be satisfied just with maintaining revenue. Pursuing an aggressive digital strategy gives us excellent growth opportunities in at least two ways.

  1. Expanding our audience gives us new advertising opportunities. For instance, if we produce an excellent email newsletter for Tiger sports fans, that’s a new sponsorship opportunity for advertisers interested in reaching that broader base, such as merchants selling Tiger gear or political candidates wanting to reach an audience that will be heavy with Louisiana voters.
  2. A product-development strategy doesn’t have to be limited to news products. For instance, we might develop a shopping/entertainment app/site featuring digital coupons from businesses in the campus area. Each new product we develop presents new revenue opportunities.

The next director of student media needs to work closely with the business side of the operation to ensure that we make the most of sales opportunities relating to every change in our product portfolio, and turn our revenue decline into a dynamic period of growth.

Student experience

We need to serve our students better by providing experiences that will help them land better jobs and succeed in their professional careers. Everything I’ve discussed above will improve the experience we provide for our students:

  • The job markets for all of our mass-comm majors increasingly demand digital skills and digital thinking. Pursuing a digital strategy will provide students with skills and experiences that will help launch successful careers.
  • Our product development efforts might yield some products of interest to professional media, giving students valuable experience and contacts.
  • Product development and digital journalism present journalists with new ethical challenges (and new situations for applying established ethical principles). We need to give students experience and guidance in making good ethical decisions in those challenges and situations, so they will be prepared to be ethical leaders in their professions.
  • Involving students with product development will provide entrepreneurial experience that will increase their value in the job market and prepare some of them for success as entrepreneurs.
  • Selling digital advertising opportunities will provide valuable experience for student media sales staff, who will enter a job market where digital advertising’s dominance is certain to grow.
  • Building a reputation for digital excellence will help our students as they compete for jobs in a marketplace of businesses pursuing digital success.

I welcome your suggestions as we pursue this new strategy, whether you are a member of the campus or extended LSU community, a veteran of student media at other universities or just someone interested in helping us succeed.

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