Student journalist surrounded by forks and knives

Want to advertise in your college newspaper? It’s probably a pain in the ass.

Last month, I mocked a hashtag called #SaveStudentNewsrooms. It was a one-day campaign to highlight the financial struggles of today’s college newspapers. Really, though, it was just a bunch of students bragging about their self-importance and begging for donations.

I pitched another idea to #SaveStudentNewsrooms organizers: I’ll send advertising experts to your campus, so they can train you to sell more ads and make more money. Their millennial response can be distilled to this…

Why do we have to WORK for the money? Why can’t you just give it to us?

A little pissed off, I reviewed all 130 websites from the hashtag’s “participating newsrooms.” Turns out they’re not selling enough ads because they don’t seem to give a crap about selling ads.

For example…

Out of patience

Want to advertise in The Alligator at the University of Florida? It’s one of the largest college papers in the country, and one of the stupidest for buying an ad…

I can buy a car easier than that. Seriously, it takes four clicks to price out a Mustang at Ford.com.

By the way, the PDF looks like this…

Can you imagine a restaurant with a menu like that? Speaking of restaurants, how do you call for takeout if you can’t find a phone number?

Out of order

Click on Advertise for Columbia Chronicle, and you get this…

Click on Business Department for The Daily Campus at UConn, and you get, “We couldn’t find the page you were looking for.” Click on Advertise for Northwestern’s paper, and you get nothing.

Out of sight

If you can find any advertising information at all on Arkansas Tech’s Arka Tech or Queens University’s Queens Chronicle, I’ll give you a cookie.

Out of sync

UCLA’s Daily Bruin offers no ad details online – from rates to sizes to circulation. You need to call or email “to get your plan started today.”

Before the millennium, that’s how advertising worked. You didn’t want competing media to know your prices, then undercut you by a dollar.

But it’s 2018, and if you can compare home prices online, you certainly expect to know what a college newspaper charges for an ad. You’d think bleeding-edge college students would realize this.

Out of time

College newspapers may indeed be dying, but so would a restaurant that refuses to reveal its prices unless you called first, or makes you download a PDF of the menu, or forgets to include a menu, or has a broken link to its menu.

Three more things…

First, these are just some examples from the 130 papers I reviewed. There were so many others, it would be ponderous to link to them all.

Second, these papers signed up for a hashtag campaign because they’re keenly aware of their own fiscal mortality. Imagine all the others who don’t see it coming.

Third, while I’m still offering to send ad experts to their campuses, I wonder if that will even help. How do you save a newspaper – or a restaurant – that isn’t even trying?