The Printed Word Is Alive and Well on College Campuses

By: Jonathan Oleisky

Has our digital-centric, social media-focused world effectively erased the printed word?

I would argue that it has changed the way in which messages are delivered, but it has not succeeded in the total eradication of print. For proof, visit any college campus.

Last week, I had coffee with Cody Boteler, Class of 2017, who has just stepped down as editor of The Towerlight, Towson University’s independent, student weekly newspaper. Each week, The Towerlight publishes and distributes thousands of copies of its award-winning publication. Yes, the paper has a daily e-newsletter and dynamic website, but the printed weekly publication remains its primary advertising and branding vehicle. Full disclosure: I serve on the nonprofit board of Baltimore Student Media, which owns the student-run newspaper. While I clearly have the paper’s best interest in mind, I’m thrilled that the printed version continues to be relevant to its student, faculty and staff readers.

Earlier this fall, my wife and I attended parent’s weekend at Bowdoin College where we visited our youngest daughter, who is now finishing her freshman year. Parents from around the country were welcomed to the college’s charming New England community with a nasty, multi-day rainstorm. We spent most of our time inside many academic buildings on Bowdoin’s beautiful campus.

As a marketer what struck me the most, was the sheer volume of brightly colored mini-posters announcing every type of college club, upcoming campus event, pot-luck dinner, social engagement, community protest (yep, a ton of those), athletic event or academic lecture. The student union’s walls and super-sized bulletin boards were covered with these posters.

This sea of paper seemed to me to be at odds with the students who were raised in the digital age. (That weekend, non-digital natives – the parents—we were just as connected.) If we communicate via devices, I wondered, what was with all the paper and such a traditional mode of communication. So, I asked a digital native, my daughter. Yes, she uses Bowdoin’s social media feeds to stay connected to college goings-on, but admits to learning about events on campus from the flyers.

The next time someone tells you that “print is dead,” suggest that they go visit the campuses of Towson University and Bowdoin College. I’m sure that the situation is the same on any campus across the country. The next generation of marketing professionals might tell you otherwise, but I’m happy to say that at least on two college campuses, print is alive and well.

Tell us whether or not you think that the demise of the printed word is on the horizon.


Author: Jonathan Oleisky

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