Is no news good news?
Rather than read a newspaper with my morning coffee, my sole accompaniment is my Samsung Galaxy mobile device (other mobile telephones are available). This device asserts fluidity into my morning scramble to digest the latest headlines. The majority of my connection to the media is in all honesty, through Twitter. This got me thinking and reminded me of an article that was circulated among colleagues nearly one year ago today. The topic of the article surrounded the notion that news items and press releases had no place on university websites, or at least, they were not being used or placed on site effectively. Questions were raised as to what type of audience comes to a university website for the latest news. In short, hardly anyone will visit a university website to read the latest breaking stories from the Middle East, or the latest developments from the Pentagon.
The article found an example of a major university who claimed press releases only accounted for 1% of their total views across the site. What this statistic failed to clarify was whether this 1% was over the course of a day, month or year. Considering some university sites attract well over one million visits the figure is still a large enough number to justify the creation of news content.
However, one particular school site that I oversee saw 28,000 page visits to press releases in one year. this turned out to be over 3% of total visits to the School website. Triple the figure identified by the previous article.
How and why is our news viewed much more than the other major university?
The growing popularity with such sites as the conversation and the growing interest in research that universities conduct will create additional factors as to why press releases are on the up across university sites could be because these pieces of content form a narrative of real time events within the school. They will give potential applicants, funders or collaborators a sense of activity from across the school and act as a PR and promotional material. This will enhance the advertising prowess across the site.
There is a growing sense of importance in generating news and ensuring we as universities are commenting and supplying expert opinion. Therefore, all stories need to be written with a purpose. Not only to inform, but to engage with high profile stories. This can help raise the profile of the academic.
What is needed, is consideration of what to do with a news item once the pages are published. Do we merely write a piece that is then left to rest on our site, or do we feed our various other platforms allowing our other audiences to dine on our various commentaries? Universities have so much to offer in terms of informing the public. It is no coincidence that on every news station they will always welcome a university academic onto the panel.
Do visitors come to our sites looking for news? Not exactly. But we must deliver our news to them and host these pieces and act as a repository. After all, I rarely visit a news site anymore. I collect and collate all the news I need through Twitter in the hope that newspapers and news corporations tweet their press releases.