Columbia Student Paper to Drop Daily Format as Readership Shifts

Columbia University’s student newspaper will switch to a weekly print format in September, becoming the first Ivy League school to eliminate a daily print edition.

The Columbia Daily Spectator will publish on Thursdays, rather than every weekday, and the last issue of the current semester will come out May 5, Editor-in-Chief Abby Abrams said in a statement late yesterday. The change was approved by the newspaper’s board of alumni trustees, Publisher Michael Ouimette said in an e-mail.

College dailies, much like the broader newspaper business, are seeing their readers and advertising revenue shift to the Internet. Abrams and other student leaders of the Spectator said the decision was taken because the “vast majority” of its readers consume its content online and are drawn to articles through links on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

“By untying ourselves from the daily print production schedule, we will free editors and writers to focus on providing our readers with the stories they want through the medium they prefer,” Abrams, Ouimette and Managing Editor Steven Lau said in a letter on the newspaper’s website. “Over the last decade, many news publications have been slow to react to the changes of the journalism industry. Spectator, too, has lagged behind. But now, we hope to get ahead of the curve.”

Nonprint revenue at the Spectator has tripled since 2012 and now exceeds revenue generated by the print edition, they said.

‘Digital Future’

“This gives Spectator the financial stability required to move toward a digital future unsupported by print revenue” and to become a round the clock news source, they said.

The Spectator was founded in 1877 and has been financially independent from New York-based Columbia since 1962, according to the newspaper’s website. The alumni board is separate from the Trustees of Columbia University, the school’s 24-member governing arm.

The seven other schools that make up the Ivy League in the northeastern U.S. all have daily print editions during the weeks school is in session, and none have plans to cut back, according to editors or publishers of the newspapers.

“Our daily print edition serves an important purpose in the Harvard community, and it is read by students, faculty and staff members,” said Sam Weinstock, president of the Harvard Crimson. “At the moment, we think it’s important for us to print daily. That could change one day.”

At the Yale Daily News, about 85 percent of revenue still comes from print advertising, said Julie Leong, the publisher.

“Online revenues have shown steady year-to-year increases while other segments have declined, and we recognize that online advertising is an increasingly important domain for us to be focusing on,” Leong said in an e-mail.

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