It’s frustrating to work hard on your newspaper only to see stacks still sitting on the stands when it’s time for the next issue to be distributed.
Circulation of college newspapers certainly isn’t declining at the rate of most professional publications, but that also doesn’t mean the student body is flocking to newsstands to collect your latest issue. They may even have good intentions of reading the paper, but just forget to pick it up or look up from their phones long enough to grab it when they pass by a newsstand.
So what can you and your staff do to help get the papers in the hands of the students you created it for?
I asked the brightest minds in college media, College Media Association members, to help me compile a list of ways to increase campus circulation. Here’s what we came up with:
Locate them well
If you want students to pick up the paper, you must have papers where they gather. Take a tour of your campus newsstands. Are they in the right locations? Think high-traffic areas, not hidden in corners. Also, anywhere that students sit and eat or study is a good place to have newspapers available and visible.
As a side, make sure your newsstands attract attention by being colored, including your publication’s name and perhaps even encouraging people to grab a free copy.
Grab a stack
Have the staff grab a stack of papers on distribution day and pass them out to their classmates in their first class of the day. This is literally putting the paper in the students’ hands. And, when you hand it to them, most of them will spend the time before class starts reading.
By the way, staffers don’t just have to wait until they get to class to pass out the paper. They can walk to class, handing the paper to everyone they pass along the way.
Several advisers mentioned actually passing out the papers to students as the way their staff has increased circulation. One adviser even said her staff borrows a university golf cart and drives around campus, delivering papers to everyone they see.
Hire a team
Some staffs hire a street team to distribute their newspapers around campus all day (or until they’re gone) on distribution day. Sometimes these teams are paid by student work study money. It certainly would be nice to have one less thing for the editorial staff to be responsible for.
Don’t forget to promote that your new edition is on stands on your staff’s social media accounts. Don’t just tell your audience to pick up the paper. Instead, give them a little preview of what’s in this latest edition.
Some staffs have partnered with community newspapers to distribute the college paper as an insert inside the local paper. One adviser said this approach helped her staff distribute more, gain more interest from faculty who now receive the paper at home and sell more advertising.
Don’t just put the newspaper on the newsstands and wait for students to discover it. Host a distribution event each time you publish a new edition.
Multiple student media staffs hand out coffee and doughnuts with their newspapers on distribution days. This typically is done in a high-traffic location, like the student union. One staff takes this a step further and has the student radio station broadcast live from the student union as they hand out papers.
Of course, it’s not just about getting the newspaper into the students’ hands. There aren’t enough distribution ideas in the world to make up for a newspaper that doesn’t fulfill the students’ information and entertainment needs. Create a great paper focused on the students, distribute it directly to them and they’ll look forward to it in the future.