The Daily O'Collegian, the student newspaper of Oklahoma State may become the first college newspaper to start charging an online subscription fee, following in the footsteps of major papers around the country. Previously, the paper had received most of its revenue from advertising. The change will not affect current students, staff, and faculty of Oklahoma State. These readers will still be able to access full content for free. The same goes for anyone registering with a ".edu" email address.
The move raises two important questions. First, the Chronicle notes the move is partially in response to rising software costs. Will financial pressures cause other college newspapers to investigate subscriptions as a source of much-need revenue? What other alternatives will be proposed (e.g. freeware, license-sharing)? The second question raised by OSU's situation is which members of a campus community are entitled to free or reduced cost services? The Chronicle notes the O'Collegian's editor sees an "untapped market among parents, alumni, Oklahoma State sports fans, and potential students."
The move has been understandable to many in the journalism community, who acknowledge the financial difficulties newspapers are facing now. The Chronicle quotes Dr. Bryan Murley of Eastern Illinois' New and Emerging Media department as saying, "This is the time in journalism where we're sort of going to the coins-in-the-couch model of making money--wherever we can get a little bit here and there to keep things going." The O'Collegian's editor doesn't have high hopes for the first year of subscription services--noting as few as 100 subscribers would be a success.
College newspapers aren't the only student-run or student-oriented service suffering from harsh economic times. It will be interesting to see what the O'Collegian's experiment tells us about community members' willingness to pay and whether they're able to cause a cultural shift within their community away from universal access.