My picture
Saturday, May 25, 2019
1997 | 03 | 14 | Work | Student Net Publishing | News Coverage
Search
Content
BY TYPE
BY CATEGORY
BY DATE
BY PUBLICATION
Updates
FEEDS
MAILING LIST
Enter your email address above to start
receiving email updates from this site.
This Page
Wired News: Student.Net Graduates to Corporate Big Time
March 14, 1997

By Mike Tanner

In a high-level form of corporate recruiting, US West announced Thursday that it is acquiring a 35 percent stake in Student.Net Publishing - the largely self-financed publisher of college-interest Web content run by a group of Yale and Columbia undergraduates. The deal represents the sixth Internet content partnership that the telecommunications giant has formed since last summer.

Student.Net - which has been run for 16 months from what the site calls “a room with an unhealthily high computer-and-takeout-container-to-person ratio in the center of New Haven, Connecticut,” on a total of US$150,000 - stands to gain a seven-figure cash infusion. “It lived on fumes,” says 21-year-old CEO Stewart Ugelow, who intends to use the unaccustomed wealth to bolster his staff of six, work up a formal marketing campaign, and buy improved hardware for the new office in Boston.

US West hopes, in return, to move into the college market that Student.Net serves because “the demographic is so strong,” says Tony Pantuso, the director of business development for US West Interactive, explaining that students are appealing to advertisers and is a group that spends the most time online.

Ugelow explains that it’s just that kind of undergraduate immersion that makes his group so valuable to US West, despite their extreme youth. “We were freshmen when Mosaic came out,” he says. “We had a lot of spare time.”

The site is a far cry from an extracurricular time-killer for a group of dorm underachievers, however. Rather, it was originally conceived as a Nando.Net project, before the student-founders - who have summer job experience at companies like The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft, and Nortel - took over when Nando itself was bought out and dropped the project in 1995.

The college arena has more to offer Web companies than just an audience of “7 million cherry-picked students,” agrees Roland De Wolk - who teaches Web journalism and runs a student site out of San Francisco State University. It’s difficult, he says, for journalists with old-media experience to “turn it on its head” and create innovative Internet content. Instead, “real smart journalism students with some brains and some moxie are where to look for it.”

Ugelow used his undergraduate connections at The Washington Post to forge a sponsorship deal with that paper. The relationship consisted of advertising, consulting work, and the licensing of Student.Net content for a local version of the site, which became the college area of the online Post.

That site will probably serve as a model of sorts for the localized Student.Net content US West plans to adapt for the education section of its Dive In network of local sites - scheduled to launch this month in 10 cities. This time, however, Student.Net “can be local in a way we couldn’t before,” says Ugelow, citing the sales forces already in place for US West’s various cable and phone systems.

The timing of the investment aids Student.Net students as well, since they all graduate in May and will now stay on with the company. But Ugelow sees dangers in the sudden wealth. “We’ve been good about keeping frugal,” he says. “We want to keep the incentive to come up with creative solutions.”