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1998 | 02 | 07 | Presentations | Technology | Media
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Editor & Publisher Interactive Newspapers 1998: Young Entrepreneurs
February 7, 1998
Moderators: Shelby Coffey and Tom Zito

There's a saying in many of the newsrooms that I've worked in: "Every time we run an obituary, we've lost a subscriber."

The reason, of course, is that people my age are not reading newspapers anymore.

I realize many of you are still developing your online strategies, but in an effort to keep things from repeating themselves, I'd like to talk to you today about your future users and a phenomenon you may not be aware of.

There are currently 14.4 million two-year and four-year college students in the United States. And that number is projected to grow to 19.2 million in the year 2000.

The most important piece of advice I can give you is go visit a college campus and get to know these people. Because there is no better focus group for what the future holds than a college campus today.

Inspired by widely available grant money and student demand, colleges are racing to connect every dorm room to the Internet. College students have high speed connections and often receive their access for free. They don't have to tie up a phone line; fight with their spouse or their kids for use of the computer; or worry about their boss looking over their shoulder. Plus, they use the Internet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

While they read fewer newspapers, listen to less radio, and watch less television, college students use the Internet more than any other demographic group.

While college students make up just five percent of the U.S. population, at least one in every five Internet users is a college student.

Indeed, 85 percent of college students are projected to use the Internet at least once this semester, 62 percent at least once per week, and 50 percent will use it every single day.

All told, college students will spend 70 million hours online this week alone.

And it's not hard to see why.

Online discussion groups are replacing face-to-face sessions with professors. Classwork is assigned and submitted online. Already, students are using the web to find out what's for dinner, what's showing on campus, how the football team did, and what the weather forecast is.

And best of all, why bother picking up the phone to call Mom & Dad when you can ask for more money by e-mail?

Yet for all their numbers online, college students are dramatically underserved by today's online content offerings. Our company is working to fill that void.

We publish a site called Student.Com that combines the writing of the nation's top collegiate journalists with innovative uses of Internet technology to create a comprehensive, in-depth site devoted to college life. Many of the lessons we've learned will be applicable to you in your efforts.

Our site currently has four main concentrations:

Over time, college students will get their news from us, meet new friends through us, buy their course books through us — and maybe even land a White House internship through us.

So what does this mean to you? A number of things:

Finally, I'd like to leave you with one thought: For all the bells and whistles, the Internet is still at its heart a medium of words. If we as an industry can get college students to read online, there just may be hope for newspapers yet.