It’s no secret that college students use Facebook. The students currently in college today are considered digital natives. Businesses, towns, sport teams and news organizations are all capturing the growth of Facebook with fan pages. However, are news organizations capturing Facebook’s largest demographic?
To explore this situation, it’s important to first look at how college media outlets are engaging their students on Facebook. These outlets not only train future journalists, they also train the future wave of journalism consumers.
Wednesday Chris Snider, a former digital journalist and now journalism instructor at Drake University, released a blog post compiling data from the Top 25 college newspapers on Facebook. Snider has been tracking the top newspapers on Facebook since August and began tracking college newspapers yesterday.
While no college paper has enough fans to make Snider’s Top 10 newspapers list, many could knock off some of the nation’s top 100 newspapers (in terms of circulation). A key to the future of journalism will be meeting community members in the places they are already visiting. Facebook will be an important part of that and these college papers are taking the first step.
How local outlets are doing
The Iowa State Daily (Facebook fan page) came in at No. 8 on the list of college papers — and No. 1 in the Big 12. Being a college newspaper, the Daily’s fans are made up almost entirely of young adults. It shouldn’t come as surprise that the Daily’s largest age group is 18-24 and makes up 65 percent of its fans. The question is are students also liking professional news organizations on Facebook?
Information from The Des Moines Register (Facebook fan page) and WHO (Facebook fan page) shows that the 18-24 age group doesn’t like the organizations on Facebook at quite the same rate. The age group only represents 12 percent of The Register’s fans and 11.6 percent of WHO’s fans.
The challenge for organizations such as these will be converting the news consumers college papers have trained into mainstream news consumers. Expanded use of Facebook to share stories and interact with the community will be a part of this shift.
Stuart Rauh, director of internet operations at WHO, said the station doesn’t specifically target any age group and tries to encourage a wide range of fans on Facebook.
“We encourage our newscast viewers to share their opinions with each other via Facebook,” Rauh said. ” We do this predominantly by integrating Facebook conversations in our morning newscast. We post questions based on news of the day which usually sparks an interesting “discussion” on-line.”
The Des Moines Register has used Facebook advertising to target younger audiences. Julia Thompson, social media editor for The Register, said the paper have used targeted advertising to attract high school students to its online prom albums and to attract young adults to its entertainment site, Metromix.
Expect to see news organizations increase their use of targeted Facebook advertising and other techniques to attract younger audiences. Also expect to see the Top 25 college newspaper list get more competitive. After all, the youth is always the future.