The Texas Student Media Board will consider action on March 1st to address major budget shortfalls due to the rapid decline in print advertising at The Daily Texan including the possibility of taken the drastic step of ending the daily publication during the regular semester. The Texan's ad revenue has fallen by nearly 50 percent in December 2012 as compared with December 2011 and continues to lag in the current fiscal year. In the last year, the Texan saw less than $1.3 million in ad sales compared to $2.1 million in sales as recently as 2007.
The swift decline in print advertising revenues is commonplace for most publications with the shift towards online consumption not providing a backstop given the lower CPMs and explosion of online inventory. This has created a race to the bottom for the value of advertising that we at Burnt Orange Report, an online-only publication, have been severely impacted by as well.
The possibility of losing the “Daily” part of the Texan has former writers, editors, columnists, photographers, and staffers organizing to respond to the Texas Student Media Board. Former Texan Editor and Texas Student Publications Chair A.J. Bauer has authored an open letter signed by over 200 current and former Texan staff and writers (including myself).
No doubt, rapid changes in the news industry have greatly undermined the financial viability of traditional print publications. Many of us are aware of this fact because, thanks to the Texan, we have grown into news industry leaders. Many more of us know of the industry's troubles more intimately – it signs some of our unemployment checks. But the Texan has also served as a foundation for many successful careers in far more lucrative fields. Herein lies the Board's current myopia.
Short of the most passive gestures, Texas Student Media has made no clear or sustained attempt at outreach to The Daily Texan's vast alumni base – neither for guidance nor, most glaringly, for purposes of development. In an era of great experimentation in the capabilities of philanthropic funding models for news media, Texas Student Media has not even bothered tapping a donor base captive to its sepia memories of Daily Texans past.
Therefore, we urge the TSM Board to refrain from further reducing The Daily Texan's print schedule without first consulting us – Texan alumni. This is not a matter of self-interest on our part; this is a simple matter of availing yourselves of untapped resources. Some of us may be eager to donate (in fact some already have on their own initiative). Others may have experience managing philanthropic campaigns. Still others may have experience managing professional news media. But you would never know, because you have never asked.
Far be it for us to foolishly stand athwart history yelling “Stop!” There may indeed come a time when print becomes an unfeasible and unwanted medium. It is our contention that such a day has not yet come. As Daily Texan alumni, we stand ready and willing to assist in righting the ship. We hope Texas Student Media will avoid rash decisions, and will instead solicit our help.
Those that wish to learn more can view the full letter here (and sign on). Funds are also being actively raised to run the letter as a full page ad in the Texan next week which you can contribute towards here. The Texan editorialized about this today, echoing the major theme that the TSM Board should engage and organize the vast network of alumni as to possible solutions prior to taking the ax to the most central aspect of UT's student run daily newspaper.