The project is called DT Delta. It’s the centerpiece of our mission to reinvent The Daily Texan. It’s long overdue, but bold enough to make up for lost time.
Thanks to the generous support of Chairman Bruce Porter, Dr. Glenn Downing, lecturer Mike Scott and others too numerous to mention at the Department of Computer Science, we’ve recruited more than twenty students to work in the basement on new technology initiatives, including app development, social media strategy and data gathering. Most crucially, we’re implementing a radical redesign of our web site, with a focus on a mobile-friendly user interface. For that piece, we’ve also acquired an invaluable resource: Dr. Shayamal Mitra’s web development class is devoting the entire semester to producing iterations of the project, essentially providing a form of curated open-source development with expert supervision. In the newsroom, AME Kelsey McKinney and Technical Director Hayley Fick will make sure the best ideas come together to create a worthy platform for the excellent student journalism of the future.
But even without the new site, The Daily Texan staff is proving that our journalism can succeed online. Compared to the same period last year, page views for the prior two months are up 35 percent, unique visitors are up 52 percent and the bounce rate (how quickly visitors leave) has declined by five percent. Best of all, the average time spent on the page has increased 25 percent, indicating that viewers are sticking around long enough to read a whole article or watch a whole video.
There’s only one plausible explanation: The students have been producing great journalism. One of the longest average page views clocked in at seven minutes for Life of Bevo, a charming behind the scenes look at the university’s mascot by Christine Ayala. Produced in collaboration with multimedia editor Alec Wyman and photographer Zachary Strain, the piece got a jumpstart from a very smartly executed promo listicle deployed over the weekend to grab the attention of football readers. By the next Saturday, our reporter and our video footage were being featured prominently in a pre-game segment on the Longhorn Network.
Of course, it’s not all cute and cuddly. The intrepid Bobby Blanchard has produced hard-hitting examinations of the university’s financial ties to campus housing developers and worker treatment. And beat reporter Alberto Long started the semester off strong with a major scoop on a series of racially charged balloon attacks, beating beat local and national media outlets. He’s followed up with relentless coverage of campus law enforcement.
Meanwhile, Chris Hummer’s columns have kept our readers on the pulse of the football coach’s lion-in-winter phase. In the arts department, Sarah-Grace Sweeney’s ACL coverage has engaged readers with some of our finest writing. Starting last week, after meetings with Texas Student Media’s advertising department, every section has been producing recurrent features to hook both readers and advertisers. Our design director, Jack Mitts, has been working overtime to create elegant (and consistent) logos. And maybe I’m getting soft, but I think this image by Jonathan Garza might be the best shot ever taken in the storied history of the Daily Texan Photo Department.
In the shifting media landscape, it’s all about engagement. And The Daily Texan is claiming a prominent place in the university of tomorrow.