College newspapers catch the redesign bug

As newspapers are relaunching their Web sites to harness increasing online readership — and attract skittish advertisers — the web is starting to feel like a constantly updated department store.  New viewing options are being wheeled out almost daily, with media innovations such as hyperlocal sites and interactive segments mingling with last year’s fashionable trends like video blogs.

Most notably, the Tribune Co., the news organization behind the recent Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant and Chicago Tribune overhauls, is instituting new design models across their news conglomerate.  And now, even college newspapers are surfing the waves of Web site redesigns.

The University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel announced today they launched a redesigned Web site featuring increased social media compatibility, a mind-bending selection of new blogs (one is called the Party Czar) and hyperlinking, because, said Sara Gregory, the paper’s online managing editor:

We aim to offer you the best news possible. But if someone else does it better, we owe it to you to share with you.

So UNC implied other schools might have better articles, but is anyone using online college news sites better? Maybe.

Northwestern announced they are launching a new Web site called NU Intel in September, a “web-only publication for the Northwestern audience,” according to the future site.  Though the site said they “can’t reveal too much yet,” they promised the currently robins egg blue publication would be “one part city-regional magazine, one part newsmag, and one part Gawker Media-style blog emporium.”  Sounds titillating, and only slightly too much like New York Magazine’s Daily Intel.

Also an interesting stumble: Ann Arbor News has been lambasted for leaving the college town without a newspaper.  But what about the Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s paper?  A quick search revealed the Daily was still rolling from the presses.  Although their Web site’s search feature didn’t work.  Instead, this came up:

The Daily’s search function is currently offline as we prepare to launch a re-designed next month. The search function may be down for as many as four weeks. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Definite competition for, which is apparently doing it’s best to emulate a blog.

But this swell of online innovation is arguably a good direction for college newspapers.

And their journalists, since at this pace, hungry reporters will already be well-versed in internet dexterity when print finally admits they can no longer compete.

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