AUTHOR’S NOTE: Many hundreds of students, faculty, staff, friends and organizations are true celebrants in BUnow’s Tenth Anniversary. While it’s impossible to name them all, all are remembered. We are forever grateful for your support and friendship. BUnow Family
Hey, Dr. Ganahl, is BUnow really 10-years old?
Imagine creating, capturing, and storing in real time every word, graphic, picture, video, comment, and all shared moments of more than 1,000 collegiate content creators.
Then, imagine being able to instantly access, share, and react to all this textual, audio and video content in real time from anywhere in the world on your phone, tablet, laptop and desktop devices.
Finally, imagine this explosion of media innovation originating in 2008 from Bloomsburg, Pa., and then radiating to all corners of the globe through April 2018.
If you can imagine all this, then you know BUnow, a student-managed, fully independent, stand alone, multi-platform, pure play news site really is 10-years old.
So, what is BUnow?
Most specifically, BUnow is the almost 4,000 multi-media stories, the 22,000 pictures, and nearly 200 videos all stored off-campus that have been created by over 900 collegiate content creators since 2008. Nearly one million visitors from over 135 countries have engaged with almost two million pages since 2008.
Further still, BUnow is more than its three social media accounts and their 4.000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And, most certainly BUnow is even more than the 35-50 students across all colleges engaged with BUnow throughout the year in multiple capacities since 2008.
On the grandest of levels, BUnow is that ‘here-and-now’ space on the collegiate timeline that starts just after high school’s ‘good old days’ and ends at the adult’s “real world’ which starts just after college ends. These collegiate content creators are digital natives of all ages, genders, races, orientations and affiliations. They live in BUnow’s ‘here and now’ space, and they have created their very own form of storytelling that is immediate, fierce, deeply personal, and unbounded by the traditional limits of privacy.
When was BUnow born?
Remember the 2007-08 media scape? It seems pretty dreary by today’s standards. Land line telephone were ubiquitous, texting was the new and expensive rage, CDs and radios battled iPods, iPhones were scarce, Facebook had just opened to everyone, few knew about Twitter, and even fewer trusted Internet commerce.
With ‘my ear down to the ground,’ I knew seismic changes were under way. These forces of innovation were undeniable. Compelled to engage my students, I approached BU Vice-President of Technology Wayne Mohr in fall 2007 with the idea of starting an ‘Internet site to publish content’ in all formats. He was immediately supportive and enlisted the assistance of Sam Josuweit, BU’s manager of network services.
I initiated our first meetings in early spring 2008 with several students including Shannon Hoffman, Dan Tallarico, and Neil Young, along with Mass Communications Professor Sharon Santus. Immediately things began to happen. Neil suggested the name BU Now, Dan presciently suggested the blog platform WordPress over
Dreamweaver, and Shannon began organizing the site with Mike Nacko, a computer sciences major from Sam’s office. We organized BU Now as a CGA-recognized student organization, and adopted the slogan, ‘BU Now: Faster Than Today!’
‘Revolutionary!’ is how Editor-in-Chief Shannon Hoffman described BU Now in its premier post on April 18, 2008. While acknowledging other campus media’s contributions, Shannon declared BU Now’s uniqueness will be ‘convergence and immediacy’ through ‘printed words, video, photos and podcasts…distributed as soon as a staff member…make(s) it to a computer.’
BU Now’s first two years are explosive.
More than 75,000 visitors from 123 countries recorded nearly 166,000 ‘page views’ of the more than 600 student-authored, multi-media stories published by April 2010.
Ashley Scioli and Katie Taylor served as co-editor-in-chiefs during BUnow’s second year. On the site’s second anniversary, my post titled ‘GANAHL ON MEDIA: Happy B-day BU Now!’ and dated April 18, 2010 celebrated BU Now’s editorial milestones, and summarized the findings of 23 e-interviews that I conducted with the campus media’s advisors and student journalists (now archived on BUnow). While the promise of ‘convergence and immediacy’ had been largely met, the interviews described a growing frustration with media turf wars nurtured by other campus media advisors and journalists.
The editorial milestones were impressive in their breadth of coverage and viewer engagement. Three major news topics emerged among the 600 stories published by 2010.
First, the successful media convergence partnership among BU Now, the campus newspaper and an independent local blog covered the 2008 election of President Obama through 71 multi-media stories that attracted 26,600 viewers. The coverage includes a 13-minute video titled ‘Ecstatic Obama Crowd Marches’ published on Nov. 6, 2008 and hosted on Vimeo. The video records the spontaneous eruption of the students’ euphoria at the announcement of Barack’s historical victory as they stream from their dormitories and parade down College Hill through downtown to celebrate at the Town Fountain.
Next, this same media convergence partnership covered the controversy of BU’s 2008 Homecoming marred by racism through nine-stories, three videos, and two editorials. BU Now was the first to publish a complete copy of the final report ‘Panel to Investigate Campus Climate and Security’ released on Feb. 2009. The coverage engaged more than 13,300 visitors on BU Now.
Finally, BU Now organized a ‘Campus Block Party Information Session’ that included the mayor, the campus and town police chiefs, and other BU staff and student representatives as part of its Block Party 2009 coverage. Other coverage included 10 stories, four videos and pictures, and a ‘gonzo style,’ on-the-scene blog report that attracted 10,800 visitors.
Still, even though the experiment in media convergence resulted in nearly 100 stories posted by the campus newspaper, many students mentioned in the e-interviews the ‘perceived tension between BU Now and some faculty members…(and) the lack of support and even criticism…(and that) the clash between certain faculty hindered (BU Now’s) growth.’ While BU Now’s influence grew, the dream of convergence dimmed and was eventually extinguished. It remains extinguished today.
BU Now’s media pioneers were undeterred. ‘Our future is almost something unimaginable,’ one student claimed. ‘BU Now WILL be multi-billion-dollar website,’ another promised, ‘because BU Now is the very model of Media Convergence.’
How BU Now became BUnow
The four-year cycle that defines college life is both a bane and a boon for collegiate media. The cycle’s downside is the continuous student turnover that demands a perpetual training cycle. Conversely, the upside to this continuous turnover is the steady stream of new faces with new ideas, new talents and an impatience with the ‘way things have always been done.’
This steady stream of fresh, digital natives works especially well in BU Now’s ‘here and now’ space. At BU Now students constantly challenge the ‘way things have always been done.’ Living in the ‘now’ means there is less reverence for the ‘then.’ And, Now is the ultimate expression of immediacy.
Such was the case when Dave Stanwick visited BU Now’s recruitment table at the Activities Fair in August 2010. His earlier Internet entrepreneurial successes bolstered his confidence to explore the emerging world of online media. His jaunty exuberance was infectious and encouraged a spirit of experimentation among BU Now’s staff.
As Editor-in-Chief Dave and BU Now’s growing staff embarked on a cycle of continous innovation that created a new name, a new logo, and a new WordPress format. And, that’s when BU Now became BUnow.
BUnow becomes an online innovation incubator.
Things began to happen quickly. BUnow grew a social media presence that reached more than 4,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The PR and social media teams developed engagement strategies that built awareness and branding campaigns for BUnow, site traffic, and non-profit events sponsored by BUnow.
Soon, BUnow was promoting week-long contests that utilized site-based, interactive brackets and offered $100 cash cards to the winners. The first of these contests was Pizza Madness. Contestants picked the winner among 16 area pizza places via an online bracket during the multi-week campaign culminating in a video of the pizza finals. These online contests expanded to include wing madness, hoagie madness, late night madness, and NCAA March Madness over the years.
The launch of the BUnowTV channel on Google’s YouTube in 2011 extended BUnow’s video digital footprint. Students quickly experimented with multiple studio-based programs including news, interviews, sports, fashions, and special contest shows. Field packages of events, news stories and student interviews were also produced. Today nearly 45,000 viewers have watched the almost 50 videos on BUnowTV.
When Bloomsburg’s Flood of the Century literally turned off the lights and water in the town and the university, BUnow singularly updated the community through live Tweets, on-the-spot videos, stories and multiple-picture slideshows of the devastation.
BUnow adopts dot com domain.
The story’s headline shocked both me and the student I was advising that Friday morning. It read, ‘Lock Haven shutting down. Students to be transferred to Bloomsburg.’ It was posted by Dave, BUnow’s editor-in-chief. The story reported the governor and PASSHE decided to close Lock Haven as a solution to PA’s budget crisis, and move some 3,500 students to BU. It suggested a local sewage plant might purchase the soon-to-be-shuttered campus, and that BU may proceed with its plans to build a bowling alley underneath the quad.
The public’s reaction to the headline was swift. BUnow’s social media metrics reported that more than 1,000 had shared the story on Facebook by noon. Apparently, Lock Haven’s switch board was overwhelmed by worried students and parents.
But wait! Hadn’t the readers read the story’s last line: ‘Wait…Is today April 1st?’ Surely this was an April Fool’s day college media prank. Maybe so, but Lock Haven’s leadership wasn’t laughing.
Lock Haven published a two-line, yellow-highlighted headline across the top of its website, ‘An April Fools prank has involved a rumor that LHU is closing. This is false information.’ And, apparently, LSU’s leadership threatened legal action if our site was not ‘taken down’ immediately. And so, by late Friday afternoon the university had ‘taken down’ BUnow.
While college media are notorious for April Fool’s Day pranks, these pranks are still protected by the First Amendment. And that was the message Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, relayed to BU’s administration within an hour of the site’s take down: BUnow was protected by the First Amendment.
BUnow was back in full operation within two hours of its shut down. And within seven months in November 2011, BUnow and all its content from its launch in April 2008 was moved to off-site servers. BUnow’s relationship with BU and its dot edu domain had been immensely beneficial for all. And while our relationship with the university remains productive, BUnow is now a dot com.
BUnow pioneers a state-wide media summit.
Students responded dramatically to BUnow’s editorial projects and campus events, and quickly it was standing-room-only at the year’s opening meeting. The students were energetic, their talents and interests were varied, and they started organizing into groups including an editorial team, a fledgling video team, and a PR team that included promotions and social media. The year’s calendar filled fast.
Traditionally, BUnow’s leadership rises from its ranks. Students start as staff writers, videographers or PR folks and ‘work up the ladder.’ The editorial leaders during 2012-2013 were Editor-in-Chief Carl ‘CJ’ Shultz and Managing Editor Justin McDonald. The two were friends (and remain so) and complemented each other. CJ emphasized the editorial aspects, and Justin was able to galvanize the various teams around a particular project.
BUnow’s editorial output had grown significantly. Over 400 stories were published in 2012, and more than 500 were published in 2013 based on the nine-month academic calendar. Regular editorial departments included entertainment, fashion, music, news and politics, on campus, and opinion and editorial. The BUnowTV channel debuted on YouTube were a wide range of shows including Dear Bloom Fashion Police, a nascent studio news show, and various student interviews on Uncovering BU Talent.
Everything was in place for a really big event.
At a meeting of campus media with the State System’s media relations director, BUnow proposed a media gathering of the state’s ‘future media moguls.’ Soon, the 2012 Collegiate Media Summ
it was a reality with significant support from the State System, PSEC
U, the College of Liberal Arts at Bloomsburg University and BUnow. Over 200 collegiate media practitioners from 14 state campuses met with more than 40
media professionals duringthe two-day Media Summit. Five years later, the 2017 Collegiate Media Summit returned to BU. And BUnow remained a sponsor.
BUnow Rebrands and Launches After Dark
Five years in, and BUnow’s new leadership team was ready for something new. Soon, there was talk about a new look, a new logo, a new slogan and a new editorial section. What was BUnow? Who were its visitors? How can we graphically capture this essence? Would a site redesign better engage our visitors? Managing Editor Zoe Baldwin and Editor-in-Chief Kristen Rinaldi initiated discussions to answer these questions.
The quest to re-imagine BUnow was exclusively a student enterprise, and it ultimately resulted in a visual transformation of BUnow’s promise. The team agreed that at its core BUnow openly challenged its visitors to ‘Open Your World’ and “Be You.’ A stylized version of the name BUnow incorporated two colors and a type-size globe to graphically depict this challenge. The name BUnow was superimposed over a larger globe, and the slogan ‘Open Your World’ was tucked underneath NOW reinforcing the sense of immediacy.
BUnow’s challenge to ‘open your world and become you’ was expanded to include the whole you…your daytime you and your night time you. And so, BUnow’s After Dark editorial section went live. An editorial ‘section devoted entirely to the students’ exploits as the sun goes down.’ Because ‘what happens after dark is a major factor of the students’ life.’
The section’s new logo visually challenged the readers to ‘be you after dark.’ BUnow’s home page, day-light globe morphed into the night time version of the world, and ‘After Dark’ replaced the daytime tag ‘Open Your World.’
The After Dark section has grown tremendously over the years, and now includes 86 stories with over 130,000 page views.
Soon, BUnow reaches its sweet spot.
The newly launched Facebook and Twitter skyrocketed in popularity and drove page views to all-time highs. And BUnow’s growing editorial team continually created content for its voracious readers. Nearly 600 stories were produced in 2014 and nearly 500 stories were produced in 2015. Clearly BUnow had found its groove.
Editor-in-Chief Kristen Rinaldi and Managing Editor Frankie Stokes were friends when they joined BUnow in their first year at Bloom. Their friendship, which continues today, grew deeper through their media participation. They had a thorough understanding of what made BUnow work, and became close friends with the whole team. They streamlined the editorial process and solidified the organizational structure during their tenure.
The dawn of mega-view-stories came of age. The stories were big, and the number of viewers huge: Husky Update, Finals Week, Mo’ne Davis video interview, Block Party…are all stories with more than 10,000 views. Regularly stories racked up 2-7,000 viewers. The End of Block Party as We Know It topped the list with more than 35,000 page views!
BUnow’s PR team professionalized its special event activities, and initiated a tradition of partnering with other campus organizations’ fund raising campaigns. These partnerships remain in full force today. BUnow became a full-time partner by helping raise more than $20 thousand for various community organizations including Make-A-Wish, Ronald McDonald Camp Dost, the Special Olympics, the Women’s Center, the EOS Riding Center, Camp Victory, and Students Against Hunger.
BUnow Launches Magazine
By 2015 the BUnow team had experimented with a wide range of media innovations including multi-platform text-based stories; studio and field video packages; podcasts and BUnowRadio; live Twitter, Facebook and Google social media events; interactive bracket-based contests; a live, indie-rock-band fund raiser; state-wide media events; and multi-picture slideshows.
Now, the BUnow team was anxious to experiment with the magazine format.
The staff, led by Editor-in-Chief Monica Grater and Managing Editor Cailley Breckinridge, decided the magazine’s premiere issue should incorporate BUnow’s online content rather than generate original, magazine-only content. This first issue would be a review of the leading online stories published that year.
The BUnow Magazine: 2015: A Year In Review editorial team reviewed all 500 articles published in 2015 across the eight editorial departments: On Campus, Music, Fashion, Opinion & Editorial, Sports, U.S. & World News, After Dark, and Entertainment. The editors analyzed the stories, chose the top two stories from each section with a combined total online viewership over 65,000, and published the full color, 36-page magazine in May 2016.
Editor-in-Chief Cindy Johnston and Managing Editor Matt Mastrogiovanni published BUnow’s second edition magazine in Spring 2017. This second edition, titled The Strike Edition, includes 15 stories, four videos and dozens of pictures originally published on BUnow of the first-ever, state-wide, faculty strike in October 2016 by APSCUF, the faculty union. Nicole Keiser was the chief designer of the full color, 24-page magazine.
The third edition, titled the Anniversary Edition: Celebrating 10 Years, is published by Editor-in-Chief Morgan Mickavicz, Managing Editor Dallas Kriebel, and Special Projects Editor Kyla Smith-Brown at BUnow Mag and includes 13 significant stories, 10 awesome videos and reflections on, and memories of, BUnow’s first ten years. Sarah Gottschalk is the chief designer of the full color, 32-page magazine.
All three editions of BUnow’s magazine are published at BUnow Mag on ISSUU.com.
BUnow’s Future is ‘Almost Something Unimaginable’
Eight years ago, a BUnow editor predicted, ‘Our future is almost something unimaginable.’ Her prediction became reality, and remains true of today’s future.
Looking back, it was impossible to imagine BUnow’s journey to the here and now. Looking forward, it’s equally impossible to speculate on what is ahead.
BUnow is not bound by the limits of legacy media and the traditional rules of storytelling. It is not constrained by print media’s time and space limitations, nor is it restricted to traditional broadcasting’s time boundaries. BUnow’s method of communication is intuitive, immediate, interactive, and authentic.
BUnow will remain a state of mind, and a place of being. Its exuberant quest of continuous collaboration and constant experimentation will endure. BUnow will endlessly reimagine itself. New and energized media pioneers will perpetually reinvent BUnow.
Of course, BUnow’s future will be fraught with frequent and formidable obstacles.Recruiting innovative storytellers and keeping them involved will always be a challenge.
Creating compelling content in ever-evolving formats that is relevant to our followers will remain BUnow’s absolute standard of judgement.
Maintaining our role as a responsible community partner, while inspiring our members to become their absolute best will remain our mission.
But most importantly, BUnow’s future will be fun and filled with unlimited opportunities. And, it will remain, always, a time and place to, “Be You, NOW!