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Trends in College Media

An online publication of the Associated Collegiate Press

Bringing back the college yearbook
Florida State University part of innovative program

By Jim Martyka

Put on your best outfit and smile pretty Florida State University students...the yearbook is coming back.

And if this new hybrid deal between the school and Dallas-based Taylor Publishing Co. works out as well as school officials predict, Florida State students might not be the only ones saying "Cheese!"

"It's very exciting that we can help such a big school like Florida State bring back a yearbook," said Alan Heath, vice president of collegiate sales for Taylor. "We feel that this new program will revolutionize how colleges print yearbooks and will thus get this segment of the industry going again."

According to more than one publisher, the college yearbook industry has been on a strong decline for many years now. More so than a lack of interest from students, the real reason has been disinterest from schools in taking on the responsibility and of course, budget cuts.

Such was the case at Florida State, where the school shut down its last yearbook, the "Renegade" in 1998.

"We had to shut it down for financial reasons, but that doesn't mean the students ever lost interest in having one," said Tim Quinnan, the school's associate vice president for Student Affairs. "Our president also wanted to bring it back because he felt that it helps the students get a sense of class identity. He's made it a priority and now there's a buzz for a yearbook yet again. Luckily, this deal with Taylor will help us bring it back."

FSU is part of pilot program from Taylor that will essentially take most if not all of the financial burden of publishing off the school itself. Under the program, Taylor picks up all the marketing, printing and distribution costs, which in years past fell on students and school officials. Further, Taylor will give FSU $15,000 to help in finding and hiring a yearbook adviser and editor, designing the book itself and any other expenses that come up along the way. Taylor then will take 90 percent of the profits, giving the school 10 percent. The yearbooks are expected cost around $85.

"Essentially, we take all the risks and the school gets to do something its students want, while making a little money on the side," Heath said. "We know it's a risk for us, but we're seeing how it could pay off. That's why we've been selective with the schools we're working with."

Taylor has worked with 22 colleges of varying sizes in 2004 and Heath expects the company to work with 35 to 40 schools in 2005. Early research has showed that the company will make a profit with 21 of the 22 schools. The key, Heath said, is only printing enough that will be sold and aggressively marketing not only to the students, but also the student's families.

Thus far, interest has been high. The school is currently looking for a yearbook adviser and students are suggesting names for the book. A decision on both is expected soon.

Florida State has had several yearbooks throughout its long history, starting in 1900 with the "Argo." Later versions included "Flastacowo," the "Tally Ho," "Artifacts" and the "Renegade," which won a number of national awards.

"It was very important for us to bring this back and we're looking forward to it," Quinnan said. "Students have been asking for one for a while and we really did feel bad that we didn't have one. It might be a little thing in the big scheme of the college experience, but it's something that adds to it. And that's important to us."

Quinnan's division will oversee development of the yearbook and the staff of students. Students won't be paid for working on the yearbook, but school officials are looking at offering internship credit.

Heath said other colleges on the program are approaching it in much the same way.

"Everyone seems excited about it," Heath said. "The timing was right because the interest is there. Plus, we didn't want to see this industry and our business continually struggle."

Other publishers agreed, including Bloomington (Minn.)-based scholastic publishing giant Jostens. While the firm does not offer a similar program, it has made moves over the past few years to simplify the publishing process while cutting costs for schools.

"What we've learned is that we have to make it easier and more cost-effective or the schools won't do it," said Rich Stoebe, director of communications for Jostens. "So we've developed ways to customize the books and help the schools do a lot of the work on the Web. We've made it more flexible and easier and the schools are starting to respond."

As for FSU, the resurgence of the yearbook couldn't have come soon enough.

"There's a buzz and that's exciting," Quinnan said. "I think that everyone is going to come out of this deal very happy."

© Copyright 1999-2007 Associated Collegiate Press

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