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Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

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February 26, 2008updated 28 Feb 2008 4:37am

In Profile:

By Dave Lee STD

It is very apt indeed that the first ‘In Profile’ newspaper is called York Vision, for the internet arm of their award-winning newspaper is clearly a sign of things to come.

Visiting will bring you straight to Vision’s Facebook application. The entire web presence of the paper is embedded into the social-networking site. Does this exclude some non-Facebooking students from reading the site? Of course, but the application has allowed Vision to better engage with readers who do use Facebook.

Iain Withers, one of the students behind the application, tells us more.

Student Journalism Blog: What drove the decision to make point directly to the Facebook application?

Iain Withers: The original concept was to take news directly to students – the application was an experiment aimed at getting our articles read by more people online. We decided to take our content to where students generally loiter online, rather than set up a stand-alone website. Vision prides itself in writing more humorous, gossipy articles which we thought would fit in well with Facebook.

Have you had any complaints from visitors who don’t use Facebook but want to access York Vision’s news?

Not yet – some Vision members would have preferred not to integrate into Facebook as a matter of principle (i.e. privacy concerns). Our podcast, one of only three made by student newspapers, is available through the student radio URY website and through iTunes.

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Who designed the application, and how long did it take? Did it cost anything?

The design of the application was a joint effort between Matt Kirman and myself. Matt is a fairly experienced developer so it didn’t take too long to code it – the latest version took only 5 days to write from scratch. We were quite lucky to develop the application for free – fortunately Matt and I are good friends and business partners so it didn’t take much persuasion!

How many people are responsible for running the application and its content? How have the ‘non-techy’ members of York Vision’s team coped with using it?

Currently there are about a dozen people in editorial positions who have the capability to update content on the site. However, since Matt and I left York Vision the new editorial team have struggled to get a replacement developer and the future doesn’t look great for the app.

Has using Facebook to distribute your online news strengthened your role as a student newspaper?

Quite definately! We currently get around 1000 unique click-throughs to our canvas page per week. If you take into consideration the number of profile views as well Facebook is by far the best way to distribute our content.

Have you considered making the application available to other student newspapers? Perhaps making it open source?

Currently we have not released the application to any third parties, though we have had some interest from other student groups in other universities. Releasing the software as open source has been considered, however since the application has been customised for York Vision further development would be required to do so.

Do you have plans to expand on the application in any way?

Matt and I are now working on a new independent website, building on our experience developing the Vision application. Social news is an exciting concept – we’re looking to launch a very distinctive news site later this year.

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