Open Letter to Daily Staffers

Hey Daily staffers,

I’m frequently in contact with business managers at other colleges and a few months ago the Stanford Daily was invited to attend CONBY – Conference for Newspaper Business at Yale. Hosted by Yale Daily News’s Business Division, it featured opening and closing keynote speeches by senior executives at The Wall Street Journal and Time Inc, and workshops and round tables with business staff at Brown, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, and others.

We sent along a Stanford contingent of myself, Mary Liz, VP of Sales, Nikhil Joshi, Director of Strategy and Jane LePham, Head Copy Editor. It was a fun trip and well worth the time and cost. We tweeted much of the trip on the hashtag #yaletrip but I just wanted to recap on some of what came out of the event.


I find learning about how other papers operate fascinating:

  • Most other schools have a sizable student business staff with a few older adults manning the offices.
  • My counterpart and Kamil’s at Yale is always junior, and it is a highly competitive (read cuthroat) position.
  • The Wall Street Journal guy advocated finding people who will pay for the content we produce that no one else can offer. Subscriptions to parents & alumni and Stanford admissions advice come to mind, but I’m sure you can think of others.


Another great thing from this trip is a trial collaboration between many of the papers at the event. We are planning to build a top tier college paper ad network and earn ad revenue from national firms that want to reach top tier students, at lower cost than current ad agencies.Other schools also wanted advice and support on going independent or renegotiating their lease with the University. We have a lot of experience here and it’s great to be able to help these smaller papers get established.


One thing we don’t appreciate enough is our (relatively) friendly biz/edit relationship.Discussions between biz/edit teams at other schools often, in their own words, degenerate to shouting matches. Other schools make less money than us, have fewer distribution points, less support from the administration and for the most part don’t pay any staff. Nice to be reminded of our blessings.


Finally, we came away with some action items to generate more revenue:

  • Subscriptions – We’re going to push this during Parents weekend and next year at Homecoming. UPenn says they have over 1000’s of paying subscribers (which would be 100k’s worth of revenue for us)
  • Be more consultative to clients – Our account executives have really tried to give our clients “options” and now we’ll try to be more directive and offer specific dates and sizes to our advertisers, to help make the buying decisions easier for them
  • Offer web ads as an upsell – one of the challenges of online advertising is that we don’t want to cannibalize our print ad revenue so we rarely sell them directly. Going forward, we’re going to offer web ads as a bonus to people already buying a print ad.

Here in the business division, we are also trying to work with an overall strategic vision toward a better future. Thanks for reading and keep up the good work everyone. Despite the challenges ahead, I’m optimistic for the future of the Daily.


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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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