INTERNET BUZZ: “Fewer Students Turn Pages of Yearbooks in Digital Age”

This headline caught my attention on several blogs this week. The full story is posted here…

Basically, the article questions whether or not social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are replacing traditionally printed yearbooks. After listing other factors that affect yearbook sales — including transient student population and poor economy — the article concludes…

To get kids to buy the yearbooks, said Jim Barbour of Herff Jones, which produces yearbooks, printers must help schools develop more viable marketing approaches.

Kids are relying less on e-mails and more on text messages to get information, so a teen might receive a text from a pal on the yearbook staff reminding him that it’s time to order.

It takes much more these days to hawk the book than a couple of kids sitting in the cafeteria at lunch. Those who are true to their school need to hear why the annuals are something they will want someday.

“I wouldn’t say the yearbook is dying, but I think we need to tell people why it’s alive,” Barbour said. (an education news blog) picked up on this story, and comments:

If they were smart, schools would get on top of this and buy a bunch of domain names to begin hosting digital yearbooks for the future. Statistics are showing that some yearbook sales have dropped as much as 50%. Tough break for Jostens, but it seems teens aren’t as stimulated by these over-priced memoirs as they are by the internet and cell phones.

My opinion…

Well, anytime new technology is introduced, a panic is created regarding the survival of the “old technology.” In some cases, the panic is absolutely valid. Did DVD replace VHS? Yes! DVDs provide exactly the same value as VHS, but better. Did the microwave replace the oven? No! There are just some things that don’t taste good from the microwave. So does a microwave provide the same value as an oven? No, there are times when the speed of a microwave are needed, and there are times when the quality of an oven is needed.

So what’s this have to do with yearbooks? Well, does Facebook and MySpace offer the same value as a yearbook, but better? No! Will your Facebook page be around in 20 years? Probably not. Will your yearbook be around? Yes! Can your friends sign your MySpace? Yes, but is it a sentimental reflection of the year? Most likely not. Does your Facebook page feature the girl in your class that you never talked to who will be elected President in 20 years? Not if you never talked to her. Even if your MySpace page is still up in 20 years, it will probably be drastically different, while a yearbook remains a “time capsule” of that year.

What does this mean for you?

As a yearbook adviser or staff member, it is your job to communicate the value of a yearbook to your school. Do not assume students can figure this out on their own! Why do you think yearbooks are more valuable than social network sites? Are you including this value on your posters or in your announcements?

Whenever old technology is threatened by new technology, the best thing to do is to evolve the old technology to work with the new. Have you seen some of the new home phones, like the Hub by Verizon? When they noticed that cell phones were replacing home phones, their solution was to create a home phone that worked with your cell phone. In other words, don’t think of Facebook and MySpace as your yearbook’s enemies. Think of them as your friends. How can you use these sites (along with YouTube, blogging, texting, etc…) to help market your yearbook?

Do you have an opinion? Chime in with your comments below…

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