USA Today pilots electronic version of paper

MU is one of four universities involved in the pilot program.

USA Today will make an electronic version of its newspaper available to students later this month, as part of a pilot program involving MU and three other universities.

"At this point, we have a schedule but dates are flexible," said Katie Pesha, USA Today higher education programs director. "We're aiming for Oct. 22, but the date could be pushed back."

The trial program will last through April 2010 and will be available at 4:30 a.m. online each day to all students who have access to MU's Internet network. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs said the Division of Information Technology is working on the login process.

"USA Today has been working with DoIT on how students will access it," Scroggs said. "Students will need to log in and use a password."

Although the electronic edition's design will remain the same as the print version of the paper, it will include interactive and Web exclusive content. Student Life Director Mark Lucas said MU was selected to be a part of the trial program due to its status as one of the largest collegiate readership programs in the country.

"USA Today is piloting this program here because of the age group they are targeting, 18 to 22, and easy access to a fixed audience because of the readership program already in place here and at the other three schools," Lucas said.

Pesha said students would have the option of receiving an e-mail notification each day with top picks from the issue and a direct link to the electronic version.

"The way the edition is available is different at each of the schools," Pesha said. "What we're planning is to have the option of getting it off the university server, but there will also be an opt-in e-mail notification each morning when the edition becomes available."

The trial program also includes Penn State, Georgia Tech and the University of Indiana. Pesha said when the trial ends in April, USA Today will collect feedback from students as part of their assessment.

"There are plans to assess the e-Edition on all four of the trial campuses, which will most likely include opportunities to participate in a Web-based survey and/or focus group-style evaluation," Pesha said. "We will not only be assessing the habits of students' use of the product, but also evaluate students' response and feedback on the product itself."

Pesha said the electronic edition's availability to students could continue into the 2010-2011 academic year, but this depends on the results of the year's trial run.

"We're using the MU campus and the three others as a trial and we'll decide where to go from there," Pesha said. "We're looking to improve accessibility and learn what is the best opportunity for us in this realm."

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