Writer’s Residence et al: just how stupid do you think journalism students are?

Writer’s Residence is a web service which thinks journalism students are stupid.

“Student journalists worldwide can register for a free, one-year membership to an online writing portfolio Web site that they can use to show off their writing and demonstrate their web savvy to potential employers.”

After that? “Membership costs only $8.29 US Dollars per month.”

Have these people heard of WordPress? Blogger.com? LiveJournal? Even Typepad is cheaper than that.

Their target market – at least if they attend lectures, if they read the trade press, if they speak to their friends – have certainly heard of those.

They’re far from the only ones not to have done their market research: in a similar vein, every month I get approached by yet another citizen journalism outfit which sees students as a source of free content, and therefore money.

“Get your work seen by thousands of people!” they chant. “They already can,” I reply. “And they already do. Their websites got 50,000 hits last month. How many did yours get?”


11 thoughts on “Writer’s Residence et al: just how stupid do you think journalism students are?

  1. Matthew Bennett

    "outfit which sees students as a source of free content, and therefore money." Large parts of the Spanish economy, not just shoddy web outfits, are based on that very principle.

  2. Tim Harding

    Hi, Firstly, Writer's Residence is not a citizen journalism outfit. Nor do we believe students are stupid. Our service is easy to use and well supported. You create your own website with features specifically designed for journalists and writers. We do not aggregate or sell content of those who choose to create a portfolio on our site. We are, as you say, in competition with blog hosting providers but we believe we offer significant differentiation that is worth paying for. Our one year free offering includes absolutely no obligation to stay with the service at the end of the process and if you bring your own domain, a feature we support, you can simply move your content to another service at the end of the trial if you care to with no questions asked. Thank you, Tim Harding Writer's Residence tim@writersresidence.com

  3. Jonathan Walker

    It strikes me that the process of creating their own website with features specifically designed for journalists and writers would be more useful for journalism students than using a ready-made one. Even if it turns out WordPress + plugins can't create something as flash as Writers Residence is offering (and I don't know whether that's true or not), the student would gain experience in using a CMS or blogging platform, which could end up being just as useful in their future career as experience writing stories.

  4. Paul Bradshaw

    Thanks for responding Tim – forgive the acerbity: I wasn't suggesting WR was a citizen journo outfit – the citizen journo outfits just demonstrate a similar naivety about student journalists. I'd be interested to know how it is differentiated from the other services – and your site probably needs to address this head-on. I'd also want to know how easy it is to export content from your service to, say, WordPress if the student wants to leave after the free year? (again that's something that would be worth addressing on the site) Look forward to the answers.

  5. Paul Bradshaw

    Agreed, it's better than nothing. But I see no evidence to suggest it is better than a blog hosting service. The sample website is the same as a blog would be, and that's without plugins.

  6. Jonathan Walker

    Just to clarify, as I don't think I expressed myself well – I'm suggesting students would benefit most from being sent to wordpress.com and encouraged to do it all themselves, as the process of learning how to create a blog (as part of a class project, perhaps?) would be more valuable than having a ready-made site (even supposing, for argument's sake, the ready-made version was better in many ways).

  7. TheWorstofPerth

    The advantages would have to be very big to get someone to pay. Tim, you didn't really outline how it is better.

  8. Tim Harding

    I definitely agree that there's value in the process of learning a blogging platform. In fact, this product was inspired by my partner who built a website and portfolio using WordPress. Although she learned a lot, she also saw many ways in which the process could be simplified and tailored for writing portfolios. That's why we created Writer's Residence. We've found that there's a set of people who are willing to learn a blogging platform and another set of people who want to set up a website quickly so they can focus on their writing rather than learning CSS and HTML. We're trying to serve the latter market, be they journalism students or aspiring short story writers. We differentiate by having simple tools and templates specifically designed for the sorts of things that writers would be interested in (for example, uploading and displaying clips and writing samples). We also offer personal email and phone support with quick turn-around. As for the export, we currently don't support export to WordPress or any other platform. Our service is a CMS, not a blog; however we could stand to be more clear about this on our website and we'll certainly consider implementing an export tool if our users want it. We want to give students free accounts because we understand that people who are getting started in the writing market don't usually have much money to spare. At the same time, we want to give them something to help them establish their careers. If we can improve our product, then we're open to ideas. This thread alone has certainly given us a lot to think about and any specific suggestions are very welcome. Feel free to post them here or email me personally. Thanks, Tim

  9. Paul Bradshaw

    Thanks – although students using a blog don't need to learn any HTML or CSS. The telephone support is probably the strongest part of your service and I'm sure there's a market of people who would appreciate that hand-holding, but I'm not sure it would be a significant one.

  10. Mac Slocum

    I'm certainly not opposed to services that help students and freelancers, but it seems to me the real value in something like this comes through connections and potential gigs (e.g. mediabistro), not the technology — which as you note, Paul, is freely available elsewhere. Also – @Jonathan Walker – while I agree that exposure to content management systems is important, I also think the sort of *in-depth* exposure that comes from finding, managing and tweaking these systems leads to a valuable technology skill set that can set individuals apart. Being able to write, edit, create multimedia packages *and* pop the hood on a CMS is a fantastic collection of talents that can help journalists navigate the shifts within the industry.

  11. Pingback: Thursday squibs : Notes from a Teacher

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