10,000 strong

The Torch strikes a big web milestone

From informing, illuminating, sharing, conversing, shocking, thrilling, and chilling, the Ferris State University Torch has done it all in 92 years. Thenn, in the last 15 we’ve done all of that but made it accessible to you on a device that fits in your pocket or bag.

Last week with the release of my column “They’re more than a headline,” our website reached a huge milestone of 10,000 posts. From news to sports, opinions to culture, lifestyle and arts and entertainment, we’ve transmitted an estimated five and a half million words to our readers through their screens since August of 2009.

Born out of tragedy

To learn where this all began, we had to look back to an old leader of ours to get the story. Former 2009 Torch Editor in Chief turned marketing and communication professional Kelsey Schnell filled us in on the history.

“An accident happened on Wednesday after [production] and obviously, it was a huge deal that one student had an accident with another,” Schnell said. “It was nobody’s fault. It was bad weather. It was a problem. But we had no way of telling people what happened.”

Schnell explained that while the Torch did have a website, it was nothing like we know it today. Before the Torch launched any type of living website, one did exist from the university, but it could only have static PDF added to it. It wasn’t even searchable.

“We had a good relationship with the Public Safety units where they would tell us everything they knew,” Schnell said. “But we couldn’t change the website for another week. We had a Facebook page, but we didn’t have a deep following. Facebook and Twitter still really limited the content that you could put out there. so we created a Tumblr.”

While Tumblr worked for the time being, it was just a stepping stone for what we know today. After a year of idea generation and development, the Torch moved away from its static university site and live blog to what we know and love today courtesy of the work of Torch alumni Brandon Martinez.

The website also breathed new life into the Torch in another way: revenue. While we were still selling ad space in our physical papers, a little extra money in the budget never hurt.

“The website provided a new revenue stream in that we could sell ads and they were economical,” Schnell said. “We didn’t do anything with paid social, but you know, that was the first time we actually broke even.”


As we sit, we’re still putting more of our focus and energy into our print edition. Our target audience may be full of web-first users, sure, but a university newspaper just fits in a different box for most people. Due to our production schedule, and the fact we’re all still students, we’re just not producing the up-to-the-minute coverage those platforms are designed for.

While we still do have a presence on social media and the web, we just serve a different audience. News editor Jessica Oakes puts it best.

“We’re in an interesting realm for news,” Oakes said. “I do see young people pick up the Torch and read it physically because it’s already there. But if we want people to use the Torch website, we have to put it in front of them like we put it in front of them at the Eisler center.”

We’ve definitely started to do that through our social media, and we’re already seeing more engagement just from our consistency alone. Thank you for that, without you joining us on social media, we wouldn’t be able to inform in quite the same way as we do now. We also would not able to as easily garner your feedback and commentary on issues that matter most to you.

These digital tools have given us the power to add your voice to the conversation in real-time. Whether it be for something as basic as polling you on whether you’d get a folding phone or collecting your thoughts and concerns on a tragedy, it has enabled us to include our readership in our journalism like we never have before.

It has also allowed us to connect you with our work like never before. Freshman Torch reporter Harmony Goodman spoke on how the integration between the physical and digital worlds makes now the best time to be a consumer.

“Take the QR code, for example,” Goodman said. “It’s just that when you print it out on paper, but when you scan it with your phone, it can open you up to a whole new world. Like last month when we did the playlists or the calendar of events.”

We’ve hit a sweet spot where we can marry these two worlds and make a cohesive, immersive experience that piques your interest, then gets you all of the information you could further need.


If we have it so good now, what’s next?

Well, everyone I spoke to in regard to this topic gave me very similar answers. Print news isn’t going anywhere just yet.

“I think it’s not going to fully disappear,” Oakes said. “If it becomes rare, I think it’ll be something that’s cyclical. Where if something crazy happens, and we have a fully digital society, we will probably pay some type of consequence.”

As for the Torch, we’re going to be print forward until it no longer makes sense to be. Until we can be in front of you online as easily as reaching over and grabbing one of our editions off a table, you’ll still be able to find us all around campus and Big Rapids.

“I think smaller publications need to remember what their specific value is,” Oakes said. “Someone will like the Torch or the Pioneer more than they like the Wall Street Journal or MSNBC because they know them. They know who wrote the stories, and they might be in them. So without sacrificing quality, we have to remember what it takes to get an 18 to 24-year-old to read news and make it digestible for them to maintain a relationship with the audience online.”

While you can always pick us up at a newsstand around campus, take a moment and join us online at fsutorch.com or on our socials @fsutorch on our road to the next 10,000 online posts.