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Journalism Grad School Websites: A Competitive Analysis Brief

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This brief reviews the market landscape for graduate science journalism programs through analysis of the websites used to represent those programs and recruit applicants.

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Journalism Grad School Websites: A Competitive Analysis Brief

  1. 1. COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS BRIEF University Graduate Programs in Science Journalism Prepared by Gary Schroeder
  2. 2. Competitive Analysis Brief - Introduction Direct Competitors Boston University Mass. Institute of Technology New York University Indirect Competitors University of California Sana Cruz Johns Hopkins University Laurentian University Our value proposition is that the Stony Brook University School of Journalism, with its close ties to the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and the Program in Public Health, offers unique and affordable educational opportunities including teachers with real-world experience, a modern $1.3 million newsroom, proximity to New York City which gives students access to valuable internships, and a wide range of visiting lecturers all at a lower cost than private universities. Our team conducted competitive research (see spreadsheet in Appendix) to review and compare universities offering graduate degrees in journalism that explicitly emphasize skills and experience useful in science and technology reporting. The goal of this analysis is to evaluate the current offerings for the customer segment that includes individuals with journalism backgrounds and those with science or health backgrounds looking to either enter the field of science/technology journalism or expand their options within the field. While many graduate journalism degree programs exist, a significant problem for this customer segment is identifying a school that offers an attractive and affordable graduate program specifically in science and technology journalism. The current marketplace for graduate science writing is very limited and includes just a few schools in direct competition. Indirect competitors for this segment include schools which offer less intensive certificate programs in lieu of a full Masters degree. This review was conducted February 2016.
  3. 3. Direct Competitors Value Proposition Offers an intense curriculum leading to a Masters degree, in which students develop the skills necessary to succeed in the competitive and rapidly evolving science communication industry. Pros Co-director is a veteran science, environment and medical writer with a number of science-related published books to his name. 2nd Co-Director writes about science and public policy for several notable national magazines. Cons The program website includes no student profiles or faculty profiles beyond the co- directors. Value Proposition Offers a chance to work closely with a distinguished core faculty of award- winning journalists, authors, and scholars within one of the most exciting scientific communities in the world. Pros Provides students with opportunity to work with academics at one of the world's most prestigious technical universities. Website carries student profiles. Cons Overall, a surprisingly weak website with thin content and outdated design. Serves as a poor ambassador for their program. Value Proposition Faculty bills themselves as storytellers with a passion for science. The Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University is one of the world’s oldest and most successful science journalism training programs. Pros Boasts a Director with strong science writing credentials. Offers students opportunities for relevant field trips, conference attendance, and fellowships. Cons No obvious weaknesses. This program is well represented online and looks very competitive in the segment of interest. Boston University MIT New York University
  4. 4. Direct Competitor – Science Journalism M.S. Boston University http://www.bu.edu/com/academics/degree-programs/ms-in-science-journalism/ The BU website has an attractive, fresh design with a clear call to action right on the home page that immediately engages the prospective student. Course offerings are easy to find, complete, and clear. They’re linked directly from the “see what you’ll learn” button on the home page. The website emphasizes the program’s two co-directors above almost everything else. Unless the student is familiar with their names, this might be a poor choice. Other faculty profiles are available, but they’re buried and are every easy to miss.
  5. 5. Direct Competitor – Science Journalism M.S. New York University http://journalism.nyu.edu/graduate/programs/science-health-and-environmental-reporting/ The website avoids making the program look like a mysterious black box by carrying both faculty and student profiles, putting an inviting human face on the program. Features a clear list of appealing internship opportunities. Easy to find via clear navigation. While the copy on the website is well written and makes the program seem exciting, the presentation of the content is dry and inefficiently delivered. Too much information is served up on a single page, draining its energy and fatiguing the reader.
  6. 6. Indirect Competitor – Science Journalism University of California Santa Cruz http://scicom.ucsc.edu/about/ This website clearly lays out what it is that a student is potentially signing up for. Third-party validation of the quality of their program is included. Unlike some Direct Competitors, the designers of this site chose to clearly emphasize internship opportunities, something especially important in a field as competitive as science journalism. The quality of the program is further promoted by including references to articles written by alumni that have been published in objectively prestigious magazines. An indirect competitor because they do not offer a full Masters degree.
  7. 7. Indirect Competitor – Science Journalism Johns Hopkins University http://advanced.jhu.edu/academics/certificate-programs/science-writing/ The Johns Hopkins science writing graduate certificate may actually be a fine program, but their website does a poor job of making the prospective student feel any enthusiasm for it. The entire pitch for the program is made via one long wall of text that few would have the stamina to plow through.
  8. 8. Influencers in Website Design Boston University http://www.bu.edu/com/academics/internships-opportunities In the highly competitive field of science journalism, internships can be particularly important to prospective students. And while many science communications sites reviewed list internship opportunities, most don’t do it well. The Boston University website features an excellent user interface for navigating internship possibilities starting with an obvious call to action button followed by easy-to-navigate options for browsing on-campus and off-campus opportunities, both within the U.S. and abroad.
  9. 9. Competitive Analysis Brief - Summary Direct Competitors Boston University Mass. Institute of Technology New York University Indirect Competitors University of California Sana Cruz Johns Hopkins University Laurentian University Current Marketplace There are many universities in the U.S. currently offering graduate degrees in journalism, but few of them specialize explicitly in science and technology journalism. Other universities that do offer instruction in science journalism offer only certificate programs and not full masters degrees. Most programs, regardless of whether they offer a certificate or a degree host fairly small class sizes--sometimes as few as ten per graduating class. Opportunity Given these facts, there is a clear (though limited) market space in which a major university can offer a financially viable science journalism masters degree program. We know from our market research that a field of potential students exists for such a program. While that applicant pool exists, we also know from our research that it’s a small one. Any university offering a graduate science journalism degree is unlikely to see enormous financial returns. Recommendations We learned from our customer survey and competitive analysis that Stony Brook University has two strengths in its favor with regard to a graduate science journalism program: its proximity to New York City (considered a prime location for opportunities for communications professionals) and its ownership of a high-tech communications studio outfitted with modern hardware. SBU should continue to emphasize these factors in its future recruitment campaigns. On the converse, we learned that the connection with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science may not be a significant deciding factor for prospective students in which case it should either be de-emphasized in future efforts or its benefits should be better explained.

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