WSJ’s virtual Student Editor Summit increases engagement with college students

By Stephanie Wood

The Wall Street Journal

New York

At The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), we deeply value the connection we have with our collegiate readers and are always striving to provide students with unique opportunities and experiences to expand their understanding of WSJ.

Before the pandemic, these experiences largely happened in person on individual campuses. In the shift to virtual, we were able to take our tentpole events, including our Student Editor Summit, online and remove physical limitations so that any student from our partner universities could attend.

The Student Editor Summit started four years ago as a small event for local college students who were studying journalism to receive career advice from a panel of WSJ journalists. The event grew as more students became interested in learning about the different aspects of journalism and possible career paths. We began taking the Student Editor Summit series to campuses across the country, inviting students from the hosting college and nearby campuses to hear from WSJ reporters and editors in a day-long event.

Even though they have moved online, the Student Editor Summit series hosted by WSJ has been well attended.
Even though they have moved online, the Student Editor Summit series hosted by WSJ has been well attended.

When the coronavirus pandemic shifted our teams to working online, we also shifted our events to the digital sphere. We successfully pivoted the Student Editor Summit to a virtual event, open to all university students regardless of major. The success of these events in the early part of the pandemic, along with the encouraging feedback from students, led to a three-part series of the Student Editor Summit this spring.

Our 2021 spring semester Student Editor Summit series launched in February, with our event Bringing New Voices to the Newsroom. The panel was a continuation of WSJ’s news literacy initiative, focused on educating audiences on how WSJ’s news and opinion departments operate independently.

Our panelists spoke about the changes taking place in the WSJ newsroom and how new voices are being incorporated into our journalism. The conversation also explored how the Journal’s Standards and Ethics policies shape the work produced by the newsroom.

The following panel in March, Reporting Through Turbulent Times: A Look Back at 2020, explored how our newsroom adapted to working remotely and covered some of the biggest stories of the year. The final event, which took place in early April, was Preparing for a Career in Journalism.

Part of the success of the events this spring is our partnership with WSJ+, which is a complimentary addition to each WSJ membership providing exclusive invites to events and special offers. The support through this platform allows us to reduce the number of clicks students need to make to take advantage of a student membership and register for the event, allowing us to expand the reach of promotions.

With the WSJ+ partnership, the events have helped to increase the collegiate audience by 10.8% on the Plus platform, with engagement rising to 8% over average at the same time. The engagement with the platform is an encouraging indicator that students are likely to use their membership more often and continue their membership in the future.

We have also seen strong engagement with the events. We had more than 1,300 registrants across the first two events, with more than 555 students attending. This is a 225% increase in registrants and a 200% increase in retention from the prior year. And with 61% of the attendees downloading our PDF event guide, which includes information on the speakers, complimentary WSJ resources for students, and additional WSJ+ opportunities, we can forecast they are more likely to be engaged with WSJ in the future.

Our post-event survey also supports this. Of the 41% of attendees who learned about WSJ student memberships for the first time through the event they attended, more than half of them would be more likely to take advantage of a membership in the future. And among those who had a membership prior to the event, 100% of them said they would use WSJ more in the future, with 93% of them saying they would encourage their peers to use WSJ in the future.

We plan to continue the Summits in the future, developing them with the feedback students provide so we can continue to offer a unique experience for students that encourages their understanding of WSJ and their engagement with our journalism.

About Stephanie Wood

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