will facebook ring the death knell for yearbooks?

Our director of alumni communications and I just discussed the demise of our college yearbook. Student interest in developing the annual had waned, and when college staff tried to lead the effort, they didn’t find a lot of buyers. For us old-school writer/editor types, who view this as a historical record, this seems mystifying.

But then I realized, students already have their own yearbooks. Except the new yearbooks are dynamic (not static bound volumes), media-rich, fully interactive and they don’t cost students a penny. They’re called Facebook.

I graduated from a small high school, where our class of 86 students was unusually large. We scrawled (mostly) nice things about each other on yearbook pages and I packed the book away for only occasional reference. But what if I were already Facebook friends with all 85 classmates? Instead of having to refer to one photo of a club or athletic team, we could look back at photo galleries, events, groups or maybe even fan pages. At any time, we could interact on each others’ walls to say I miss you! or, more likely, Remember that crazy time in Mr. Tall’s class when [information redacted]?

As a one-stop snapshot, in a traditional paradigm, that yearbook seems hard to replace. But are today’s students interested in that lonely bound volume when an interactive and ever-evolving document, where new chapters are always added, is available? And especially with the crush of school budgets making it harder to produce yearbooks, are they bound to go the way of swallowing goldfish, sitting on flagpoles or pinning your best gal?

In short, will (or has) Facebook replace(d) the yearbook? And if so, are any other scholastic staples next? Feel free to scrawl your thoughts on this page! Hope we can be (Facebook) friends forever! – Tim

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3 responses to “will facebook ring the death knell for yearbooks?

  1. So far our printed college yearbook is surviving, and I hope it continues to survive for archival purposes.

    If colleges are serious about keeping their yearbooks, one approach is to promote the existence of the college yearbook to prospective students.

    For students who list yearbook among their activities on inquiry forms, an e-mail from me will often mention information about our yearbook, along with information about their other interests.

    Such an approach is helpful in recruiting and, who knows, might even be what keeps a critical mass of yearbook writers and editors on campus. Having yearbook positions be paid probably doesn’t hurt, either.

    We also keep past yearbooks on our admissions lobby coffee table. They are interesting to prospective students and parents generally, and are probably of great interest to high school students involved in yearbook.

    (Convergence might be another approach, as in merging yearbook creation in with the student newspaper. The school paper is already shooting images and writing stories, so half the battle is won.)

  2. My HS class was close to 600 people (in my parents’ day, a graduating class was close to 1400 people), so it was impossible to know everyone very well during my years in school.

    I use a yearbook to this day if I meet someone in real life who seems familiar or… if I get a Facebook request and the name isn’t ringing any bells (“Oh, we we’re really close in for like a year in grade school.).

    I never bought a college yearbook, but not because I had Facebook. Penn State was so large, and I was a commuter student, that I never really felt like there was some shared connection with the people who attended during the same time as me.

    Maybe if yearbooks were done by our college (College of Education) or by the branch campus where I started (Altoona), I would have felt some connection. But really, I was did not feel connected. Facebook allows you to make smaller communites within your larger one; a yearbook for an organization as large as my university could not.

  3. Nat

    They still hold trophy value.

    http://bu.edu/yearbook

    Students can create their own, submit their own pictures, choose what content to include/disclude, and — most importantly — pay for as much as they want. Oh, and it saves paper too.

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