At a time when many news publications on college campuses nationwide are moving toward online content, it has become increasingly hard to sustain print production. In response to this pressure, the Bowdoin Globalist has decided to transition to entirely online publication.

Founded as a magazine in 2011, The Bowdoin Globalist publishes long-form articles that cover topics ranging from international affairs to pop culture. Student writers are free to engage with topics of their choice.

“We didn’t want to just be an ‘Economist.’ Fundamentally, if we’re trying to be an ‘Economist’ and we’re students, we have few contacts and less experience. Why would anyone read us if they can just read the ‘Economist?’” said Globalist Editor-in-Chief Mark Pizzi ’16. “It doesn’t really make sense.”

In its new form, The Globalist is able to publish articles as they’re written, rather than waiting for the quarterly print release, and can stay more relevant in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. Additionally, the online model allows for a far greater degree of control over article length, multimedia and interactive content.

“We can actually have content that is not weirdly behind the news cycle. We’re not trying to have headlines and breaking news, but we want to be relevant and interesting to the readers,” said Globalist Editor-in-Chief Nick Tonckens ‘16.

In its first few years, the magazine went through multiple policy changes, and encountered challenges of funding and distribution. Above all, however, was the need to ensure that members of the Bowdoin community were reading and enjoying their content.

“As a publication, you always need to be concerned about momentum. You lose your best people every single year,” said Tonckens. “You lose a quarter of potential viewership every single year. Keeping momentum is an existential challenge for the publication. We were very concerned about that.”

Student organizations are required to secure funding through the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC), which reviews and approves proposed budgets. An overwhelming majority of the magazine’s expenses involved printing and distribution, which made it difficult to justify the print model.  

In August, Pizzi, Tonckens and Globalist Editor-in-Chief Drew van Kuiken ’17 decided to move The Globalist to the web.

“I realized that I was reading more Orient articles than I was reading of anything else, because they were on my Facebook feed and my friends were writing them and saying ‘here’s what I said about this issue,’” said Pizzi. “Why are we not taking advantage of this?”

“First, [the website] would take away the time-of-publishing element. We could publish instantly,” said Tonckens. “Secondly, it costs $100 per year instead of $3,000. That means Bowdoin is paying a fraction of the cost, and we don’t have to do quite as much work to get the funding. The third issue is distribution. We can now publish individual articles by Facebook and Twitter and instantly get exposure.”

Less than a month into its online presence, The Globalist has already experienced the benefits of social media exposure. In the past, 300 copies of the magazine were distributed around campus. One recently-published article has accumulated almost 900 views, highlighting the power of likes, shares and retweets.

Transitioning from a completely-print to completely-digital publication isn’t as easy as creating a Blogspot account and choosing a flashy default theme. Web Architect Jack Ward ’19, with Pizzi’s design input, developed the website after a series of unforeseen challenges and total re-boots.

“We were sold on a certain framework for [the site] by someone in Bowdoin IT, assuming we’d be able to host it through Bowdoin. That was not the case, but we had to stick to this framework because of time,” said Ward.

Ward and Pizzi eventually decided on using WordPress, allowing simultaneous work on the site’s structure and creative design.

“One of the things I wanted to ensure was that it didn’t look like other WordPress sites,” said Ward. “In a lot of ways, it was harder than doing it from scratch, because I had to fight the framework that we were sold on so much.”

In the future, the site will include more video and interactive content.

Ultimately, The Globalist allows student writers to look outside the Bowdoin bubble, analyze what they find and improve their writing abilities in the process. Many members of the Globalist staff hope to develop a strong portfolio of long-form journalism and apply these skills beyond their four years on campus. Diversifying from the original international relations-focused model, according to Tonckens, aids this process.

“The writing gets better when you’re not just writing international relations pieces all the time,” he said. “There’s some format or template that a lot of people tend towards. It’s a bit academic, dry, and formulaic—less interesting to write as well as read. When you cover topics that are less covered and are not as strictly IR-focused, you do get more interesting writing. Your writers grow as a result.”