Greek-themed newspaper finds niche on campus
INDIANAPOLIS -- A weekly newspaper for fraternity and sorority members is gaining a foothold on college campuses across the Midwest, and the two Indiana University graduates who launched the publication say they hope to have a nationwide presence by September.
The Odyssey is the brainchild of Evan Burns and Adrian France. It made its debut at IU last year and is now also found at Purdue, Michigan State and Miami University in Ohio.
Burns and France say the tabloid-sized publication has been profitable from its first issue and has a projected revenue of $2 million this year. They hope to appear on 40 campuses by the 2011-2012 school year.
Each issue is customized by campus and is distributed free at fraternity and sorority houses, student union buildings, coffee shops and other sites. A team of student publishers and on-campus ad representatives provides content and revenue support.
"It's not a matter of just laying the newspapers around," Burns said. "It's a matter of putting them in the right location, like right in the dining hall of the fraternity and sorority houses. It's right there as students eat and with nothing else to do. It's all about removing the barriers of entry to our publication."
The success of the paper, produced out of their dorm rooms last year, prompted the two to find investors and begin work on a headquarters in Indianapolis. They plan to hire 15 full-time staffers by Aug. 1 and have launched a website and are developing applications for several mobile devices.
The articles cover topics specific to the Greek community and broader interest pieces on local music scenes and social media.
"There was no publication highlighting the good works of the fraternities and sororities on campus," said France, who, like Burns, was part of several IU Greek leadership groups. "Everybody likes reading about their friends and other members of their group."
The young entrepreneurs don't seem fazed that their product is succeeding at a time when the newspaper industry is struggling.
"We found a print publication put in the right location can rise above the noise level of everything else and gain people's attention," Burns said.
IU journalism dean Brad Hamm said The Odyssey has identified a unique niche and that print publications still have a place in a digital age.
"Lots of people still walk around in the community they reside and pick up things and read them," Hamm said. "Specialty publications still have a strong business model, and a college campus is a perfect community to distribute this type of publication."
Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, http://www.ibj.com
[The Odyssey Website is http://olympiamediagroup.com ]