Higher ed site looks for niche

Inside Higher Ed — a new free, Web-based source for news, opinion and career advice for higher education — is promoting itself as a more accessible alternative to the widely read Chronicle of Higher Education, but some members of the higher education community said they were concerned that the new publication may overcrowd the niche.

Founded in 2004, Inside Higher Ed has been introduced on the coattails of its older counterpart, The Chronicle of Higher Education, as three of its editors have held executive positions at The Chronicle. Members of the higher education community said they welcomed the new resource in large part because it costs nothing.

Accessibility is the reason behind Inside Higher Ed’s standing as a free and solely online news source, co-founder and editor of Inside Higher Ed Doug Lederman said. As journalists and educators begin to use the Internet more frequently, it makes sense to create a Web-based news source that is free to everyone, he said.

“A lot of individual people and institutions who want and need high-quality news commentary and job listings simply can’t afford it,” Lederman said.

According to the Chronicle’s Web site, users in the United States must pay $82.50 for a year’s worth of issues and online access to articles.

Judith Hackman, the University’s dean of academic resources, said she used to subscribe to The Chronicle, but due to the price of its subscription she decided to cancel it. Many readers of The Chronicle also said that they prefer Web-based news sources and find them more convenient than the printed magazine. Calhoun College Master William Sledge said he reads The Chronicle’s electronic service daily and the printed version about half as often.

Sledge, a subscriber to The Chronicle, said that he is pleased with its reporting, but could imagine another publication that would offer something that The Chronicle presently does not.

“Higher education is involved in all aspects of our culture and any culture for that matter, so when something focuses on higher education, it focuses on all dimensions of our lives in one way or another,” he wrote in an e-mail.

But others said they viewed Inside Higher Ed as a redundant addition to the literature on higher education.

Phil Semas, editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Higher Education said the publication boasts a readership of 400,000 with the number of online users totaling 800,000.

“We think we provide a very complete service, online and in print,” Semas wrote in an e-mail, “so we’re not sure what gap Inside Higher Ed is trying to fill.”

Paul Berry MUS ’06, who said he is an avid reader of The Chronicle, said he would “hate” to see the academic magazine industry undergo the increasing factionalism, political partisanship and overall mediocrity of writing and reporting that he said has claimed so much of the mainstream media.

“I think The Chronicle is respected pretty highly across the board, but I suppose that lots of competition could force it to become the mouthpiece of a single side in these fractious times,” Berry wrote in an e-mail.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is facing a new challenge for readers from Inside Higher Ed, a Web site recently founded by three former staffers of the Chronicle.
Sophie Perl
The Chronicle of Higher Education is facing a new challenge for readers from Inside Higher Ed, a Web site recently founded by three former staffers of the Chronicle.

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