By Eoghan Barry
The social calendar for DCU has adapted with society and entered the platform of the world wide web in a fresh and distinct manner. According to the editor, we are now the first Irish university to publish an e-zine with the added element of exclusive deals and coupons. But can this new online publication survive and succeed in the already existing minefield of top quality student media?
The first time I heard that DCU’s new social student website was called greatcraic.ie, I honestly almost choked on my coffee. I turned the laptop to a few classmates and they couldn’t help but laugh. It was nothing more than a brief bout of cynicism, the return to college being the spur of our mood and consequent reaction, but we could all agree on one thing, the name was certainly very stereotypically DCU.
It suited the scene of “shifts”, “Quinn’s” and the likes down to a tee, and admittedly these words send shivers down my spine. Nevertheless, I logged onto greatcraic.ie and was astounded to find an amazingly professional website that covered everything that needed covering, and full of printable offers and coupons that I could definitely see myself using. There was a lack of content, but this was understandable as it had only gone online three days previous.
I needed to find out more about this new website, which would potentially play a big role with regard to the social side of current and future student’s college lives. For the moment, I would have to forget about the name, maintain objectivity, and organise a meeting with the creator.
“It’s like… entertainment.ie meets citydeals”. Laois born DCU graduate and the brains behind the website, Emer Fitzgerald sat opposite me, enthusiastically ready to explain anything I wanted to know. It was clear to see why Emer had been recently employed as Communications and Marketing Officer, she really knew how to spin a positive web of publicity for her website and it was steadily changing my mind on any doubts I had.
“It will be based around events, and, as an incentive for students to go on, we’ll have offers.” she told me. “We’re going to have a commercial aspect as well, so basically the more money we make on it, we will invest it back into the development of the site and the students who are writing for it.”
“Paid reporters? You’re saying that there’s scope for you to pay your writers in the future?” I was shocked. Never did I imagine that a university publication would consider paying their staff, experience traditionally being valued far above material gratitude within the system. This needed to be clarified.
“Well, if GreatCraic is making money and we can get good advertising, of course!” Emer went on to explain. “It’s very much in its infancy but I like to think that the base is there, the framework is there for something I think could be really brilliant. We do need to bring in revenue but I think we can if the content is good enough and we have the belief behind it. So yeah, certainly!”
This aspect of greatcraic.ie undoubtedly adds an element of professionalism to the project. Emer had taken into serious consideration the cost of releasing a weekly publication, which was largely being paid for with students’ money. Already she had managed to cover the cost of the website with advertising revenue from Domino’s pizza, who occupies two columns on either side of the website’s homepage.
I began to warm to the idea of this website replacing Campus magazine. I was still concerned about the fact that there wouldn’t be a fun magazine to pick up in the Hub every week but for those traditional folk out there like myself who are stuck in the rut of an obsession with physical copy as opposed to the digital world, good news lay ahead.
“We’re still going to have a publication every two weeks, a ‘flip’ magazine – one side is greatcraic.ie, flip it over and it’s DCU Students’ Union. The greatcraic.ie section will act as a teaser for what’s online so there will be, say, half a feature and it’ll be like to read more, log on to greatcraic.ie. Then when you flip it over, it’s going to be the Students’ Union, because the Students’ Union is very important as well, there’s messages they need to get out and you can’t rely on online communications channels all the time so it’s almost like a newsletter, lighter so not as costly and only every two weeks.”
The official launch of greatcraic.ie took place on Monday October 10th, so I was really excited to find out what was in store and asked Emer what she had planned.
She said there would be a photo call, external press, internal coverage and PR. “… and then I think the party is going to be somewhere fun, with loads of pizza…” Emer paused. ‘This sounds great’ I thought, picturing the NuBar looking like a Domino’s tasting headquarters meets Toxic Tuesday, pints and pizzas galore. She continued, “And it’s going to be kind of exclusive, so we’re going to have class reps, clubs and societies chairs and our team.”
This, I felt, was the wrong answer, and the first element of greatcraic.ie that could turn people off the website (if that were to happen). It’s not uncommon to hear the odd student having a wee bitch about the exclusivity of the SU family and its affiliates, and this is the message that the launch conveyed. This approach to the launch also misses out on the potential to advertise to the direct market by reaching out to students and connecting with them. My picture of the Nubar would have seen friendships being built between the website and the student body, but construction of barriers is instead the likely outcome.
Before I left, I had to ask, “Where did the name greatcraic.ie come from?” Emer laughed. “I don’t actually know how it came to me, but basically it’s great craic, everything that’s going to be on it will be great craic, it’s just a student phrase… well everyone uses it really, all the time, so when Ed and I looked up the URL and found it wasn’t taken we couldn’t believe it. It’s just so simple.” I began to understand the name. This website is aimed at the masses in DCU, and it is quite a familiar and easy-to-remember phrase. The letters rolled off my fingers any time I had to type the address, and they really got lucky finding the unused URL.
Greatcraic.ie has outstanding potential, and from a technological point of view, has been designed for students to run themselves for years to come. Emer even indicated plans for a greatcraic.ie app in the future. From what I have discovered, the website needs but three elements to achieve the roaring success that it deserves; the expected advertising revenue, a team of damn good writers and some high volume clever advertising to imprint the website into the heads of 11,000 students.