Campus Reader is a new site that aggregates the feeds from 300 online college newspapers around the US. I think it does a fairly good job and the basic idea is a very good one.
The site automatically detects where a reader is located and serves up local, regional and national college news in a number of categories. Users can comment on and rate stories, top stories are highlighted in the sidebar. I really like being able to see the day’s headlines from the local college my girlfriend attends, the school in the next town that I graduated from and a couple of others from our area all in one page. Note: It’s having a hard time dealing with traffic right now, but when that’s not the case page load isn’t unbearable. Clearly a site that needs to get scaling down if it’s going to work though.
Though I haven’t been able to find anyone else leveraging Web 2.0 type tools to aggregate college news like this, it was only a matter of time. Colleges themselves have begun to embrace podcasting, blogging and RSS. Only people from outside of any particular organization were likely to make a site like this happen quickly and in a relatively attractive way. If you’re into the school 2.0 way of thinking, don’t forget to check out Brian Benzinger’s lengthy two-part coverage of Web 2.0 consumer level apps for education at SolutionWatch.
Campus Reader was created by three recent college grads in Michigan – Adam Long, Steve Richert and Carl Paulus. It’s got loads of AJAX – some of which could perform better and be better thought out. Story previews when hovering over a link (like OriginalSignal provides) would be a big improvement, but the site is slow enough now that adding more could bog it down too much. As it is, when users click on headlines they are taken to a summary page where stories can be rated and commented on. It’s a catch-22 really – everyone wants to read the full story, but an aggregation site can’t collect its own community metadata around anything more than a summary for legal reasons. The reality is, people are far more likely to leave comments after the full text of these stories on the original college paper site. Some kind of StumbleUpon or Reddit style toolbar would be useful for College Reader to provide a realistic opportunity for rating and comments on stories off site.
I love my RSS reader, and I know I could get all of my news through it, but I still stop by sites like OriginalSignal and TechMeme throughout the day. Particularly if pageload and site navigation can be improved I can see myself and many more people adding a stop at Campus Reader to the daily routine.