The Pitt News

From print, to online, to Flickr: the state of Pitt’s yearbook

By Nerine Sivagnanam / Staff Writer

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When it comes to memories at Pitt, a web-based photo platform has beaten out the hard copy of the yearbook.

Last November, Student Affairs and Student Government Board made the decision to reallocate approximately $40,000 needed to print Pitt’s yearbook, Panther Prints, and eliminate publication of the hard copy. Last spring was the first time Pitt didn’t print the yearbook, which it had published annually since 1907. Student Affairs has also discontinued an online version of the yearbook, which was meant to replace the print version.

Instead, Student Affairs has created a Flickr account to host photos that it might otherwise have printed in the yearbook. Students are unfazed. 

“Not a single student has expressed any concern,” Shawn Ahearn, spokesperson for Student Affairs, said.

After the elimination of the print format, Student Affairs briefly established an online yearbook through the yearbook vendor TreeRing. Through this platform, students could upload their personal photos, but Student Affairs has discontinued that project as well, Ahearn said. 

“We simply could no longer justify investing so much time, energy and expenses into something that so few students care about,” Ahearn said, referring to both the print and online versions of the yearbook.

In 2013, only 40 of the 3,500 seniors on Pitt’s campus purchased a print yearbook, The Pitt News reported then, and only 114 signed up for free access to the online yearbook in 2014.

Despite students’ lack of interest, Student Affairs hopes the Flickr account will serve as a viable replacement for the yearbook. The account, which Student Affairs created in March 2014, has 71 albums and more than 1,400 photos. Student Affairs also now occupies Panther Prints’ former William Pitt Union office.

This Flickr account wasn’t the original plan for a yearbook replacement. 

After Student Affairs and SGB took notice during the 2012-2013 school year of the fact that students were losing interest in the print yearbook, they proposed several possible replacements, including a “traditions book” for first-year students. According to Ahearn, this project never materialized, again due to a lack of interest.

The $40,000 previously used to publish Panther Prints came from Pitt’s Student Activities Fee. 

At $50 per yearbook, Ahearn said, Student Life couldn’t justify continuing its production. 

Unlike the yearbook, the Flickr account is not funded through the Student Activities Fee but has been integrated into Student Affairs. “Two or three” Student Affairs marketing interns are responsible for shooting photos for a variety of reasons, Ahearn said, one of which is to post to the Flickr account, which chronicles events throughout the year. Ahearn said he would not discuss how much Student Affairs pays its interns or how much it costs to run the Flickr account. 

Jordan Vogt, a senior environmental studies major, is one of these interns and is responsible for photographing Pitt events and posting them to the Student Affairs Flickr account.

Having a Flickr account for Pitt students to access is “convenient for those behind the scenes as well as for those who attended the event,” Vogt said.

In 2013, The Pitt News reported that a majority of the 716 students who responded to an SGB survey said they favored discontinuing the yearbook’s production.

Graeme Meyer, current SGB president, said the 2013 Board used these statistics to reach its final decision to eliminate production of the hard copy of the yearbook. 

Sophomore, applied developmental psychology major, Ellie Robison said she was not aware of the previous yearbook’s existence.

“The yearbook would be a huge waste of paper,” Robison said. 

At present, Student Affairs has not yet marketed the Flickr account, but it plans to do so this summer and over the course of the school year. Ahearn said he did not have any statistics on how many students have viewed the Flickr so far. 

Pitt’s elimination of its yearbook may also be representative of a larger, national trend.

Other universities — such as fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Duke, which published its 103rd yearbook this year — are also repurposing student fees away from yearbooks. Before this year, student fees paid for Duke’s yearbook, according to Brian Crews, a spokesman in Duke’s student affairs office.

“This year is the first year students must pay for the yearbook,” Crews said. 

Crews said that Duke may launch an official Flickr page like Pitt’s in the upcoming year, but for now, there is a stronger focus on the hard copy because students will have to purchase it. 

Yearbook companies aren’t losing business, according to Tyler Allen, a spokesperson and industry researcher for IBISWorld Inc., a company that specializes in economic research.

While the money spent per student on yearbooks has indeed declined, he said, more students are buying them because enrollment in schools has increased in recent years.

For Entourage Yearbooks, a company that publishes yearbooks, sales are actually on the rise, according to Anthony Hunter, associate account manager at Entourage. 

“A lot of schools still have them, and seniors still buy them. They’re a way to capture memories,” Hunter said. 

Back at Pitt, though, some students, like India Gray, a sophomore applied developmental psychology major, say the Flickr page is a better financial option.

“The Flickr is better because it’s free. Not many people would want to spend the money on a yearbook,” Gray said.

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From print, to online, to Flickr: the state of Pitt’s yearbook