German newspaper Die Zeit has long been publishing articles aimed at student readers, with a focus on life before, during and after university, and its print Zeit Campus Magazine has been around for 10 years.
But before launching the Zeit Campus online portal in May 2016, all this content for millennials was either spread across zeit.de or collected under a section of the website called 'Studium'. It didn't feel like a dedicated space for this audience, explained Christian Röpke, chief executive of Zeit Online.
Zeit Campus combines a set of three "tools", which support prospective students in their journey of finding the right field, course and university that fit their needs, with editorial content produced by a dedicated team of two people who also work with freelancers. Some articles from the print magazine are also republished online.
The tools, which the organisation built some six years ago, contain a quiz, a ranking page and additional information about 16,000 study courses available across German universities. They can be used together or individually.
"At the time, a lot of people were saying it was risky because there were other platforms in the market that were already catering to this audience, like studieren.de," Röpke told Journalism.co.uk.
"But in the end we had the best tools, the best database and the best content and we have a great brand that has a lot of credibility with people in this age group."
'The first of these, 'What field really suits me?' contains 70 questions that help a prospective student narrow down their academic interests. They then go on to 'Where can I study?', where the algorithm matches their profile from the first round with suitable courses, before they get to the final part, the ranking. 'Which university is best for me?' helps individuals choose a university offering their chosen course based on different criteria, including geographical area and reputation for a certain field or study level.
This summer, Zeit Campus will expand to include a jobs board tailored for students just out of university, as well as recent graduates with only one or two years of experience. The business model of the educational portal consists of revenue from advertising – display from employers who are looking to recruit, and classified ads – so the new feature will add to these revenue streams.
Zeit Online also offers subscriptions, which give readers access to additional content from the magazine and to events. Classified and display advertising still brings in more revenue than subscriptions, Röpke said, although the latter is "catching up fast" and he expects reader revenue to overtake advertising in 2018.
"We're very lucky at Zeit Online that we have a good classifieds market – we are a market leader in print and online for academic positions in Germany.
"We've always been strong in these niches but we've never taken the approach of going broader, which is what we are trying to do with this jobs board."
The Zeit Campus team can see how many people have taken the test or used the tools, as readers are asked to register if they want to save their progress to return to later, Röpke told Nieman Lab's Joseph Lichterman at the WAN-IFRA Digital Media Europe event in Copenhagen last month.
The articles that accompany the quiz and ranking look at issues such as left wing protests, or the experiences of young people who are over-qualified but unemployed, or why a young voter whose values identify with the Social Democratic Party of Germany is voting for the Conservative Party. Zeit Campus also features reader submissions occasionally, which are curated and edited by the team.
All these stories are promoted on social media both on Zeit Campus' own accounts, but also on the main Zeit Online Facebook and Twitter pages. Zeit Online has about 11 million unique users per month and in April, Zeit Campus drew 1.7 million visitors to its university tools and editorial content.
The organisation is focused on reaching millennials through its stories, language and formats, but also through events.
Last year, when Zeit Online turned 20, the team decided to celebrate by hosting an event with young people in the style of an 'unconference'. They invited readers interested in attending to submit ideas for discussions and debates they would like to explore. From 10,000 submissions received, 600 people attended the two-day Z2X festival in Berlin, and another large scale event is scheduled to take place again in Berlin in September.
"We're creating a whole movement around millennials who want to talk about changing the political landscape.
"It's not something we'll get rich from, but we can do a lot of work to get to know them better and it's got a lot do with credibility within that community too," said Röpke.
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