Yik Yak
Credit: Screenshot from UFJSchool on YouTube.

The University of Florida College for Journalism and Communications is hoping to change the way students receive news.

Teaming up with Yik Yak – an anonymous social media app that allows users to post 200-word, geolocated 'Yaks' – the university's journalism students post headlines, stories and calls to action, available only to users within a one and a half mile radius of the campus.

"It's an experiment for both us and Yik Yak," Randy Bennett, director of entrepreneurship and partnerships at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, told Journalism.co.uk, "and hopefully people will engage with it and learn news from these geolocal-based apps.

This could be a potential source of news for other local media outlets, where they could gather stories and promote what they're doingRandy Bennett, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications
"It's really the first time that someone's really tried to produce an ongoing stream of local information. So we're learning what people are doing and how they'll react to it."

The project soft launched at the end of March, when students began sending out 'Yaks' to the local 'Peek' – the name given to Yik Yak community feeds.

"We wanted to see what the process was like sending out those Yaks, that way we could gauge which content was the most interesting and engaging."

Users can up- or down-vote Yaks, giving valuable feedback as to which stories are popular around campus.

"There was a lot of interest in local events and sports," Bennett said. "It's still early, we'll know more in a month or so when there is more widespread use."

Yik Yak does not shorten links like Twitter or some other social media platforms, limiting the capability to link out to full stories in some cases, but the university is experimenting with how best to share stories.

"This could be a potential source of news for other local media outlets, where they could gather stories and promote what they're doing," Bennett said.

Naming the feed Swamp Juice after a local football stadium, Bennett said the aim is to engage with students by presenting the project in a light-hearted manner.

"Understanding who our audience is – millennials on the campus – it seemed best to have a little humour to get them interested."

And as the project continues, the university hopes to experiment with other apps and services "and see what happens", said Bennett.

"Once it's out there I wouldn't be surprised if other journalism colleges and campuses also try to develop that sort of relationship with Yik Yak."

The Yik Yak promo video from UFJSchool on YouTube

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