Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Virtual Yearbook?

The Internet and computers have combined to supplement, and sometimes replace, more traditional entities. This is certainly true in the area of publishing (let's face it; how many of you would be reading my musings if I had to, say, scrawl them down in a spiral notebook?), where news sites, blogs, and even the newspapers' own sites have replaced the "dead tree edition" for many readers. But would it work with the high school yearbook? A couple of enterprising teens think it can:
John Shin refuses to buy a copy of his high school yearbook. Instead, he's turning to the Internet to preserve and share memories of his sophomore year.
The 15-year-old has posted a collection of school-related photos and videos, as do many of his classmates. They're able to exchange virtual notes, vote for the most likely to succeed and take part in other yearbook traditions.
The Tuckahoe High School student is trying to persuade as many as his friends as possible to sign up at MyYearbook.com - and save some money, too.
"I'm going to bring everyone who matters to me to MyYearbook," said John, who attends school in Eastchester, a suburb just north of New York City. "I'm confident in that, and besides, they're like $70."
MyYearbook, founded by New Jersey sibilngs John and Catherine Cook, has just now started to raise revenue, thanks to banner ads on the site. But the founders think that their idea will fly with the plugged-in generation.
"We just think yearbooks are obsolete," said Catherine Cook, 16. "If you think about it, all you're going to do with it is put it on the shelf and never really look at it."

MyYearbook.com allows users to create a profile with separate sections for high school, college, graduate school and professional life. Students who sign up are automatically linked to others at their school.
Acting as their own editors, they can select friends from their classmates.

Members can "autograph" each others' yearbook pages. The site also connects students through school club and sports pages. Like other so-called social-networking sites, it allows members to upload photos and post messages.
Students have access to multimedia and interactive components that old-fashioned yearbooks can't offer, including a place for creating polls and storing music and videos.
The multimedia portion seems like a cool idea, especially the music part. After all, music functions as a (literal) soundtrack to one's life, especially in a time like high school or college, so having it there would only serve to enhance the memories. (Of course, having music there could also serve as one more way--along with clothing and hairstyles--to embarrass parents whose kids found their yearbook..which seems a lot easier if it only involves a few clicks of the mouse. Imagine a parent who went to school in the '70s having to own up to not only wearing, say, a leisure suit, but having "Disco Duck" playing in the background.)

Granted, the dead-tree yearbook companies aren't exactly quaking in their boots over this yet...
[S]keptics wonder if the free Web site can ever truly replace the traditional printed chronicle of high-school memories - even for the generation that's grown up with the Internet.
"Students continue to say they prefer print yearbooks for obvious reasons," said Rich Stoebe, director of communications for Jostens Inc., which sells yearbooks, class rings and other scholastic memorabilia.
After all, will anyone want to haul a laptop to the 25th class reunion? And what happens if the technology changes, or something happens to the dot-com?
Jostens and other yearbook companies have responded to changes in technology by offering a supplemental DVD offering student-compiled music, photos and video.
The Cooks are contemplating offering a print-on-demand version for those who want a hard copy, though they're not sure how much their generation will want such a thing. Besides, they have their sites set on loftier goals: attracting more members than MySpace (which currently numbers more than eighty million). A pipe dream, you say? Perhaps...but then, who had ever heard of MySpace a few years ago?

So, here's the question of the day: If you're in high school or college, would you buy a virtual yearbook instead of a traditional one? If you've been out of school a while, do you wish your book had some of the features that MyYearbook offers? Feel free to chime in using the comments.

Maybe they need a Smokey Bear merit badge: A teenager who tried to set a museum building on fire was stopped by a group of Boy Scouts who just happened to be nearby.

And we wonder why America is too fat: As if the fried Twinkie at the Texas State Fair was not enough, there's now a a Twinkies cookbook which has everything from Twinkie burritos to Twinkie lasagna (someone tell Garfield!), I can feel my arteries hardening just thinking about it...but dang, I bet some of that stuff is good.


Shawn said...

Sounds a lot like Facebook - except not inhabited by goons telling all about their drunken experiences.

I would be much more likely to get something like that especially since it wouldn't cost the 50 dollars that it seems like yearbooks are at. People can update their likes/dislikes and boyfriends/girlfriends and anything else as they themselves change. Maybe an archive type thing so that you can remember what it was like right in high school/ after high school.

A cool idea.

Jazzy G said...

I still would rather have the real thing. Maybe if this online version takes off, then yearbook companies will have to give you more bang for your buck (ie - reduce prices on color pages). There are lots of digital options now that 99% of students don't know about. Unfortunately they're all very expensive, and the yearbook budget isn't all that big. Therefore, they never get past the staff talking about how cool it would be.. if it was affordable.

I never paid for any of my HS yearbooks because I was a big part of the creation process (No G meant no useable photos. We had a very shallow pool of decent photographers after this one amazing guy left). Free book was a nice perk but certainly didn't make up for the insane amount of work it takes to put one together.