U. of Alabama yearbook comes to a halt after years of decline in revenue, sales

ALABAMA — The University of Alabama’s 122-year-old student yearbook will cease publication, prompted by years of dwindling revenue and circulation. Last year, only 24 copies of the Corolla were sold to a student body of more than 34,000.

On Wednesday, the Media Planning Board — which includes students, faculty and media professionals — voted unanimously to end the Corolla. Chris Roberts, a journalism professor and chairman of the Media Planning Board, said the yearbook lost more than $100,000 in the last four years, selling only 300 copies in that time.

“This is not the first time we’ve talked about it, and it’s one of those things that for years we knew that this day may well be coming,” he said.

In a previous effort to combat the financial troubles, the university’s student newspaper, The Crimson White, subsidized the Corolla. The Media Planning Board — which oversees both publications — decided, however, that this option was no longer feasible, Roberts said.

“As ad revenues are falling for print everywhere, The Crimson White needs to focus on The Crimson White in order to stay the excellent product newspaper that it is,” Roberts said.

Additionally, the Corolla shifted from hardback to paperback in 2012 as an effort to reduce production costs and even tried to launch a digital version of its yearbook. But Paul Wright, director of Student Media at UA, said there wasn’t enough student interest to support the idea.

“A digital form just doesn’t have the same longevity that the print obviously does,” he said.

Social media has also contributed to the students’ lack of interest for the Corolla, Wright said. With sites like Facebook, the students could bypass the Corolla’s record of the year and still get similar information, tailored to their interests.

“We’ve had students tell us that they really don’t need us to capture their year at the university when they’re capturing it themselves and holding it through either social media or through their own digital pictures with their phone,” Wright said.

The Corolla’s dismissal is part of national trend. In September 2013, the University of Pittsburgh discontinued its yearbook, which had been published for more than a century. Two years before that, Ye Domesday Booke, Georgetown University’s yearbook since 1905, was dropped.

“We’ve tried the same things that everybody else has tried, I’m sure, across the country,” Wright said. “And it just has not been successful.”

While he is not ready at this time to say for certain if there is an alternative existence for the Corolla, Wright said that he would like to see it continue in some form and that the staff will “continue to take seriously our responsibility to capture what goes on at the university.”

Contact SPLC staff writer Michael Bragg by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 119.