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Channels, Apps, and the Green Line






For years, I have ridden the MBTA's Green Line train to Berklee every weekday. As recently as eight or nine years ago, passengers rubbed elbows while reading the newspaper. You could keep tabs on local and world events simply by scanning the headlines between outstretched arms. Gradually cell phone conversation overtook newspaper reading as the primary commuter activity. These days instant messaging and smart-phone use dominate. The rapid evolution in information sharing and consumption has created new channels through which to tell Berklee's story.

Last year, more than 3 million people visited Berklee's main website (www.berklee.edu). About two-thirds came from the United States, with South Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, and Spain following in numbers of visitors. People arrive at Berklee's site in various ways. Half of all visitors use Google to find the site; another 20 percent come directly to it. Search engines such as Yahoo, Naver (in South Korea), Orkut, and Bing account for another 10 percent of the traffic.

The Berklee community is brimming with interesting people and events, and Berklee's writers, publicists, editors, and Web developers publish new stories daily about students, faculty, and alumni on Berklee's website and others. Search engines such as Google index these stories and return them in searches, ensuring a rich and layered Berklee presence for music-related Web searches.

We are now syndicating stories to make them available via email, on other sites, or as a phone application. We also push Berklee stories to the Internet via a bimonthly newsletter and podcast and have a thriving blog program on Berklee Blogs (www.berklee-blogs.com). Exclusive content is also available via download at iTunes U. Student-run enterprises such as BIRN (Berklee Internet Radio Network), the Music Business Journal, Heavy Rotation Records and Jazz Revelation Records also get the word out. Student performances on the world's stages remain the best introduction to Berklee, and we are constructing "Berklee Presents" pages to support them.

A growing percentage of Berklee site visitors arrive via Facebook and other social-media sites, which challenges us to actively manage our presence in these environments. Berklee's main Facebook page boasts more than 14,000 individuals who "like" our site. Berklee's site also features targeted pages for summer and other programs. Likewise, there's a maturing Berklee presence on Twitter and YouTube with contributors from throughout the college. Overall, we have produced more than 250 short video features over the past few years.

Many visit the Berklee Wikipedia entry, and we closely monitor Berklee's presence throughout this online user-written and edited encyclopedia. Many alumni have Facebook accounts or entries in Wikipedia. Referencing your Berklee connection on these pages will help expand the reach of the Berklee message to prospective students.

There is much more we can do to augment Berklee's presence in these various new media. On numerous social sites, prospective students and their parents share information about college choice. This content can be valuable; families benefit from hearing a range of opinions rather than relying solely on a college for information. But there can be misinformation as well, and we need to learn how to effectively communicate in these spaces. We also need a strategy for the monumental task of communicating in other languages. Berklee's Office of Admissions has entered this sphere by enlisting student bloggers who communicate in their native tongues. Another area of opportunity for us is Web application development. Our community of educators has the skill to produce some impressive tools. Suggestions are welcome.

Talented young musicians throughout the globe encounter our stories and people on the Web, and through them they discover our fulltime, summer, and online programs. But our Web activity is not what first attracts students to Berklee. Most who attend report that they first heard about Berklee from friends, teachers, or Berklee alumni. And thanks to alumni who tell the Berklee story and the inspired work of our enrollment, media relations, communications, marketing, and audition teams, interest in a Berklee education is at an all-time high.

As we expand our communications into new channels and applications, newer ones emerge and others fade. In June, we introduced an iPhone app featuring Berklee news, events, and multimedia. We had more than 10,000 downloads within the first two weeks of its release. But alongside this success, the need to adapt it for other platforms becomes a timely consideration. And MySpace, for example - once a valuable place for a Berklee presence - has become far less so compared with Facebook.

It's possible to imagine that the next social-media model will center on shared interests. Berkleemusic.com has built a music-centered community that now has thousands of registered users, which will likely become a valuable network for students and alumni. It's also possible to imagine Green Line newspapers, cell phones, and smart devices converging in a tablet like the iPad, where information management is as easy as taking the T. But before you know it, something newer will come along, and the Berklee story will appear there too.