After nearly 120 years, Corks and Curls, the University of Virginia’s yearbook, ceased publication in 2009 as the market for college yearbooks continues to shrink.
Michelle Burch, who would have been co-editor of the 2009 edition of Corks and Curls, said college students might find it less important to focus on a yearbook with people that they never knew — or as maybe the case in larger colleges — with people they’ve never even seen.
“I think that at a big university today, people don’t really want to spend the money on a 400-page book where they may or not know one or two people in the book,” Burch said. “Simply, there wasn’t enough money and not enough student interest.”
Modernizing yearbooks could make a step toward luring in more students, but the fall in tradition has been evident since the ’60s and ’70s, according to Richard Stoebe, a spokesman for Jostens, one of the country’s leading yearbook publishers.
Burch said the rise of Facebook and other social networking Web sites has contributed to many students’ decisions to not purchase yearbooks, because Web sites are more accessible.
“It’s easier for students to keep in touch with people, but it won’t have the same effect as pulling out their yearbook,” Burch said. “I will miss not having the yearbook, but I think 20 years from now a lot of people will miss it. I just think that right now there is no interest.”
Stoebe said the recent popularity of social networking Web sites has not had a significant effect on yearbook sales because they are distinct from one another.
“One of the things that we believe is that yearbooks and social networking are different,” Stoebe said. “Yearbooks capture the events and what is more important, and that becomes a permanent record that lasts through the years. It’s a very permanent and portable collection from that year versus the Web or social media.”
While UVa’s yearbook has come to an end, The Bugle, Virginia Tech’s yearbook, is still active. Kelly Wolff, general manager of the Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech, said the presence of an adult advising staff has helped The Bugle remain consistent. EMCVT is the independent parent company of seven student media divisions at Virginia Tech, including The Bugle and the Collegiate Times.
“When they don’t have the proper training and advising — that just makes it that much harder,” Wolff said of UVa’s Corks and Curls. “The Bugle and a lot of other yearbooks, where there are advisers, have a strong business set-up, so it’s a very different picture.”
Wolff also attributed the decline to a lack of interest in working for the yearbook.
“It’s nothing sudden because yearbooks have been declining since the ’70s, but when you get in a tough environment, it’s hard for students when they have so many competing demands on their time and not enough time to put all of their effort into managing the yearbook,” Wolff said.
The Bugle focuses its marketing mainly toward the parents of the students.
“A yearbook might not have the same value for a 20- or 21-year-old, but 20 years down the line, they might be sad if they don’t have that little time capsule,” Wolff said.
Wolff remained optimistic that yearbooks would not be completely replaced by computer-based networking.
“It has been a slow and steady decline, but I’m not sure that much has changed because of Facebook and other social media,” Wolff said. “Having something that’s very technology dependent is not the best way to preserve that time capsule that yearbooks can.”