Is Social Media Really to Blame for the Decline in Yearbook Sales?

Will libraries and books soon be obsolete? 
Photo credit: Flickr CC user Wonderlane
Will libraries and books soon be obsolete?
Image credit: Flickr CC user Wonderlane


Growing up, I was a ferocious reader and would devour anything and everything I could get my hands on, no matter what the subject matter. Case in point: in the waiting room at my orthodontist was a shelf full of old, random yearbooks from all the local high schools – odd, I know, but entertaining nevertheless. As a daydreaming fourth grader, I just loved poring through the pages and dreaming of the day I would get to go to high school, too. I would try to guess which kids were the most popular, who had already been kissed, and who might become famous one day.

I’m still not sure how orthodontics and high school yearbooks go together (although I am starting to see the potential ad opportunities as I write this), but I’m glad they did. The yearbooks helped pass many an hour waiting for my braces to get adjusted (ouch) and for that I will forever be grateful.

In the digital age that we live in, actual bound books are becoming more and more obsolete. Riding the bus to work, I see people hunched over their cell phones or Kindles to get their news, and fewer and fewer people cracking open an actual paperback. It makes me sad to think that something that brings me such joy might one day disappear altogether.

When a friend forwarded me an article about the University of Alabama shutting down the school’s yearbook after 122 years in publication, I had to take a minute. I didn’t go to the school, but I felt for the future students who will miss out on such an amazing school tradition. After all, yearbooks don’t just impact the students attending the school that year – they have the power to impact a nerdy little fourth grader with a mouth full of braces dreaming of bigger and better things.

According to the school’s newspaper, The Crimson White, the Corolla ceased publication this past Wednesday (September 24, 2014) after years of declining sales. The first edition of the Corolla was published back in 1892.

Chris Roberts, an associate professor of journalism and the chairman of the Media Planning Board, told the paper that “board members felt that we could not justify taking more money that the CW needs and putting into a yearbook that UA students didn’t seem to want.”

Many people speculate that college yearbook sales don’t do as well as high school yearbooks because students don’t get as much page time or have as many shared moments that can be found inside the book as they do with their high school friends. Others point to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have become many people’s digital scrapbooks – documenting parties and other college rites of passage that wouldn’t get any page time in the school yearbook.

However, there is a silver lining for University of Alabama students. The board members unanimously approved a new digital magazine for the women on campus.

And there is a silver lining when it comes to social media and yearbooks? Here at TreeRing, you can use social media to your advantage when putting together your school’s yearbook. TreeRing provides a safe, private social network dedicated to your school so you can source photos and market your yearbook, which remaining connected to the school community at large. In the digital age, we believe that online tools can help us to save yearbooks… not lose them.

What do you think about colleges cutting out their school yearbooks? Do you think all yearbooks will one day only be available online? Leave your thoughts in the book below.