I said that I would talk about the strike at the University of New Brunswick and how it affected the Brunswickan website. This is it then, a memoir of sorts.

The teaching staff at the University of New Brunswick were not happy with their working conditions and wages (Read more here). They began their strike on January 13th and lasted until February 3rd. This was bad news for students but an awesome opportunity for the Brunsickan newspaper.

The staff at the Brunswickan saw that this was a tremendous opportunity for their reporters. This was the first time something like this had happened at UNB and they were not going to miss out. They worked hard to be the go to place for information.

Despite encouragement for the university, many students held back their tuition money until the strike had ended. This posed an interesting problem for the Brunswickan. Without the tuition money, there was not enough funds to print the paper or to pay the employees. The paper would have died and the opportunity missed if it had not have been for the website.

The Brunswickan was predominately a physical paper. It has had a website for a number of years but it was undervalued. That all changed when the printed paper had to be suspended. Page views quadrupled as people flooded to the website. It became very obvious that it had an important role to play. It could do what the printed paper could not do: provide off-campus students with breaking news.

The dramatic traffic increase to the website was exciting but we were not prepared for it. The hosting package used by the Brunswickan was sufficient for its normal traffic but it was no match for the huge spike. As the web developer, I had to look for ways to keep the website online even though we were far beyond our monthly data limits. We adjusted our workflow and optimized our content but it was not enough to keep the website from crashing. We had reports of people sitting at their computer repeatedly hitting refresh so they could get the news as soon as there was a break in the traffic.

Thankfully the strike ended, the students were allowed back to school, and the traffic levels returned to normal. The printed paper made its comeback and we got our paychecks. These things were much anticipated and much appreciated.

The strike demonstrated the advantages of online publishing. It is little wonder that there is a definite trend in that direction. One thing that surprised me was how unwilling advertisers were to put their ads online. It is something to think about.

Were you affected by the strike? If so, how?

David Stewart

Website at davidfstewart.ca. Twwets at tweets.davidfstewart.ca