Newspaper Sites Could Use Teen Sections

teenread.jpgAs newspaper readership dwindles, publishers are trying all sorts of things to attract young — and potentially lifelong — readers. Not only do they need to replace the old with the young to keep up readership numbers, the youth can help bring in ad dollars that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

A new Newspaper Association of America Foundation study by MORI Research, “Lifelong Readers: The Role of Youth Content,” shows that running teen-oriented content can help keep young people interested in reading their local paper. The survey of 1,600 18-24 year-olds found that “75 percent of respondents who said they read newspaper content aimed at teens when they were 13 to 17 years old now read their local paper at least once a week, compared with 44 percent of those who said they did not read teen content.”

Some other stats:

  • 78 percent of respondents who said they read the local paper plus the teen content read their local paper in the past week; 50 percent read their local paper yesterday.
  • 81 percent of this group said they read the local Sunday paper in the past four weeks and 66 percent said they read it last Sunday.
  • 30 percent of young adults said teen content drew them to the paper
  • 18 percent cited content that was written by someone they knew or content that featured an interview with someone they knew
  • 16 percent cited entertainment news
  • 10 percent said general interest news
  • 8 percent said advice columns
  • 4 percent said comics drove them to the paper.
  • At least in the press release, a distinction between print and online newspaper reading isn’t made. However, there’s no doubt that if they’re reading news, many young people are doing it on the Web. Obviously, it makes sense for newspaper publishers to not only present teen-centric material, but to highlight it online, perhaps in a special section featuring forums or social networking tools.

    My hometown paper, The Jersey Journal, includes a column called “Teen Scene” written by teens (high school or college students). I browsed the paper’s corresponding site, NJ.com for the column, but rather than locating a Teen Scene section or one dedicated to youth-oriented content and features, I had to conduct a general site search. Surprisingly, a search on keyword “teen” brought up the most recent column early on in the results. (I expected to get a lot of links to crime beat headlines like “Teen Arrested with Gun, Coke” or “Teenage Wolf Pack Attacks Cop” — a lot of the kids in J.C. ain’t exactly tame.)

    Anyway, it’s clear that a few leaders in the online newspaper field are trying to appeal to younger readers, but the college-through-early-30s set seems to be the main target audience. This study indicates that crafting content for an even younger crowd might not be such a bad idea.

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