Academic journal article Newspaper Research Journal

Taking It to the Web: Youth News Moves Online

Academic journal article Newspaper Research Journal

Taking It to the Web: Youth News Moves Online

Article excerpt

The youth market is one of the most important in helping to stop newspapers' declining circulation. In fact, market analysts now warn that newspaper editors who fail to take steps to attract that segment of the population do so "at their own peril." (1)

Only in recent years have a large number of newspapers begun to produce special sections to attract the youth audience. Now some newspapers have taken that content online because Web sites can be customized based on individual interests of specific age groups, and the sites can provide seemingly endless links to additional information. They also can provide color, entertainment and navigability the younger generation finds missing from the regular newspaper. Yet, Web sites also can still be tied to the brand name and believability of the newspaper. (2)

This present study looks at a sample of Web sites for teens and preteens sponsored by daily newspapers. The list posted by the Youth Editorial Alliance in 2003, an organization of youth editors at U. S. newspapers under the umbrella of the Newspaper Association of American Foundation, and an earlier 1999 survey of 165 newspapers with print sections for youth, is not exhaustive. Yet the sample of 40 newspaper Web sites provides some initial insights into online newspaper content targeting the estimated 41 million young Americans between the ages of 10 and 19. (3)

Literature Review

As early as 1991, consultants advised editors to produce special youth sections because teenagers want publications tailored for their age groups. (4) Even The New York Times revived its push to reach high school students with its Newspaper in Education program and Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger said: "A lot of us have come to the conclusion that if you hook 'era young, you can keep them with you." (5)

The need to pursue the teen audience aggressively and to "hook 'em young," was echoed a decade later by Michael P. Smith, managing director of the Media Management Center at Northwestern University. "Something happens to a young person before 18 that will develop the newspaper reading habit or won't," he said. "It's hard to change that habit after 18." (6)

Grusin and Stone found students in the Newspaper in Education Program who liked reading the paper were much more likely develop the newspaper reading habit as adults. (7) Yet, teenagers have said newspapers are for middle-aged and old people, that the paper is not relevant to their lives (8) and that reading is too much like work. This cycle of non-readership continues as teenagers become college students and grow into adulthood. (9) Now, the ever-increasing number of electronic media options compounds the problems for traditional newspaper formats and delivery systems. (10)

A survey in 1995 found 92 percent of 103 newspapers were developing content to attract youth readers, and 36 percent regularly published a youth section (11) with a youthful tone, bright and bold graphics and student-written stories. They also targeted younger children with kids' pages and devoted several pages or entire sections to middle and high school students. (12) A second survey of a list of 165 newspapers publishing youth content in 1999, provided by the Youth Editorial Alliance of the NAA Foundation, showed 34 of these had taken the content online. (13)

In the last few years more editors have begun to think of the Internet as a new way to target young readers. The Internet fits the needs of teens who want media that provide information quickly and easily while "being enjoyable and entertaining" and ranks first with teens for quick information, followed by television and finally newspapers. For youth, newspapers rank "dead last when it comes to being easy to use." (14)

Thus, consultants advise newspaper editors to go online to reach the youth audience, a strategy already adopted by popular teen magazines and cable giants such as Music Television (MTV). …

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