Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reaching Young Readers: Consultant Suggests the Only Way for Newspapers to Do So May Be to Offer Additional, Topic-Oriented Spin-Off Papers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reaching Young Readers: Consultant Suggests the Only Way for Newspapers to Do So May Be to Offer Additional, Topic-Oriented Spin-Off Papers

Article excerpt

Reaching young readers

Growing numbers of young people are so put off by traditional newspapers that publishers may need to spin off additional papers to reach them, a top newspaper consultant has said.

This increasingly huge audience - encompassing the baby boomers and their children - sees and lives life in profoundly different new ways, according to consultant Christine Urban.

Comfortable in a media environment their parents would consider overload, this audience is impatient with newspaper graphics and writing - even newspaper logic.

"These new people do not think linearly, like your newspaper. They really can do two things at once," she said.

Urban, president of the Sharon, Mass.-based research firm Urban & Associates, notes that researchers say that people like that - those who grab and assimilate ideas almost from the ambient air - are thinking "polyphasically." Significantly, it is a term adapted from electronics.

"We have to think about starting new newspapers to serve this market," Urban told the recent George L. Strike Journalism Program at the University of Cincinnati.

So different are these lifestyle changes - and so different are the competing options in the media environment - that newspapers should abandon the idea these younger readers can be attracted by simply changing around editorial mix, Urban said.

"All the arguments that all we need is more news hole" have proved unfounded.

"These new readers, with all these multiplicity of options, will not be satisfied with simply one article in your newspaper about some topic that interests them, when there is a whole magazine out there tailored to that interest," Urban said.

Much more disturbing, however, is research Urban uses to portray a growing audience that is living in virtually a different world from the newspaper.

Little of the research should come as a surprise to newspapers, Urban said.

"People have been talking about these demographic trends coming home to roost since 1965. There's no news here. The only news is that the newspaper industry is not making adjustments to these lifestyle changes."

One reason is a stubborn refusal to believe readers and non-readers when they insist they have no time to read a paper.

"No time to read" remains the number one reason newspaper non-readers give. Fully 39% say that, Urban said.

"We've tried for 15 years - to the point of using rubber hoses - to get people to admit this is an excuse . …

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