Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Tragically Unhip

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Tragically Unhip

Article excerpt

NEWS ON DEAD TREES IS NOW A DEAD IDEA

Newspapers obsessed with starting youth tabs should think Web

When I return to Northwestern University in January, I will not be reading RedEye, the Chicago Tribune's heralded new "youth" paper due to be introduced next month. I may glance at it once in a while, raid it for coupons, perhaps peruse one or two issues in my lifetime. But as far as I'm concerned, the Tribune is wasting a whole lot of time and money on the likes of me.

Who am I? I'm one of those young people who advertisers (and therefore the Trib) desperately want to reach. A senior at a nearby college, from a middle-class household, I fall nicely into RedEye's 18-to-34-year-old demographic and, theoretically, have money to burn.

If this new weekday paper isn't being created for me, I don't know who it's for. Unfortunately, I don't read newspapers. At least not regularly. And I'm far from alone.

Publishers can't seem to attract younger readers to their traditional dailies, so they're now considering targeting them with hip alt-weekly wannabes. But what the Chicago Tribune, and the flock of papers that will blindly follow suit, doesn't understand is that the very idea of picking up a newspaper is foreign to my generation.

Some argue this is because today's youth just don't care about what goes on in the world and that we're ignorant of national affairs, but that's far from the truth. While stereotypical clueless college students do exist, they are exceptions. With the threat of war looming and the economy in the gutter, America's young people are very aware of what is going on. But they're not following it via newspapers.

My car's radio dial is set permanently on National Public Radio. I watch more CNN than MTV, VH1, and Fox combined. And the first thing I do after checking my e-mail is go directly to not one but several news sites -- some of them offshoots of the newspapers I'm not reading (such as The New York Times and The Washington Post). I'll even grab a copy of Time when something really piques my interest.

If anything, I'm a news junkie, not some slacker who lives in a bubble. But I readily admit I can't recall the last time I picked up an actual newspaper. I hate newspapers. The feel of the paper, the ink stains, the eye-straining print, the obtrusive advertisements -- why deal with that when I can get the reporting and shopping advice and listings I need off a Web site? …

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