Newsletter No 1 28 September 2005
 
Readership & Circulation:
Strategies for Attracting Young Readers

“It is time for newspaper professionals to stop being defensive about their medium.” This was the underlying message from the 6th World Young Reader Conference, which challenged the contention that children don’t read and showed what the world’s most innovative newspapers are doing to capture their loyalty. Over three hundred participants from 66 countries attended the event, held in Buenos Aires from 18 to 21 September.

The conference provided dozens of examples of what newspapers are doing to capture the young, and challenged the conventional wisdom that young people are exclusively loyal to electronic media. Select conference summaries are below.
 
Marcelo Rech, Zero Hora: “Win back young readers in a multi-media world”
"No more excuses about the vehicle through which we have chosen to make our living," said Marcelo Rech, editor of the Zero Hora newspaper in southern Brazil. "The problem is not the newspaper as a medium -- it’s in our heads. We need to constantly innovate and at times produce a true revolution in our products rather than be content with mere survival."
 
Forty-two percent of Zero Hora’s readers are between 10 and 29 years old. One-third of its 190 journalists are under 30 years old. Nineteen journalism students fulfil support functions in the newsroom and "are a permanent focus group to challenge us," said Mr Rech.
 
The newspaper also publishes a weekly youth supplement called “Petrola”, which is printed in colour. Topics of the supplement include behaviour,  whose  music, television, cinema and sports. Petrola readers ranged between the ages of 13 and 19. A Reader’s Council made up of 6 elected students attends meetings along with other Petrola journalists to critique and suggest articles. The journalists visit schools every week to get feedback from students themselves on how to improve the supplement. The supplement enjoys a good readership response; for example, 27 dogs were adopted after a story appeared about a girl who had 87 dogs she needed help caring for. The project is also interactive in that it allows young people to click and receive tickets for movies, theatre and cultural events. They can also access video clips from bands, short feature movies songs of the artists interviewed and movie trailers.


“Supplements don’t work”
"We have to move away from special supplements, sections, educational inserts for the young, and to get our existing newspapers to be more youthful newspapers," says Juan Senor, director of the Innovation International Media Consulting Group in England, which recently released a report about the most creative ways of attracting young readers.

APN: Is it true that your report concludes that newspapers, which use supplements for young readers, are getting it wrong in their attempt to capture this group?
Juan Senor: Yes. Supplements for young readers have not worked. There is no evidence of this.
 
APN: So how should newspapers attract young readers if supplements are a waste of time and effort?
Juan Senor: Instead of making supplements for young readers, newspapers should be made more youthful. Every page of the newspaper should take care of the interest of young readers.
 
APN: I imagine newspapers that do decide to become more youthful, as your report recommends, will lose some adult or old readers.
Juan Senor: It’s worth the effort, because the number of young readers the newspaper will gain will more than make up for the old readers the newspaper will lose.
 
APN: What does this mean for a newspaper which operates in a country where adults are the ones who buy newspapers because they have the purchasing power?
Juan Senor: Young readers also have purchasing power. They buy mobile phones and other consumables. Newspapers are generally not very expensive.

APN: Another speaker, Francois Dufour, who spoke on how newspapers can appeal to 10 year olds,  said it pays to separate readership to enable the newspaper to serve its readership better. How do you respond to this?
Juan Senor: If the publication that targets young readers is not inserted in a main newspaper then you are likely to get good results. Publications for young readers that are independent, work.
 
 Suggestions from Senor on how to make “youthful newspapers”:
 - Content comes first, design comes second
 - Show the reader in the newspaper every day
 - New, quick read formats are a must
 - Science and technology are hot topics
 - Approach soft news as hard news
 - Integrate your off- and on-line newsrooms
 - Expand opinion pages for the young
 - Promote print on-line
 - Look and learn from newspapers in cities with lots of young people
 - Spend money wisely
 - Don't be pessimistic -- brand and content are the future


Ricardo Kirschbaum, Clarin: “Young people do read!”
The conventional wisdom is that young people don’t read. "This is false," said Ricardo Kirschbaum, the chief editor of Argentina’s Clarin daily. "They don’t read as we did when we were young, but they do read. The problem is, there is not the emotional connection that was developed in our generation," says Mr Kirschbaum. "They didn't grow up with newspapers. This means that young readers act indifferently when it comes to reading development. They are much better trained at using other platforms and not the paper platform."
 
At Clarin, the young reader strategy involves developing this reading habit, starting with a pre-school magazine for four-year-old children.  From there, the newspaper have developed a wide variety of products, both within the paper and outside,  to entice young people to develop the reading habit. And not just young people -- the Clarin strategy is a life-cycle strategy, designed to appeal to readers throughout their lives, says Mr Kirschbaum.
 

Thirty Great Ideas in Thirty Minutes:
At the close of the conference, a panel of experts from around the world gave a 30-minute presentation of 30 quick and easy ideas to attract young reader ideas from every continent. Among them:

 - The "Adopt a Student" programme of the New Straits Times, Malaysia, in which individuals and companies were invited to sponsor copies of the newspaper to schools, resulting in 8,000 additional subscriptions.

 - The “Right on” Comic Series, launched by the Sunday Times, South Africa, conveys a message of national importance. Each week, 80,000 copies are sent to over 3,000 schools.

 - The “Design and Ad” initiative in Uganda encourages primary school children to design adverts for different companies. Key sponsors include Shell, Colgate, Herbal and Bata shoes. Launched in December 2003 the initiative has received good feedback and is set to become an annual event.

 - Current events quizzes in Fairfax New Zealand newspapers in which 109,000 students took part. Sales increased 11 percent in 2004.

 - The “KidsInk” supplement to Cox Ohio Publishing newspapers in the United States, which promoted newspapers as a source of information through last year’s Presidential elections. Sales increased from 44,000 to 72,000 per week.
 
 - The “Wild Mouse” web initiative of La Prensa Grafica in El Salvador which provides information about nightlife, music, sports and daily news to 15 to 25year olds and resulted in a 10 percent increase in website visitors.

 - The “Pass PLE “ supplement, launched by the Uganda-based New Vision newspaper, is a four-page weekly educational supplement that targets 10 to 14 year olds. Launched in July 2005, the supplement is prepared by teachers and supports the Uganda government universal primary education scheme. The supplement has already resulted in an increase of 5,000 copies per week and a increase of 16 per cent in newspaper sales. 

 - The monthly Fresh publication of the Sunday Herald in Scotland, which provides a platform for young readers within the paper and reaches 86 percent of all secondary schools in Scotland.
 
 - The hiring of teenage journalists to cover youth news for the Shepparton News daily in Australia. The percentage of teenage readers in overall readership went from 3 to 7 percent last year.
 
 - “Spectator for Schools” in the United Kingdom, launched just one month ago, in which readers are encouraged to fund subscriptions for schools. Four hundred have been funded so far.
 
 For more summaries from the World Young Reader Conference visit: www.wan-press.org/nie/articles.php?id=499