With an ever-expanding list of media and education, information and entertainment channels all competing for the attention and time of young people, newspapers must continuously rethink and revisit their traditional approaches and strategies for engaging young readers. The 7th World Young Reader Conference (24-28 Marsh 2007) will explore the full range of new strategies and tactics newspapers need to adopt in order to successfully connect with a generation increasingly accustomed to satisfying their news and information needs on their own terms and through increasingly non-traditional means and methods.
Sessions will explore:
- A new, international WAN research effort focusing on what we know and need to know about how newspapers can effectively connect to the young.
- The very newest ways to approach newspapers in education projects based on the best of the best worldwide.
- Innovative best-practice content strategies that drive and encourage newspaper readership among youth and help develop an appreciation of news and its importance in their lives.
- Who's got the best connections to young people and why: what newspapers can learn from those who have a strong record of success building relationships with young people.
- What newspapers must embrace or understand in order to ensure they are prepared to properly exploit the latest technological means and methods of interacting with and delivering information to young people.
The 2007 World Young Reader Conference & Expo
"Making New Connections"
Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC, USA
Monday 26 March - Wednesday 28 March 2007
400 participants from 74 countries
WAN has expanded its conference reporting service to provide more complete summaries of conference presentations as an exclusive service to its members. You will find the summaries from Monday sessions below.
For a list of participants and other information, consult http://www.wan-press.org/washington
Monday morning sessions
Young readers are crucial for the future
John Sturm, President and CEO, Newspaper Association of America
The quest to attract young readers to newspapers is crucial to the future --"and I'm talking about much more than the success of one industry," says Mr Sturm.
"If we lose young newspaper readers, then we lose a generation of readers. If that happens, the prime engine of global news and information is damaged," he says.
Mr Sturm's opening address focused on the importance of young reader research and training, and on the importance of newspapers no matter what platform, electronic or print, that is used for news delivery.
"While the means of delivery of news, information and perspective is undergoing a revolution, the creation of content remains centered in the newsrooms of the world's newspapers," he says. "In those newsrooms resides the experience, expertise, commitment and depth to provide the unbiased, accurate and, increasingly, even courageous flow of fact and perspective on which healthy societies depend."
"In an age where anyone can reach a large audience without any special regard for quality, motive or even truth, the newspaper information gathering and processing function has never been more important," he says.
Newspaper reading improves student performance Bo Jones, Publisher, The Washington Post and Chairman of the Newspaper Association of America
In his opening address, Mr Jones focused on recent research conducted for the Newspaper Association of America Foundation on the impact of young reader programs.
- A nationwide study by the University of Minnesota comparing the
performance on standardized tests by students using newspappers in classrooms as a teaching tool with students that were not. Students using newspapers score better, and the improvement is greatest with more frequent newspaper use.
- A survey showing that two-thirds of people who remember using a newspaper in school continue reading newspapers as adults.
"This finding has helped remind senior managers of the importance of NIE programs to the future of newspaper readership. In this era of great emphasis on cost controls, specific findings on the long-term return on investment are of particular value," says Mr Jones.
- A study conducted last year that found higher young adult readership among students who read in-paper content specifically written for, by and about teens.
"It is too early to tell what impact this research will have on the editorial content in newspapers," says Mr Jones. "For example, at The Washington Post, editors want to attract teens with relevant content but do not want to patronize them. Nor do they want to make radical changes that might alienate the older, loyal, strong base of readers. They note that readers of all ages want more interesting and useful content, better navigation, and more visual appeal.
"The point here is that the research to date has advanced the level of understanding but leaves many questions for further research."
New Guides for Newspapers in Education
Aralynn McMane, Director of Young Readership Development, World Association of Newspapers
"If you treat Newspapers In Education as a circulation dump, the results will be simply rubbish."
Dr McMane won a round of applause with that statement, and went on to highlight the need for quality materials to help teachers and newspapers create better NIE programs.
"As we have known for some time, newspapers must take NIE seriously and create quality programs if they want to see the benefits such a program can accomplish," she says.
To that end, Dr McMane announced the publication of three new guides "that help create a quality NIE program that strengthens the community while it builds new readership."
"Reading & Learning," a ground-breaking series that targets diversity as a core element of NIE, includes guides for newspaper executives, NIE coordinators and teachers. The guides, in English or Spanish, are available by request to email@example.com.
WAN is also providing newspapers world-wide with an original serial, The Monkey King, for publication around International Literacy Day on 8 September 2007. The serialized story, provided through a partnership with Breakfast Serials Inc., will be published in 17 chapters accompanied by illustrations and a teaching guide.
"We've known for some time that the parent-child link plays an unbeatable role in developing a new generation of newspaper readers, and is harder and hard to assure," says Dr. McMane. "We also know that a very powerful form of such early exposure involves the simple activity of a parent and child reading the newspaper together. The serialized story is a proven tool to help make that first connection."
Committing to young readers
Paul Stensaas, Corporate Communications Manager, Norske Skog, Norway
Newspapers and magazines have attributes that other media cannot match, Mr Stensaas said in his opening address.
"Their utility is obvious, and you don't have to do your own editing. You are served it every day - both the expected and the unexpected. Reading printed publications forms part of the good life," he says.
Mr Stensaas explained why Norske Skog, a partner in the World Newspaper Association's Young Reader Development Program, is committed to supporting young readership initiatives.
"On the social side, we want to contribute to helping children and young people learn to read, to be critical to what they read - and to develop into good citizens. They will help to secure democratic and socially equitable progress for the world, regardless of continent, regardless of country," he says.
"And for Norske Skog, as a listed company with shareholders who want value for money, Young Readers and Newspapers in Education represent an important way of achieving our targets," he says. "They help us to secure a good future for the newsprint and magazine paper we produce. Young readers are the future of Norske Skog and the future of the publishers. We are in the same boat. Together, we must navigate in a way which brings new generations of readers on board. "
Although many critics have been predicting the death of newspapers, "readers have seen through such predictions," says Mr Stensaas, who said more than 1.4 billion people now read a newspaper every day, and that global newspaper circulation is on the rise.
"The statistics support the view that newspapers are thriving. Work on the Young Reader programme can safely claim part of the credit for this. We are working long-term, inspired by the results," he says.
Speaking the language of youth
Anne Kirah, Dean, 180° Academy, Denmark
There is a strong generation gap today between "digital natives" - the young people who have never known anything but a digital media world - and the "digital immigrants," those who have remember the analog-only world.
The digital immigrants are generally today's decision makers, and they just don't understand the needs and aspirations of the digital natives. This has great implications for newspapers trying to capture the attention of young people, says Ms Kirah, a cultural anthropologist and former Microsoft design advisor.
"Innovation begins when we take the blinders off in our own businesses and think of the aspirations and the motivations of people in their everyday, and not-so-everyday, lives, " Ms Kirah says. "We need to speak the same language and culture of the people we are innovating for -- in this case, youth."
In a wide-ranging keynote address, Ms Kirah offered some advice for learning about, and working with, young audiences. These include:
- Concentrate on "people-driven" research. "Start watching people, learn, look around, open your eyes," she says. "Look at their entire lives, observe people doing activities that define themselves and are meaningful to them."
- Change your company culture from being technology-centric to a people-centric approach. "Companies need to change their cultures to accommodate the youth of the technical revolution," she says. "People have more power than ever before. They desire to be part of the design process --you see that yourselves with their desire to generate content and for interactive capabilities."
Ms Kirah sums up the approach this way: "Embrace change, learn to see things through new lenses, observe people in their daily lives, be willing to build with these people, be humble and practice humility, and take risks."
"We need to understand this new world if we are going to create newspapers that are relevant to the youth today and the adults of tomorrow," she says. "It's all a matter of seeing the perspective from their side, and not our side."
Cracking the code: What do young readers want?
Robert Barnard, Founder and Partner, D-Code, Canada
As part of a global study for the World Association of Newspapers, Mr Barnard and D-Code have analyzed 60 studies on young readership and have conducted their own investigations into what young people want from media through panels of 10 14- to 25-year-olds in 10 countries.
What they found shatters some of the accepted wisdom about young attitudes.
The youth participants in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Serbia, Lebanon, South Africa, Colombia, the Philippines and Japan were asked to keep a daily diary, submit to interviews with the researchers, and participate in an on-line dialogue involving all participants. Here are some of the discoveries:
- Parents are the overwhelming influence on whether their children will read newspapers or not. The analysis of the 60 earlier studies seems to indicate that parents, teachers and friends had equal influence.
- Free newspapers are not taking young readers away from paid-for titles. "They seem to be driving curiosity in the news and inspiring youth to godeeper into issues," says Mr Barnard.
- Trust in newspapers is not waning among young readers. "There is still trust in the newspaper format, what seems to be waning is trust in news overall," says Mr Barnard.
- Young people have a very traditional news ritual. "While we thought they would have no ritual because they have a frenetic lifestyle, the opposite in the case -- they're consuming newspapers in the morning, they go online during the day, they might pick up a newspaper in the afternoon, and they watch TV in the evening."
- When it comes to competition from other news sources, television remains the main competitor, but the internet is gaining rapidly.
- Youth content need not be different from adults. "Young people want to be part of the main paper, not ghettoized or pandered to in some other form. They see the youth section as something for a much younger group," says Mr Barnard.
For more information about conducting the Youth Media DNA in your country, please contact Aralynn McMane, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Robert Bernard, email@example.com.
Media consumption by children: an economic divide
Roxana Morduchowicz, Director of Media Education, Government of Argentina
It will come as no surprise that media consumption habits are influenced by income. But there are some things that transcend wealth. Rich kids might have a room full of computers, telephones, video games and poor kids might watch a lot of television, but given the choice they would abandon all their toys for the opportunity to go out with friends and socialize.
That was one of the findings in a survey of media consumption habits of 11-to 17-year olds in Argentina. When asked, "what constitutes a fun day, "two-thirds of the respondents said, "going out with friends," a far higher percentage than any other activity.
Some other results:
- The average time spent on all media was six hours per day.
- Access played a big role in consumption habits and was influenced by economic status. Three-quarters of higher income families had computers, while one in 10 of the lower income respondents had one.
- TV and radio were the most democratic media, with no social differentiation.
- Six in ten wealthier children would hate to lose their computer more than other media; for lower income children, eight in ten would hate to lose their televisions. Unsurprisingly, the most-used medium is the one they would hate to lose the most.
- Chatting (65 percent) and games (55 percent) were the most frequent computer activities. Half the respondents used them for seeking information, 45 percent for e-mail and to download music, 40 percent to do homework and 5 percent to download and watch movies.
"Anything that catches my eye"
Michael Smith, Executive Director, Media Management Center and Readership Institute, USA
Ask a teen-ager what they look for in a news story, and they are likely to respond, "anything that catches my eye."
"We believe there are enormous implications and opportunities for newspapers in that phrase;" says Mr Smith, who unveiled a new study of teen-agers in which "anything that catches my eye" was how many of the participants described what it took to get them to click on a news story on-line.
"Teen-agers are "grazers", they don't go anywhere for news, but if it catches their eye, they will look at it," says Mr Smith. "They are placing enormous value on something newspapers hold dear -- the value of serendipity, of reading stories we don't know we're interested in until we see them."
"Right now, the big portals are fulfilling this need, not newspapers", he says.
Mr Smith presented preliminary results of a survey that brought 65 teen-agers to the Media Management Center, where they participated in focus groups and interviews and were observed using the internet.
One of the most important findings was that their favorite news sites were those that placed everything in one place -- something the portals and news aggregators are doing better than newspapers, says Mr Smith. But he believes newspapers can compete for the young audience.
"We think any strategy for reaching young people should be built around aggregation strategies, which some newspapers in the US are starting to do," he says. "We suggest you take the 'it catches my eye" phrase and make it the center of any strategy to reach a young audience."
The things that capture young people's attention are music, sports, celebrities, photos and videos, humor and topics of specific interest, he says. "What teens value are what newspapers already provide -- a handy package with something for everyone, all in one place, with someone deciding what is important. But they want it on-line," says Mr Smith.
Monday afternoon sessions
Formula for success: content & interactivity
Deepti Mehra, NIE Director, The Times of India
Want to win the World Young Reader Prize? Just follow the formula provided by Ms Mehra, whose program won both the World Young Reader Newspaper of the Year award and the Young Reader prize in the education category.
But be warned: it is a complicated formula because reaching young readers is not an easy task. Ms Mehra provided details on 14 separate editorial and content categories and 15 events and interactive initiatives to encourage young people to get involved in the newspaper that is tailored expressly for them.
"I must admit that success doesn't come easy, in fact, the only thing that keeps us going is our belief that we needed to create true value for our children," she says.
The student edition of The Times of India, which reaches more than 2,000schools, uses extensive market research to determine what students want. And they want everything -- local and international news, school news, career pages, debates on controversial issues, health and fitness, technology, sports, entertainment and more. "In short, a newspaper that is reflective of the attitudes, mindset and worldview of young Indians," says Ms Mehra.
Getting them involved in the newspaper through interactivity and events is also a priority for the Times. Here are a few of those initiatives:
- School reporter and star correspondent programs, involving more than 4,000 students, which aim to promote journalistic values and civic consciousness among young people.
- Customer loyalty programs, much like adult programs but tailored to the young, that provide vouchers for restaurants, travel, entertainment and lifestyle products.
- Competitions, games and quizzes that stimulate young readers to connect with the newspaper.
- Activity workbooks and seminars for teachers and principals to encourage them to use newspapers in the classrooms.
Teens want more than entertainment Toni Guagenti, Teen Editor, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Teen-age newspaper readers want more than just entertainment, says Ms Guagenti, editor of "757", the young reader section of The Virginian-Pilot that won the World Young Reader prize in the editorial category this year.
"The content isn't just fashion, or stars, or homework," she says. "We ran the gamut, from teens of the same sex attending prom together amidst leers and jeers, to teens that cut themselves to physically deal with their psychological pain."
Teens have strong opinions too, so creating a teen editorial board was another innovation that helped attract younger readers, she said. "In nearly two years, the teens have written about a dozen editorials ranging in subject from the first amendment (on freedom of religion, the press and expression) to the new essay question on the SAT tests needed for college admission," she says.
Initiatives to attract young readers don't have to be complicated, but they must be innovative, she says. For example, try to get young people involved in all aspects of the newspaper, not just editorial. "Many young adults nowadays have experience with the types of programs they need to do Web designing," she says. "Many are creative and willing to learn. Just by asking around in your own newspaper or organization, you can find someone who has a son or daughter who would like experience and could help you design a page, or some of your teen correspondents could help find
"You need to find people who are willing to try new things, who believe in raising the bar and changing a section for the good, not just the content but who it reaches and how."
No Clowning Matter
Wendy Tribaldos, NIE Manager, La Prensa, Panama
Newspapers should introduce themselves to children early, but reaching the very young -- those under eight years old -- is a difficult task, says Ms Tribaldos, who explained the program that won her newspaper the World Young Reader Prize in the brand category.
La Prensa created a multimedia circus at its headquarters, complete withclowns, to introduce its brand and content to first and second graders in a fun and joyful atmosphere.
"Reading must be thought of as an enjoyable activity from the youngest ages, and must be introduced early on to build a lifetime habit," says Ms Tribaldos. "It is vital to ensure not only brand recognition, but also capture newspaper readers as early as possible to eventually promote adult readership."
Her presentation explained how Aprendo, La Prensa's Newspapers in Education program, developed a 45-minute show that includes newspaper elements within activities appropriate to the age group: puppetry, magic, music and circus acts. Here are some of the initiative's important elements:
- The show doesn't travel but takes place in La Prensa's building, to help cement the trademark while building closer community relations.
- The show includes interactive elements to allow children to relate to newspaper content and how newspapers are made, including how journalists gather information and how a printing press works.
- And it shows that reading is fun, and that the newspaper is a great medium for fun reading. A souvenir book is provided to help children practice key reading concepts with La Prensa and Aprendo editorial content.
To determine whether the program is successful, the newspaper gathers and analyzes statistical data on children 8 to 17 to track their reading habits. "The show was deemed so successful that the Board of Directors of La Prensa has approved it as a permanent fixture of Aprendo," says Ms Tribaldos.
25 best young reader ideas from around the world
Tommaso Prennushi, President, TP&A Associates, Spain, and George Kelly,
Senior Project Director, CMC International, United Kingdom
As judges for the World Association of Newspaper's World Young Reader Prize, Mr Prennushi and Mr Kelly see a lot of good young readership ideas. They shared 25 of them with the conference participants.
"Young reader programs are becoming much more sophisticated, it's not only content and advertising, it's organizing events and creating strong and powerful programs to attract and keep young readers," says Mr Prennushi.
Here are a few of the ideas presented on their global young reader tour:
- Popcorn, the Newspapers in Education supplement of Singapore's Lianhe Zabao, created a pop song based on the supplement's name and then launched a contest asking young people to sing and record the theme and perform it in concerts at more than 20 schools. Circulation of the supplement increased from 30,000 to 46,000 in two years.
- 24 Sata in Croatia, which created a hip-hop World Cup soccer anthem and gave it away with the newspaper. The song was so popular, it was adopted as the official anthem of Croatia's national team. Readership by 15- to 24-year old increased from 15 percent to 25 percent of the paper's total in one year.
- Vanguardia, Mexico, whose "I Like Books" program invited 4- to 7-year olds to the newspaper, for story reading sessions. For 8- to 12-year olds, it offered prizes for reading suggested books. 2,000 children participated --spectacular results for a newspaper with a daily circulation of 24,000.
- Gazeti Bolnisi, Georgia, which published the first chapter of a novel and invited readers to write the next chapter, publishing a new chapter each week. Eighty percent of the participants were under 25 years old.
- VG, Norway, which decided to let readers participate by offering them blogs and forums. Readers responded by opening 13,000 blogs and 11,000 daily posts on the forums.
- Vedomosti, Russia, a business newspaper that created a free "light" paper for university students to introduce them to the main newspaper. 20,000 copies were distributed to schools monthly and it became a prime advertising vehicle, with 30 percent of its content taken by ads.
- Aamulehti, Finland, with offered paid summer jobs to teen-agers and the newspaper and partner companies and provided instructions on writing job applications and curriculum vitae.
- New Vision, Uganda, which offered special supplements for a variety of age groups to help them pass their school exams. The newspaper recorded a 10 percent increase in circulation during the exam period.
- Siegener Zeitung, Germany, which built a temporary public auditorium in a shopping center and, in association with the local university, ran science discovery sessions for children.
- Trenton Republican, United States, which asked teachers in the community to become "ambassadors" for the newspaper, offering them three-day university seminars to learn how to use newspapers in their classrooms. This resulted in newspapers being used in 65 percent of the community's classrooms.
For information on how to enter the 2007 World Young Reader Prize competition, go to http://www.wan-press.org/nie/wyrp.php
For daily news visit http://www.wan-press.org/nie/confs.php?id=17