I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of newspapers creating “teen” sections or youth-oriented publications and web sites.
I say, if you want to reach a younger audience, make the things that interest them part of your daily routine.
For a long time, newspaper editors comforted themselves with the false notion that “when they grow up,” they’ll become readers. Of course, that has turned out to be untrue. The untruth, however, led editors down the path of thinking they could keep on doing what they were doing, and everything would turn out fine. And what they were doing was concentrating on “serious journalism.”
Lots of newspapers, especially small newspapers, hire lots of young writers, kids out of college just starting out. I say it’s time that we turn them loose and let them write stories they find relevant to their lives, not just what is on their beats. In fact, maybe nobody under 25 should have a beat. They should all be GA and told, think about what you and your friends talk about and turn those topics into local stories.
This piece on a real-life Simpsons family comes to mind.
This isn’t something you do on a part-time, catch-as-catch-can basis, though. To attract young readers, we need to put forth the concerted effort to include their voices, their perspectives and their interests.
The problem isn’t that young people are uninterested in the world around them; They just are not necessarily interested in what mature journalists call news. Not yet at least, and maybe never (not in the way, say, the depression generation was).
We may never turn today’s teens and young adults into newsPAPER readers, but if we want to have a future as local media organizations, we need to find a way to get today’s younger audiences clued into our information products.
It isn’t about launching the right web site with hip graphics, a little social networking and a tolerance for racy language. Those tactics have their place, but content is still king.
Ryan Sholin recently posted similar thoughts: Find yourself a nice comfortable niche and sell it like blueberry pancakes.