Friday, July 14, 2006

Understanding your younger news consumer

I've been meaning to blog about this for some time, but it kept getting buried.

It's important enough, however, not to let it go if you are having any trouble (yes, you in the suit and tie) understanding how younger readers approach your news product.

This comes from a column, Don't tell. I'm 24 and I like reading the news, in the February Newspapers & Technology by Erin Meier, an advertising assistant at the publication. I'm just going to excerpt four paragraphs. I've highlighted two of them to kind of drive the point home. You can go read the rest:

Now, I admit it, I slack off sometimes. I don’t follow current events with as much discipline as I could. There are huge gaps in my knowledge about what is going on, preventing me from fully understanding certain events as they are reported.

For example, I haven’t been following the whole “Scooter” Libby issue. Whenever I see an article about him in the printed paper, I gloss over it because I don’t understand the content and can’t follow the story. It’s really a downward spiral, and the only way out is to begin filling those holes in my understanding.

The most attractive option here is not to flip through last week’s paper, trying to find the first couple of accounts of the scandal. Easier by far is to hit up and do a simple search for articles in the past seven days containing the words “Libby” and maybe “Rove” in the headline. From there, I can browse through hundreds of articles from papers all over the world, getting the much-needed background information into the situation. It’s wonderful. ...

As much as I like to know about what’s going on in my own backyard, I’m equally interested in the local struggles and personal stories of people and communities all over the country. Why get only the point of view of the Rocky Mountain populace when I can compare and contrast it to the perspectives in the Bay Area, the Bible Belt, and the NYC Tri-State Area? How are they different? What are the common denominators? If the country is like a salad bowl (I don’t buy the “melting pot” theory, but that’s a different story), it’s those regional differences that make us who we are and what makes us so fascinating.
Combined with what the Washington Post found from its focus groups of younger readers -- who would not take the printed paper even were it offered to them free --- does that make things clearer?


I'm glad I came across this again because I was at a state press association meeting yesterday and heard some things that really roasted my chestnuts. Specifically, more than a few of the editors from weekly or other nondaily papers blithely told how they just held the news of the, say, Monday city council meeting till they got around to publishing it Wednesday. And in most cases, the impression I got was that they were then just publishing it as a first-day story. But that was OK, they said, because they were the prime source of that news in their communities.

And maybe that is OK today. Maybe it's OK to think the Web's just kind of there, inconsequential. Maybe even tomorrow or next week. But technology and broadband and even -- horror! -- computers will be coming to those towns, too. And then maybe some bloggers or just a simple e-mail list ... and then what? Will they then be the "prime source" two days late?

Of course, as with most of the smaller papers in this country, they are in a great position to take advantage of the mistakes others have made, to experiment, to get their operations aligned to make sure they are not undercut. But arrogance, and lack of foresight, is what is bringing down this business.


At 7/20/06, 3:48 PM, Blogger Gary Karr said...

I wonder why my link to this didn't get posted as a link? I'm still learning this stuff...

At 7/20/06, 9:21 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Hmmm. Not sure. It's a relatively new feature that I haven't played with much.


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