Originally created 04/23/04

Newspapers can attract young readers with more lifestyle stories, features



WASHINGTON -- Newspapers can gain a wider audience among the young and minorities by paying more attention to their interest in lifestyle coverage, features and ads, editors and publishers were told Wednesday.

A study by the Readership Institute at Northwestern University said newspapers can't rely on the conventional wisdom that young adults will read more as they age, so it's important to deliver content that appeals to them.

The study, sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the McCormick Tribune Foundation, found that readers 35 and older look for hard news, editorials, lifestyle stories, "my community" features and service articles.

People 18 to 24 are attracted to lifestyle stories and features on such subjects as home, health, food, fashion, recreation and science. They're also interested in advertisements.

"They tend to be selective in what they read, looking at less than half of the Sunday paper and less than one-third of the weekday paper," the institute said.

John Lavine, director of the Readership Institute, described the research to a joint session of the annual conventions of the ASNE and NAA.

The study explored ways newspapers can improve readership among 18- to 24-year-olds and among minority groups, where readership is declining slightly.

Only one-third of young readers are heavy newspaper users, according to the study. They spend an average of 21 minutes each weekday reading the daily paper, and an average of 51 minutes on Sundays.

Readers 25 and older average 36 minutes per weekday, 68 minutes on Sunday, the study said.

Creating an improved readership experience requires "getting into the heads" of young, black, Asian and Hispanic readers to determine the most successful way to make, market and deliver a newspaper they feel has relevance for them, the institute said.

The study found that newspapers provide a positive experience if they give readers something to talk about, have useful ads, include civic and personal interests and are seen as a good financial value.

It's a negative experience if readers perceive the paper discriminates and stereotypes, covers too much or has too many long articles, the study said.

The New Readers Survey heard from 10,800 readers of 52 daily papers. Surveys also were given to 6,600 newspaper employees. Some 33,000 stories, 12,000 ads and 21,000 in-paper promotions were analyzed.

On the Net:

American Society of Newspaper Editors: http://www.asne.org

Newspaper Association of America: http://www.naa.org

Readership Institute: http://www.readership.org