Go for broke with over 45s

Posted on December 13, 2006 
Filed Under Uncategorized

Philip M. Stone writes:

Newspapers have been trying whatever they can to attract back younger readers – special sections, something for the young on almost every page — but at the end of the day those young readers are still slipping away to the Internet.

So why not just throw in the towel and concentrate on those readers who really do want their daily newspaper read – those aged 45 and over.

Revolutionary, you say. Goes against the grain? Well, go tell that to Gannett, the largest US newspaper publisher, for that’s how it sees the development of their newspapers going forward as part of their Information Center Plan, and it could be they’ve got it right.

But then he makes the mistake of equating a specialist magazine to a newspaper:

After all, let’s not forget that the largest circulation print consumer magazine in the world is AARP The Magazine published by AARP (It used to be known as the American Association of Retired People but that insinuates a membership aged 65 and over and AARP markets them as they reach age 50). The magazine is bi-monthly, runs anywhere from 80 to 140 pages, and according to Mediamark Research, Inc. it now reaches some 30 million Americans, a 7% increase over a year ago. When was the last time a newspaper publisher saw a 7% increase in any demographic?

Now that’s a pretty shoddy stat to defend your argument.

He then cites Sue-Clark Johnson, president of Gannett’s newspaper division:

“Our newspapers are going to be positioned more in the direction to those more comfortable reading print. Our Information Centers enable us to connect to the community, engage readers and provide a more customer-centric approach for our advertisers.” She believes the core newspaper readership is aged 45 and over.

I don’t know any paper that would give up trying to lure the young.

In Britain, newspapers are giving away free Sunday editions in DVD format. Now that’s a start. It’s not the readership you want to kill focusing on just one age group. It’s the format you are trapped in that needs to be freed.

Go digital, in every way. But remember kids are STILL READING the paper.

Stone goes on with better rationale:

Of course, there is some risk in such a strategy. As no less a personage than Warren Buffet told his shareholders this year, “Newspaper readers are heading into the cemetery, while newspaper non-readers are just getting out of college.”

…Most newspapers are multi-platform and their web sites are becoming increasingly popular. And the bulk of the web readers are the younger crowd. So, accept that, shape the web site for that crowd, and entice the advertisers for that crowd. The older reader favors the print edition, so change its editorial flow accordingly.

The days of one size fits all in the media world are becoming increasingly numbered. Can aiming newspapers in this way really work? Look to Japan where newspapers and television go out of their way to attract older consumers.

The Asahi Shimbun has an 8 million AM circulation and a 4 million PM circulation. To satisfy its over-60s, it prints a special supplement, in a larger font, with articles of more interest to the older generation such as hobbies, pensions and health. The over-60s have money to spend and the supplement is popular with advertisers.

The NHK television network’s research showed older people like programs that teach them new hobbies, music programs and programs on health, and that programming, in turn, has become very popular.

Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Switzerland’s premier quality daily newspaper, explains, “The older generation are media consumers without match. Of all demographics they are the ones who not only watch the most television and listen to the most radio, they are also the group best reached by newspapers.”

Since newspapers are looking for growth areas, maybe its best to go after those consumers it knows wants to read their print editions – as Gannett seems to have concluded – and let the Internet and other digital platforms take care of most of the younger crowd needs.

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