Thursday, April 21, 2005

Newspapers losing young people's interest

A new study reinforces what everyone's been saying: not many young people read a daily a newspaper while a good percentage look to the Web for news.

The survey of 18-to-34-year-old finds, for instance, that just 19% read a newspaper daily, 17% read it once a month or less -- and 12% said they "never" read a paper to get their news.

By contrast, 44% of the young people visited a Web news portal every day, and 37% watch local TV news daily.

Only 14% of respondents called the newspaper their "most important" source of news. Local TV newscasts were called the most important source for news by 31% of the young adults, while another 25% cited the Internet.

The survey was commissioned by the Carnegie Corp. of New York. Merrill Brown, founding editor of and a former Washington Post reporter, wrote the report, entitled "Abandoning the News."

Brown, interviewed by Editor & Publisher, called the study results "slightly grimmer than I thought."

Even though they're not reading newspapers, more than half the young people said they still trust newspapers "a lot," but they also said they trust Web portals just as much.
"Abandoning the News" does highlight a few promising newspaper responses, such as The Northwest Voice, a weekly launched by The Bakersfield Californian that is largely written by readers who submit news via the Web.

Newspapers have to think "new product development," Brown said.

"The industry has to make big bets a la Dow Jones Marketwatch, or smaller bets like what's going on in Greensboro. That's got to be the culture of the industry, or the result is going to be really, truly fatal," he said. The News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., as E&P has written recently, is turning its Web site into a kind of virtual town square with continual input from Web users and print readers.

"This will take time, it will take patience and resources-- and it will also take guts," Brown said. "There's not enough risk-taking in the newspaper industry."


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