Teens make better readers for newspapers

What, you say. Well, hang with me here.

I spaced this post from Mindy McAdams on young people last week, but Melissa Worden drew me back to it with her "good reads" list.

Their interpersonal networks might well reconfigure over time. The software or sites they use might well change or be replaced by others. But their habit of staying connected digitally, checking for updates, making plans, sharing gossip, getting information -- this will likely remain their habit, their means of keeping in touch with the world around them, for the rest of their lives.
That's why we need to understand these spaces where young people interact. I don't know if it really requires setting up a bureau in Second Life, but it certainly does demand our attention -- immediately, today.

The implication of this generally is that that's not a good trend for printed newspapers. The readership habits, or lack thereof, that develop early in life follow one throughout life, hence newspaper in education programs, youth features in newspapers, youth-oriented niche newspapers products, etc.

I may be dreaming, but I do think the information consumption habits of today's youth are good news for newspapers -- just not the printed paper. The amount of information and the sources of that information that our teenage son requires about the subjects that interest him are exponentially greater than what was even readily available when I was a teen.

This demand for information presents opportunities now (Facebook, MySpace, music sites, IM, breaking news, online video), but won't it grow heavier in demand as they start needing information for business/careers and managing their life and families? Isn't it like video game players being better surgeons?

That portends tremendous potential for audience growth in term of numbers and in terms of time spent, or engagement. But it's doubtful they will come to traditioanl newspaper products based on the habits they are wiring into their behavior today; we need, as Mindy McAdams exhorts, to start learning their preferred information means and methods now.

And we're not talking lame "youth-oriented" features in newspapers. And to those that say (and I actually heard something along this line RECENTLY) oh, they'll start reading newspapers when they put down roots and have children in school. I hear the prices of Dutch bulbs are rising.

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