A publication of the World Editors Forum


Sun - 17.12.2017

To engage younger audiences, avoid stereotypes

To engage younger audiences, avoid stereotypes

After a year of research on what role young people have to play in the future of journalism, Christopher Sopher shared his discoveries and recommendations concerning younger consumers. "The question that matters," he says, "is this: What will replace the morning newspaper as the news habit of the first generation of Americans to grow up immersed in a digital culture?...Journalism needs to focus on young audiences and experiment with new approaches to engaging them."

Stereotypes have a huge role in the high failure rate of journalistic efforts aimed at youths. "Too many stereotypes about young people get worked into news experiments aimed at them," he writes. "While it's true that most young people feel more comfortable with technology and the Internet than their elders do, we don't possess some sherpa-like, innate ability to navigate poorly designed, poorly organized information." In conclusion, "recreating an old experience in a new format is an ineffective way to reach young audiences."

Another issue is the ways newspaper houses unconsciously categorize news into "boring or fluffy...either it's inherently boring but deeply important or entertaining but inane." What happened to important news served up in an interesting way? Stereotypes are a major cause of this bifurcation, and Sopher explains how it (or does not) work with an analogy about broccoli, candy and tasty vegetables. "Journalist types implore young people to eat more broccoli, while most news organizations' efforts to reach young people assume they're only interested in candy. The potential is in the elusive middle ground -- which I suppose...would be "tasty vegetables."

A third point is that "news needs to be designed with an awareness of how and why the audience experiences it." Some people read news out of habit, some because of democracy, and others, just so they can sound smart. Its sometimes a combination of the three, but newspapers have to focus on the experiences of young people within these contexts. "Most news organizations do a poor job of providing an experience that, for young audiences, is either of those things.

Some of the helpful tips he left for newspaper houses wishing to bypass the above issues are to: use road signs and context, offer wisdom journalism, rethink news site design, expand civic journalism/ community coverage, put young people in news, reinvent, expand news-in-schools/ news literacy programs, and improve sharing features/ create self-supporting content. Newspapers need to return their focus to a historical strength: providing a more thoughtful, in-depth look at events and issues than radio or television ever could.

Source: Nieman Journalism Lab, youngerthinking.com



Dawn Osakue


2010-08-19 10:10

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