Newspapers able to attract teenage readers have a better chance of keeping those readers as they get older, according to a study released Monday by the Newspaper Association of America Foundation.
The study, announced during the foundation's Young Reader Conference in St. Louis, found that teenagers are drawn to content prepared by teens and about teens, providing hope for newspaper editors and publishers who worry that young people are increasingly turning to the Internet and radio and TV for their news.
Jim Abbott, vice president of the foundation, said the study confirmed what many in the industry had suspected all along.
“We've known if you get the young people in early you can keep them, and now we've got the numbers to back that up,” Abbott said.
The survey of 1,600 18-to-24-year-olds was conducted in seven communities around the country in which newspapers have long-standing teen sections. Those newspapers include The Kansas City Star; The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill.; The Buffalo News; The Virginian-Pilot in Virginia Beach, Va.; The Tribune-Chronicle in Warren, Ohio; the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah; and the Reading (Pa.) Eagle.
Seventy-five percent of respondents who said they read newspaper content aimed at teens when they were 13 to 17 now read their hometown paper at least once a week. By comparison, 44 percent of those who said they did not read teen content are now regular newspaper readers.
“This study is the first to validate that not only are newspapers on the right track in reaching the readers of tomorrow, but they are nurturing a future generation of informed and involved citizens who are able to serve as active participants in the democratic process,” said Margaret Vassilikos, senior vice president and treasurer of the NAA Foundation.
The foundation estimates that about 220 newspapers across the country have special teen pages or sections, including many that feature teen writers. Newspapers also use content aimed at teens from syndicated services that are selling to about 800 newspapers across the country.
Abbott said newspapers need to go beyond specific pages or sections aimed at young readers, “to have something on every page to reflect what those teens are thinking, what they are talking about, how it impacts them.”
The study, based on telephone interviews, was conducted by MORI Research of Minneapolis. Two years ago, another NAA Foundation-sponsored study found that using newspapers in the classroom helped achieve lifelong readership.
The Young Reader Conference began Saturday and runs through Wednesday.