TEEN-AGERS TURN HEARTTHROBS FOR EAGER PUBLISHERS: INTERNET, TV CHALLENGE CONFOUND PAPERS; SUPPLEMENTS EASE PROBLEM

By Published on .

Teen-agers are the darlings of the marketing world and, as a result, they are being showered with movies, TV shows and magazines created just for them.

The newspaper industry -- looking to ensure its future -- also is working harder than ever to convince this crowd it ought to read the local daily to get the latest on "7th Heaven" and Puff Daddy.

After all, this is a generation that devours daily news using 24-hour TV news channels and the Internet.

"There's a lesson that we've learned from the world of marketing, and that is branding young is important," says Lee Kravitz, editor of React, a weekly newspaper supplement and Web site published by Parade Publications. "If you want them to read [the paper] when they're 30, 40 or 50, you have to get them to read now when they're teens."

RESOURCE SHIFT

Publishers, like Parade, are putting more resources behind teen and youth pages, with some issuing monthly tabloid-style supplements, and others preferring weekly or monthly broadsheet pages aimed directly at teens. Style differences are discernible as well, with nationally distributed papers such as Parade's React favoring an adult journalist-led staff, while others, such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Minnesota Youth News page and Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette's FlipSide supplement use teen writers and photographers working alongside adults.

"Our teen writers cover everything, from community to culture," says Marina Hendricks, president of the Youth Editors Association and editor of FlipSide, a 60-page insert appearing once a month in the Sunday newspaper and distributed in schools, and FlipSide Sunday, a weekly broadsheet. "They bring a fresh perspective and excitement to the newspaper. They're invaluable."

NeXt, published by the Buffalo News, is designed and written to appeal to young readers, says Editor Jane Westmoore.

Newcomers to the teen market are partners Scholastic Inc. and The New York Times. Through a joint venture, the two companies in May will begin circulating a prototype for The New York Times Upfront, a magazine targeting teens.

CULLED FROM 'TIMES'

Articles in the magazine will be culled primarily from the pages of the Times, but also will include original material. Beginning in September, the magazine will be published every two weeks, with online updates, throughout the school year, for a total of 18 issues. Target circulation for next year is 300,000; $15,000 is the open rate, with discount packages and charter rates available, says Tom Carley, director of business development. Upfront replaces Scholastic Update.

"We think this will be of interest to teens and teachers, and ultimately it is a way to bring students along to the main paper itself," says Mr. Carley.

WEB EQUIPPED

No teen paper would be complete without a Web site, and Upfront will include many references to an Upfront Web site as well as other news-related links. The Gazette will launch a Web site later this year, concurrent with a redesign of the newspaper's youth section.

React's Web site is a popular destination for teens, says Mr. Kravitz.

"React was developed specifically because newspaper publishers wanted to reach out to teens," says Bunny Fensterheim, VP-advertising.

Color page rate is $43,848. The more than 188 local newspapers that carry React have the option of adding an additional four pages to the national insert with local ads.

Finding advertisers interested in marketing to teens hasn't been a difficult task either, many newspaper executives note. In the pages of React, one finds ads for advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co.'s Secret antiperspirant, Coty teen fragrances, Nintendo and Reebok.

READY ADVERTISERS

In Charleston, FlipSide attracts a regular crew of local advertisers, such as portrait studios and formalwear retailers.

On the other hand, the one ad slot available to advertisers on the three-year-old Youth News page, says Editor Delma Francis, was quickly snapped up by a local college.

A recent survey by the Newspaper Association of America found nearly seven in 10 young people read a daily newspaper at least once during the week (see story below).

"This is a big-time, major issue for us," says John Sturm, president of NAA. "We are working to spark teen readership, and a strong teen readership now bodes well for the industry's future readership."

Some media buyers remain skeptical about newspapers' stamina in continuing efforts to reach teen readers.

"When you think about newspapers right now, what sections would attract young people?" queries Steve Greenberger, senior VP-director of print media for Grey Advertising's MediaCom, New York. "It's probably movies, entertainment, sports, the comics, the fun things in the paper. A lot of today's action is on the Internet."

Mr. Greenberger, a former teacher who used newspapers in the classroom, believes newspapers are an important learning tool for kids because it exposes them to information about the world and the nation.

"It's important that young people spend time with the newspaper medium, but I still see a problem with getting them to it," he says. "On a regular, daily basis, there's a need for greater amounts of editorial that would attract them."

A LIFESTYLE CHOICE

Other advertising executives, however, believe teens are reading more newspapers today than they did 10 years ago.

"There's been a flurry of magazines, books, and yes, even newspaper supplements, that make reading fun for kids," says Paul Kurnit, president of kids-oriented ad agency Griffin Bacal, New York.

What papers need to concentrate on, Mr. Kurnit contends, is helping teens make the newspaper a part of their lifestyle.

If newspapers don't embrace teens, he warns, the Internet certainly will eclipse newspapers as a source of news and information.

"I think there's too much denial going on by newspaper publishers," Mr. Kurnit says. "Teens are by no means reading newspapers the way newspapers need them to

In this article:
Most Popular