'Mentoring' young readers about the value of print

By Published on .

Until recently, the newspaper market was divided in two: People older than 40, who grew up with newspapers as part of their daily habit, and people born into the Digital Age, who see diminishing value in daily newspapers. At The Wall Street Journal, my colleagues and I want to change this demographically troubling dynamic. We rethought what today's wired readers want from their print Journal with the redesign in January. Now we're launching a formal corporate "mentoring" program to expose young business leaders and other professionals to what earlier generations took for granted: that a newspaper can be a great source of knowledge and even wisdom.

The Journal's audience and its unique role serving the global business community make it different from other news franchises, but we face some of the same trends as other media companies. The Newspaper Association of America reports that only one-third of 18-to-34-year-olds now read a daily newspaper. It seems that newspapers have not made a compelling case to young people.

Frankly, I don't find this surprising. Most big-city newspapers have always focused on reporting what happened the day before. Technology and increased consumer choice have conspired to make this retelling of the previous day's news less and less essential to many people. More of us, at all ages, get information throughout the day from the Web and mobile devices.

In the case of Journal readers, our research showed that they don't want yesterday's news from their morning newspaper—they got yesterday's news yesterday. Instead, they want the print Journal each morning to tell them what the news of the previous day really means. This led us to focus some 80% of the print Journal since its January relaunch on "what the news means" to our global business audience, well beyond just what happened the day before.

We also want to get Journal scoops and news to people in real time throughout the day, via the Wall Street Journal Online, e-mail, desktop alerts, BlackBerry editions, online video, podcasts and large LCD screens in office lobbies. We may be guilty of contributing to information overload throughout the day, but we deliver a daily newspaper that is a once-a-day oasis of context, perspective and interpretation, identifying trends and tying together what can seem like disparate facts in the rush of the 24/7 news world.

Readers have responded so favorably to the redesigned print Journal that we wanted to try to appeal even to newspaper-skeptical young people. Our new Journal Mentoring Program helps executives work with their younger colleagues to see why a newspaper—at least the Journal redesigned for how people need and get news today—can be a key part of their daily consumption of information, along with digital sources.

Under the Journal Mentoring Program, employers encourage their employees to read the Journal in print and online in order to broaden their horizons. The mentoring program, which provides discounted print and online subscriptions to the Journal, includes a formal training program. This features training materials aimed at younger executives on how to use the Journal, industry-specific e-mails and the opportunity to have Journal news executives train new readers.

The idea for this mentoring program was prompted by the head of an advertising agency in Texas. He said he had grown weary of meetings with his colleagues where only people older than 40 understood his references to broad business themes. His younger colleagues were extremely knowledgeable about news focused on their own areas of specialty, having signed up for news online on topics they already knew they needed to know about. But they didn't read newspapers, magazines or other media that can spot trends, link news across industries and include the "serendipity" of drawing readers' attention to news they didn't realize would interest them. That executive now requires all his colleagues to spend an hour a day reading from an approved list of print publications.

Another executive said he was worried that his bright young colleagues were so specialized that they might not grow into positions of broad leadership. He now requires them to read the Journal. "I wish all my young executives would read the Journal like I do," he said. "It will open their minds to the broader business world and help them make connections beyond their own areas of expertise." That's our aim, for readers of all ages.

L. Gordon Crovitz is publisher of The Wall Street Journal and exec VP of Dow Jones & Co. He can be reached at [email protected].

Most Popular
In this article: