Brent Boyer: Calling all teen readers
October 23, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Last week was national Teen Read Week, and Bud Werner Memorial Library celebrated the event with a kick-off party, weeklong activities, and amnesty for teens who had fines for overdue books.
The Pilot & Today recognized Teen Read Week with a front-page photo Oct. 14 and a brief mention in Class Notes on the Sunday Education Page.
Given the well-documented decline in teen readership of newspapers, was it enough?
It would be naive to assume stories about Teen Read Week is the type of content that would drive youth readership. If newspapers want to attract teen readers – and ideally make them lifelong newspaper consumers – it’s going to take a lot more than an occasional article geared toward them and their interests.
Selfish motives aside (increased readership drives advertising revenue, chief among them), there are compelling reasons to attract teenage eyes to the pages of the Pilot & Today or any other newspaper. Studies consistently have pointed to a positive relationship between newspaper readership and civic involvement.
Most recently, a 2007 study by the Newspaper Association of America found the following when comparing young adults who read newspapers as teens to those who didn’t:
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– 74 percent donated money to a civic cause in the previous year, compared with 51 percent of the nonreaders
– 62 percent performed community service, compared with 37 percent
– 48 percent volunteered in their community, compared with 26 percent
– 16 percent served on a committee, compared with 8 percent
The NAA’s report also included the following advice for newspapers:
– Find ways to ensure that teens are encouraged to use newspapers in both classrooms and homework assignments, and reach out to the same group with teen content.
– Encourage and promote discussions of current events between teens and their parents or guardians, as well as with other teens.
– Give the newspaper Web site the same priority as the print product, because young people are turning more and more to the Internet for their news.
How does the Pilot & Today measure up?
Our most concerted and worthwhile effort at driving teen readership and interest in the newspaper is Teen Style, the creation of former Pilot & Today reporter Autumn Phillips. I’m proud to say Teen Style is set to kick off another school year in the pages of this paper.
Once a month, area high school students take over the Sunday Style section, penning their own articles about subjects of their choosing. Each month’s section usually takes on a theme. This year’s Teen Style contributors, led by Steamboat Springs High School senior Josie Pacana, will tackle politics and the election in the Nov. 2 Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Besides giving interested young writers an opportunity to have their work published, Teen Style lends a voice to a segment of our community that often says it’s underappreciated. Beginning Nov. 2, I encourage readers to keep a lookout for Teen Style and see the community and important issues through the eyes of local teenagers.
By NAA standards, I’m not sure the Pilot & Today does enough for its younger readers. While Teen Style is a step in the right direction, I encourage readers, particularly teens, to share their ideas for how the newspaper can better engage them. If the end result is young adults who are more actively involved in their communities, we’d be silly not to seek their input.
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