Friday, November 26, 2004

Wired News: Newspapers Should Really Worry

Adam L. Penenberg
, an assistant professor at New York University
, writes:
"...according to Washington City Paper, The Washington Post organized a series of six focus groups in September to determine why the paper was having so much trouble attracting younger readers. You see, daily circulation, which had been holding firm at 770,000 subscribers for the last few years, fell more than 6 percent to about 720,100 by June 2004, with the paper losing 4,000 paying subscribers every month.
Erik Wemple, in the article in the Washing City Paper, writes:
So some people don't care to hear that 5:30 a.m. plop at their front door. Many focus groupers, in fact, said they wouldn't even accept the hard-copy version for free. The explanation offered, in many cases, was that they didn't want a bunch of newsprint "piling up" around the house. "People are saying, ‘Why is it so big?'" says Gabriel Escobar, the Post's city editor.
Peneberg and Wemple both draw attention to radical changes in information seeking behavior for young adults. For a variety of reasons, young adults (18-34) aren't relying on traditional print media for news and information. This is not to say they don't read news sources. They regularly check many. They read no longer rely on a single source of information. They seek information constantly, not at regularly scheduled times. And they are not interested in paying (at least directly) for the news.

Library literature as well as anecdotal evidence about information seeking behavior among undergraduates mirror's these findings. The Internet (typically Google) are the first place most undergraduates look for information. Peneberg and Wemple focus primarily on news media, but I suspect when studied more broadly, we would see the same pattern. Young adults, I suspect, don't mind reading online, aren't comfortable with traditional information discovery and navigational tools used for print materials, and are likely to turn to the Internet as the first, if not the only source of information they will check.