MEDIA BRANDS: The jury is out on how much can be gained from dailies' free youth-targeted tabloids

One of the most common tenets of youth marketing is that this audience's precious attention has been sliced and diced by the sheer amount of media vying for it. That world is getting a bit more crowded now that major newspapers are rolling out free, or almost free versions of themselves in the hopes that bite-sized content will revive the medium's long-dwindling popularity among young readers.

One of the most common tenets of youth marketing is that this audience's precious attention has been sliced and diced by the sheer amount of media vying for it. That world is getting a bit more crowded now that major newspapers are rolling out free, or almost free versions of themselves in the hopes that bite-sized content will revive the medium's long-dwindling popularity among young readers.

In the past few years they've been popping up, these editions - the newest one is amNewYork, the Tribune Co.'s stab at reaching 18- to 34-year-olds - have typically been met with skepticism about their business model and teeth-gnashing about what these collections of highly abridged wire copy offer the journalism world. When The Washington Post began giving away the Express in August, it faced tough coverage in the Post and in the alt-weekly City Paper, which produced Expresso, a parody of newspaper-lite editorial sensibilities. And Rem Rieder, American Journalism Review SVP, recently told Reuters, "If you look at journalism from a standpoint of helping inform citizens in a democracy and all the reasons there's a First Amendment, it certainly doesn't do a hell of a lot for that." It remains to be seen how these tabloids will fare as business ventures. Two years ago, the New York Daily News had to shutter its afternoon edition, Express, but that hasn't stopped Metro International, which distributes giveaways in Toronto, Philadelphia, and other cities, and the Tribune Co., which launched RedEye in Chicago before its NYC project. And for media relations pros, the verdict is out on how useful these outlets are in reaching young readers. "We're sort of in a wait-and-see mode," says Porter Novelli SVP Wendy Watson, who leads the agency's youth-marketing practice. "They've cropped up in several cities, but there hasn't been enough research yet." Watson adds that tabloids may provide a bridge into newspapers for young readers. According to the firm's research, 80% of 13- to 18-year-olds look at a newspaper every day, but, she says, most of their interest is very selective, with most girls going right to the horoscopes and boys to the sports pages. "[In terms of] reaching audiences through newspapers, it depends on the category," she says. "For sports, music, and fashion, it makes sense for newspapers to be the first place to go." For Edelman EVP Howard Pulchin, the worth of these newer outlets will be in the content. "You can have 100 new magazines, and they're only going to be worth anything if people read them," he says. "The same can be said of newspapers: If you have good content, it's going to be read." This is a big "if" based on early reviews. For many of these tabloids, the content is less-than-flashy wire stories. And it's hard to see them competing with the web and TV, despite being portable and free, or at least very inexpensive. -matthew.creamer@prweek.com

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