Could young people be the saviours of the newspaper industry?

There is real evidence that children are eager to consume factual, print media, so newspaper publishers should think more seriously about safeguarding their future readership.

Start them young if you want children to consumer newspapers, argues Sarah Jane Thomson
Start them young if you want children to consumer newspapers, argues Sarah Jane Thomson

In 2006 I was told, rather disparagingly by a major newspaper publisher, that there was no appetite for a paper aimed at children.

They felt that the younger generation was only interested in digital channels and therefore, were wholly uninterested in the idea of a children’s newspaper.

This publisher was wrong.

Fast forward 11 years and a children’s newspaper (aimed at 7-14 year olds) has topped the children’s ABCs, ahead of the many monthly, cover-mounted and glossy magazines.

This bucks the trend of most other print media, with many newspapers seeing a steady decline in sales.
The fact is that children are consuming more news than ever before.

With social media and 24-hour news channels, they are bombarded with information from many sources and are faced with having to make sense of it all.

And this is no easy task.

‘Fake News’ is a hot topic at the moment and it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to extract the facts from unregulated news sources.

Research reveals that YouTube is the first place most children turn to when they want to find something out – and chances are, they’ll also find out lots more that they didn’t want to.

With this is mind, it is more important than ever to offer children factual information about events that are affecting them and the world around them.

We must encourage our children to seek out accurate information and help them understand the difference between regulated and unregulated media.

Newspapers are consumed in a very different way to online media – but children will read them in exactly the same way as an adult does.

We will all flick through a paper, picking out the headlines and features that are of most interest to us personally.

Research we have conducted over the years clearly shows that children are interested in serious news – not just light-hearted, amusing stories. Brexit, the environment and the housing crisis are all issues that young people are currently concerned about and want information on.

So why on earth are newspaper publishers not nurturing their readers of the future?

Children who grow up reading newspapers are far more likely to go on to read them as adults. Having a regular newspaper around the house in a world of digital technology is a refreshing sight. Making it the ‘norm’ for young people to read a paper would surely benefit the industry longer term?

We can all sit and bemoan the fact that the print industry is on a downward spiral.

However, we are looking at real evidence that the future generation is eager to consume factual, print media.

Perhaps newspaper publishers may now start to think more seriously about safeguarding their future readership and not be so quick to write off the idea of taking accurate news directly to children.

Sarah Jane Thomson is the founder and CEO of First News

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