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American youth 'abandoning' newspapers: study

MUMBAI: Considering that it is the US that is defining the direction of culture globally, this could be a scenario that India will be confronting sooner rather than later. A new generation of technology-savvy young people are getting their news in ways that threaten the viability of newspapers and other traditional news media, a study commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation of New York has stated.

"Abandoning the News," the study written by MSNBC.com's founding editor-in-chief, Merrill Brown, adds more grim statistics to growing literature documenting the newspaper industry's losing effort to appeal to a young audience, says a media report. This follows close on the heels of a Rupert Murdoch talk where he said that the print industry needs to wake up to face the challenges in the digital age.

The survey of 18-to-34-year-old finds, for instance, that just 19 per cent read a newspaper daily, 17 per cent read it once a month or less -- and 12 per cent said they "never" read a paper to get their news.

 

 

By contrast, 44 per cent of the young people visited a Web news portal every day, and 37 per cent watch local TV news daily.

Only 14 per cent of respondents called the newspaper their "most important" source of news. Local TV newscasts were called the most important source for news by 31 per cent of the young adults, while another 25 per cent cited the Internet.

There's a little bit of good news for newspapers in the report, which has not yet been officially released but is available on Carnegie's Web site. For one thing, more than half of the respondents told the survey they trust newspapers "a lot."

 

 

But stop the presses: The 25-to-34-year-olds in the surveyed group said the Internet is as trustworthy as newspapers. And more than half of the heaviest newspaper users among young adults predicted that in the next three years they will be accessing the Web more for news.

"I would say [the results were] slightly grimmer than I thought they would be, particularly in terms of the standing of newspapers," Brown told E&P in a telephone interview Wednesday evening. "I think the credibility question, and the utility of newspaper -- or the lack thereof -- was really startling to me. I hope it's kind of wake-up call for the industry."

In his report, Brown argues that traditional news outlets must figure out ways to "engage" young people the way the Internet does. "In short, the future of the US news industry is seriously threatened by the irrevocable move by young people away from traditional sources of news," he says.

As an industry, newspapers in particular are doing a poor job of responding to these new market pressures, said Brown, a former Washington Post reporter, "Here's this huge revenue opportunity that has moved to Yahoo. Yahoo is having these amazing quarters. And the newspaper industry response to that is to trim the staff of their online news sites because they want to keep their bottom line. This is classic business school fodder here. When somebody else is eating your lunch, your response is to run away? The industry needs to invest."

Brown said he is also troubled by a common industry explanation that young people aren't reading newspapers because they're not that interested in the news itself. The survey, conducted in May 2004 by Frank N Magid Associates, shows 18-to-34-year-olds want news, but most of them don't see a need to get it from a newspaper. "There's a blame-the-audience mentality in the industry," Brown said.

 

 

"Abandoning the News" does highlight a few promising newspaper responses, such as The Northwest Voice, a weekly launched by The Bakersfield Californian that is largely written by readers who submit news via the Web.

"The industry has to make big bets a la Dow Jones Marketwatch, or smaller bets like what's going on in Greensboro. That's got to be the culture of the industry, or the result is going to be really, truly fatal," he said. The News & Record in Greensboro, NC, is turning its website into a kind of virtual town square with continual input from Web users and print readers.

"This will take time, it will take patience and resources -- and it will also take guts," Brown said. "There's not enough risk-taking in the newspaper industry."

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