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US Newspapers Try to Change With the Times

  • Carol Pearson

Some American newspapers are institutions dating back more than 200 years. But the Internet, cable and satellite television have changed the way readers, particularly younger readers, get their news. As Carol Pearson reports, technology is also changing the way papers deliver the news.

Large American cities, such as Washington, DC, have become the incubators of the newspapers of the future. In these cities tabloid newspapers are handed out free to commuters on their way to work.

Scott McKibben, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner in California, says the concept works. "The free concept, the compact size, the tabloid, we're a smaller newspaper, they can read it quicker, the stories are shorter."

The stories are designed to attract young adults, many of whom do not read mainstream newspapers.

Connie Nguyen gets her news online. She says, "It's faster. It's more available. I think you're too busy in the morning to read a newspaper."

According to a report by the American Association of Newspapers, people age 34 and under make up the majority of the U.S. workforce. They have a lot of money to spend, and advertisers are interested in reaching them. But they are elusive. They get their news from the Internet and "blogs" -- Web logs on line, television, and other electronic outlets.

Randy Bennett, the Vice President of Readership at the Newspaper Association of America says, "Young adults are probably more prone to experiment with new kinds of media, so newspapers are now trying to figure out how do we best respond to how young adults in particular have very different media usage behavior habits."

Newspaper editors used to decide what their readers needed to know. Now focus groups tell editors what young readers want to know. Not only have the methods of getting news changed, but the ethnic makeup of the young American news audience is also changing. The newspaper association says about one-third of the under 34 audience is part of a racial or ethnic group. They want news and information about their communities.

Randy Bennett says newspapers have to be proactive in attracting an audience because the market is so fragmented. He says, "A lot of the power of media choice is moving to the consumers. There's a sense that these newspapers have to be where these consumers are with the products that are most relevant to them and that's why we see this portfolio of products. Newspapers are starting to create blogs on their Websites and really experimenting with new forms of media that attract a new generation of media users."

Newspaper publishers expect today's young adults to be multi-media consumers throughout their lives, and if newspapers want to survive they have to reach this audience and earn its loyalty.

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