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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Want teens to read news? First you've got to find them

Wondering how to get teenagers interested in news? Here's a few insights from a US report:

1. They won't come to you so you have to go to them
2. If something catches their eye they'll take a look, but they won't go looking for news.
3. News makes them feel anxious about the harsher side of life. They're happier if you can diminish negative associations for them and offer a springboard for taking action, talking about it and effecting change.
4. They respond well to user-friendly, useful and trustworthy sites.
5. They don't feel strongly about online advertising, postively or negatively.

Cyberjournalist does a nice job pulling out interesting quotes from the report, which was conducted by Northwestern University's Media Management Center. You can grab the report for yourself here.

Here's a few pull-outs.

"Teen after teen told our researchers that they won’t go out of their way to get the news online, but they will click on news stories ‘if something catches my eye,’” said Michael P. Smith, executive director of the Media Management Center (MMC).

“There’s a world of meaning – and opportunity — in that phrase,” Smith said. “Understanding it and learning what to do about it is vitally important, since our democracy depends on an informed citizenry. This research provides insights and suggestions news organisations can use to better connect with and serve teenagers.”

Teens get most of their news online from the large internet portals and news aggregators that pop up when they go online — not from local media websites. Therefore, news organisations should develop widgets, partnerships and news feeds tailored for teens in order to get their content on the sites and places where teens spend their time online.

Researchers found that while serious news – particularly news of politics, government and public affairs – is not currently that important to most teens, they are “interestable.” They will look at news online if it catches their eye – with content that interests them, video, the right topics, humorous and weird news, and new things.

For teens, news is stressful and reminds them of the peril in the world. So news organisations should actively experiment with ways to diminish the negative associations teens have with news and to lift their feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. This includes making news a better springboard for talk, action and change; writing about teens’ feeling of peril and about the subjects they’re worried about, and increasing attention given to solutions and problem-solvers.