If newspapers don’t have young people in management positions, they need to get some.
Or at least consult them on decisions. This shockingly does not happen at many newspapers, where management is usually determined by time served, not talent or ideas. Let’s face reality here: The average newspaper reader is like 100 billion years old. Some say older.
That’s not the core demographic that most advertisers are looking for. Newspapers need to have a growth mindset to expand their audience, not just move with their existing audience to new platforms.
The only way to expand into new demographics (mostly younger) is to have people in those demographics in management and actively consult younger staffers about what they want. No more guessing.
Honestly, how else are newspapers going to expand their audience if they don’t have people they are trying to court making decisions?
Now this isn’t to say that all management should be young (that’s foolish), but it is to say that some should be (and management shouldn’t be afraid to actively consult younger staffers on what they actually like). Many newspapers are overwhelming staffed by old, white males. And what do you know, the typical newspaper reader is an old, white male.
Are people in charge creating content that largely appeals to them and people like them? Are people in charge favoring platforms that people like them like? I think the answer to both is yes.
I’ll leave you with a little story about why we need staffers in a target demo helping to make decisions. Back in 2005, while I was a senior in college, I did some blogging and writing for a new Tribune publication, Merge Digital (known as just Merge in print).
The content, design and concept of this publication was a gross caricature of people my age. It was supposed to be “edgy” and “hip,” but it was mostly trashy and stupid. It was heavily about sex, drinking, video games, entertainment and other crap.
There was virtually no real news about the target demographic (college students and 20 somethings). And I only agreed to work for this publication because I was a poor college student who needed money.
Frankly, it was insulting.
There were plenty of real news stories that affected college students and 20 somethings in the Lehigh Valley that no one covered. Merge’s sister publication, The Morning Call, almost never covered that demographic, unless it was some fraternity screwing up. You know, news that just serves to support stereotypes.
The target demographic did not take to this new publication and Web site. Less than three years later, it is now just a footnote in history. It folded awhile ago.
Why? Because the people who came up with this new publication/Web site had no idea what the audience they were trying to reach actually wanted.