“I have had an ambition to go digital,” says François DuFour, editor of six Paris-based newspapers for children, “but, for now, it is a flop. We have currently only one half a percent of our readers who use the wonderful applications we offer free for iPad or iPhone. They want paper.
“They have all the right reasons: They say they read their newspaper at the same that they enjoy being in their rooms, in bed, on the bus going to school. All the studies we do with children show that reading a newspaper is necessarily on paper.”
This month, DuFour’s company launched “Mon Mensuel” on newsstands targeting 10- to 13-year-olds that offers a “best of” the month’s stories from his subscription-only Mon Quotidien. January will bring the launch in France of a weekly “Meine Woche,” modeled after the “My Weekly” that provides news in English for French children.
“As DuFour will tell you himself, the economic model for his dailies is not going to make millions. It is part, though a separate entity with, of the parent educational games company, relies in part on France’s financial support of the press and also requires an annual renewal of audience,” said Aralynn McMane, WAN-IFRA executive director for youth engagement and news literacy. “However, I think the editorial approach represents a gold standard for such publications. All of the publications treat real news, prepared by professional journalists but chosen by rotating teams of young people in the tightly defined age range for each publication. Content by the young concentrates on most relevant arena: commentary about products aimed at youth. And it all arrives at home, seemingly ‘free.’ ”
Other newspapers for children in other parts of the world are also having surprising success, often due to the interest of not only parents, but also grandparents. For example:
- Demand for Kel Yom of Qatar, a free paper in Arabic targeting 7- to 11-year-olds inspired by the DuFour’s publications, could easily justify double the current press run of 9000 if more sponsors and advertisers could be found, according to co-founder Hala Bejjani, general manager of the parent Planet News Business. Print is clearly a key to the allure for its audience.. “Today they hold it, turn it, keep it, read it again, grasp and get hold of the information in it, leave it for awhile and then see it again with pleasure,” said Lamia Al Rassi, co-founder and managing partner of company. “Complicating it by going to the web will alienate kids from it.”
- In Latin America, Mi Super Diario began a decade ago in Bolivia and has now spread to Peru, Mexico and Venezuela, grown to a combined circulation of about 200 000 copies and is making money for all involved.
- Aftenposten Junior, a weekly of Norway for 9- to 13-year-olds began in April and reached 10000 paid subscribers in July, five months ahead of schedule. Read more.
- From the start in March 2011, Japan’s 20-page weekly Yomiuri Kodomo Shimbun for 6- to 12-year-olds, targeted grandparents, who came to account for nearly 60 percent of its more than 200 000 subscriptions. “The parents’ generation -- or those in their 30s or 40s -- care the least for the print,” explained Mariko Horikawa, deputy manager of the Department of Research and Development Operations for Yomiuri Shimbun. Read more.
But all is not good tidings for youth news products in print. ”I get to see a lot of them as entries for your World Young Reader Prize,” said McMane. “Far too many are doomed to fail as too widely targeted and full of dumbed down content nobody that wants to read. Worse, I've seen a lot of hidden advertising in the form of advertorial content and product placement that creates a confusion about what's journalism and what's selling. As we learn over and over again, youth can handle real journalism and if we don’t engage and respect youth, they are certainly going to go elsewhere. Alone, of course, that approach to the young as normal people on any platform is not the whole strategy for the ultimate solution for newspaper companies, but it’s a necessary step.”
Also, there is a strong school of thought that youth should be, instead or additionally, be introduced to adult news through news[papers] in education programmes that use the printed or digital news content as an additional resource for teaching a wide array of school subjects, starting with a-b-c.
“If we expose children only to special "kids’ sections" they will grow out of the content and not develop any reading loyalty,” explains Lynne Cahill, News[papers] in Education (NIE) manager at the West Australian and a member of the WAN-IFRA youth engagement strategy committee. “It is essential therefore for youth to become familiar with the whole newspaper, so they know there is something in it for them regardless of their age, interest and reading ability.”
Such NIE programmes, which now also focus on digitally delivered news, have routinely started as early as preschool and been found through studies in Latin America, Europe and North America to improve reading and other academic achievement levels. WAN-IFRA has just recently helped launch national programmes in countries as diverse as Ireland and Botswana.