World Association of News Publishers



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This is the sixth installment of a series of reports that explore different kinds of news literacy initiatives around the world (outside the United States) that have been created by or could involve news publishers. It was commissioned by the American Press Institute. Lead author is Aralynn McMane.


#6 EXPLORE THE NEW NEWS FOR KIDS: Consider a new breed of special content for children and teenagers.

(NOTE: * denotes a WAN-IFRA Center of Youth Engagement Excellence and ** a winner of the WAN-IFRA World Young Reader Prize)

Journalism targeting children has changed. Print editions have a new shine, and digital offerings finally make practical sense. The reporting handles deftly the horrific news children and teenagers cannot avoid. Solutions journalism(1) is simply part of the normal work pattern, and sponsored content sometimes part of the challenge.


Apps delivering daily news to teenagers and even children are becoming more and more common. In the Netherlands, the online staff of 7Days (by Uitgeverij Young & Connected**) created an app using mostly free resources that offers seven news stories each day, plus one sponsored item, to its teenage audience. Then-managing editor Kim Einder describes the process in this video.

The German news agency DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) offers its newspaper members an extra, mobile-based news service that can be tailored for the youngest local audiences. Hellweger Anzeiger, integrated the service into its club for children, Rubi Rubens. The club also offers events such as an Easter egg hunt at the publisher’s headquarters, a cooking class and ice skating outings. The app provides a mix daily of local and DPA-produced news, jokes from readers. A separate blog often explains an element of the newsmaking. All of it is free. “Our goal is to treat kids not as readers of tomorrow but as readers of today,” says chief editor Volker Stennei. So far, the club has attracted 600 members. Stennei plans enhancements, including  games and more interactive content. “We are pleased about our success so far but fully aware that we still have to improve,” he says.

In France, where 82 percent of 14- to 18-year-olds have a smartphone, the powerhouse Bayard group enhanced its offer to teenagers in November 2016 by creating a GiveMeFive app that offers five top news stories in French to read in five minutes at 5:05 p.m.(17h05) each day. The news team at the teen magazine Phosphore selects the stories. A video or meme (of under 4 seconds unless it is a film trailer) heads each short article (about 150 words). [Video 00:00:33]

Three months after launch, the app had attracted a total of about 10 000 users, two thirds of whom used it daily. "This is a real sign of acceptance/adoption as only 5 percent of apps today are opened even once a week," says David Groison, Phosphore editor in chief. The app itself is free. “Making money is not the priority right now,” he explains. “We see this as a test before considering several options.”

News-o-matic** is a highly interactive news service for children 6 to 12 years old in Spanish and English that launched first in the United States in 2013 and has now exported its model via partnerships with two French regional news publishers. [Video 00:1:10]

From the start, news-o-matic emphasized interactivity, with the editor receiving up to 2000 communications daily, both texts and drawings done via a special app.

The French versions retain key features of the U.S. service, including the interactivity, three reading levels, the possibility to hear each story, a child psychologist who vets every story, and access to archives. In addition, a new localizer feature shows how far away the news is from the user. The press4kids model calls for parents or teachers to buy a subscription (€4.99 per month or €49.99 per year). The French news publisher partners are Ouest France as Dimoitou, and Le Progrès as Le Progrès des Enfants.

Founder Marc-Henri “Marcus” Magdelenat  said the idea came to him when he saw graphic news images of the body of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi: “It was not good for children to see the body on the front pages of newspapers so we decided to build a platform to help parents manage such a situation for their 6- to 12-year-olds.”

One of his favorite stories to tell is of a U.S. parent who complained about stories dealing with topics that would upset children, such as the Ebola epidemic. A few days later, the same mother wrote back, saying, “I have come to the conclusion that I am, for the most part, in the wrong on this issue” and noting that, thanks to news-o-matic, she was able to talk effectively about the realities of the virus with her 10-year-old.

Magdelenat said that next steps for Press4Kids include more partners, virtual reality, more video, and quizzes in which classes can compete with one another.


A very new player is adding augmented and virtual realities to the mix. Minushu in Barcelona is in the process of creating NewsKid, a multi-media start-up news experience for children in cooperation with selected publishers that will have feature virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and and a weekly print edition. The AR element features a space creature lost on Earth, Nushu, whose job is to explain earthlings to the population back home with the help of NewsKid’s young audience.

Founder Eva Domínguez expects to launch with a Catalonia news publisher in September 2017 and eventually have one partner in each region. The project has attracted funding from the Google Digital News Initiative, and the print and augmented reality features are already operational. “We have worked a lot to modify the AR app in order to include a paid subscription model for that content to which families can subscribe,” Dominguez says. [Video 00:02:15]


The new breed of print products in newspaper format seem to share several traits:

  • providing real news with a general bent towards "solution journalism" and a special talent for dealing with even horrific events.

  • very interactive and regular relationship with their young audiences, who sometimes even have a say in what's published.

  • a business plan that calls for separate subscriptions targeting grandparents and parents, many of whom are worried about the massive amounts of time their offspring are spending with screens.

  • readers who have developed a surprising loyalty to print.

“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 enjoy reading their copies in their rooms, in bed, on the bus going to school. All the studies we do with our children show that reading a newspaper is necessarily on paper.”

Other French-language publishers have long provided news in print for children, but not on a daily basis. France’s regional publisher l’Alsace began Journal des Enfants (JDE)** in 1984. L’Avenir in Belgium started a weekly of the same name eight years later.  [More in the next section about JDE’s treatment of news in a report from Germany’s DPA press agency about covering terrorism and disasters for children].

Other, non-daily newspapers for children around of the world are also having surprising success with print editions.

Kel Yom is produced by Planet News Business, based in Lebanon and inspired by the approach of its partner, Playbac Presse. Begun in Qatar by two Lebanese women entrepreneurs, it targets 7 to 11-year-olds. More than 12,000 children in Doha and Beirut receive copies in the classroom through bulk subscriptions by school administrations.  “Arabic teachers are using Kel Yom as a pivotal pedagogical support for exploring scientific and societal issues, and news otherwise untapped in their classroom, ” according to co-founder Hala Bejjani.

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 a while and then see it again with pleasure,” says Lamia Al Rassi, co-founder of company.

Norway’s Aftenposten Junior** is a six-year-old separate weekly edition printed on quality newsprint. Through regular conversations and visits, editor Guri Leyell Skedmo has a sense of what appeals to her readers. “They like to touch, feel and share the physical product,” she says. They like to bring it to school, show friends, save it for later, etc. And no adult will tell them to stop reading, unlike what happens when they are online.”

Adult innovators are taking notice as well. The edition beat out several major print editions for adults around the world to be named both the International Newspaper of the Year and International Printed Innovation of the Year at the 2017 NewsAwards in London.

Australia’s weekly Crinkling News was inspired by children’s print editions in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Norway and Austria and counts 4500 paid subscribers at the end of its first year.  “People are sick of click bait,” founder Saffron Howden, a 15-year veteran of daily news work, told The Guardian’s Weekly Best media feature.  “And now there’s a growing desire for a return to tangible quality – something readers can hold in their hands and feel a part of.”

Kerin O’Connor, publisher of new The Week Junior newsmagazine, in the United Kingdom, sees it as a “wonderful paradox.” “As the world obsesses about digital and platforms, the youngest media users are reading ink on paper. Books and publications for children have never been better in quality, range and production.” However, The Week Junior does not rely on print alone. “We have 50 000 followers on Popjam ( a social network for children under 12),” he says. “This is a moderated and safe channel where we can share stories and information with our readers.” Also, even before subscribing, people can watch a video that explains the newsmaking process. [Video 00:01:35]

Indonesia’s Jawa Pos** offers an example of a smart mix of digital, print, and supportive activity for its youth audience. This publisher has a long history of creatively – and successfully – engaging teenagers as readers of news via a special print initiative. From 2000 to February 2016, it ran DetEski, a daily section in the main print edition that targeted teenagers and was run by a young staff that polled up to 1000 of its readers each day.

At the end of 2016, 73 percent of Jawa Pos readers were under age 40, according to Nielsen and Roy Morgan studies. "DetEksi did well in its 16 years of existence, and we are now moving to get a new generation of young readers to join the club," says Azrul Ananda, president director.  

Now, in all of the group's 38 titles, Jawa Pos publishes a daily Zetizen page and runs polls while recruiting Zetizen "members" that numbered more than 150 000 by March 2017. "Since the polls are online/mobile based (to verified members), we can do more stuff and more customization for the regional newspapers." Ananda explains. "And everyday, even if all run the same topic on the Zetizen page, the treatment might be different."

As was the case with DetEski, other kinds of actions accompany the journalism. "Each newspaper with Zetizen has a team that maintains a relationship around the interests of members in each region," Ananda says. For example, as a reward for doing something positive for their environment and neighborhoods, Jawa Pos published reports of the activities by members on its fast-growing Zetizen website, then ran the best of them in print, and then sent the five top winners from each of the 34 provinces on a study visit to New Zealand.


It is really the approach to journalism that sets the new news for young audiences apart. For both digital and print products, the editors are providing real news tailored to the knowledge base of the reader and with a natural inclination toward solutions journalism(1).

For more than 20 years, the French publisher PlayBac** has set a gold standard in doing such journalism daily for tightly defined youth audiences in an activity that began as simply way to sell more books.

“We already ran an educational games company, PlayBac, and wanted another way to market our games and books,” says founding editor François Dufour. “Some research we did said the biggest barrier to selling books to kids was that they didn’t like reading. Actually, the original idea was for a monthly, but we realized that the long shelf life would not accomplish our goal: kids getting the reading habit. So we decided we needed to give them something fresh every day – just to take 10 minutes – but every day.”

So they founded Mon Quotidien for 10- to 14-year-olds as a daily delivered to the home. Now, PlayBac publishes three such targeted dailies, three foreign-language weeklies and a business weekly for teens. All rely on the same approach to news.

“What’s most important for us is that we publish news that is really for kids, not for adults,” Dufour explains. “For us the game is to find what is going to be of interest for kids in the day’s news.”

Adult journalists write the news, but it is a rotating panel of readers who choose what goes into the papers. A teacher reads for language and to be sure that references make sense to the particular age group. Readers also vote on the month’s “top” and “flop” front pages. “Every time we do a painting exhibit, it’s a flop,” Dufour says. “What also tends to flop is when we do a cover story about sports or movies or video games or music. Those are their passions, but all children don’t have the same passions. It’s too specific. With soccer, we lose all the girls, and we lose some boys. Movies, apart from Harry Potter, were flops.” Instead the paper’s use reader reviews to cover video games, music and movies.

PlayBac has a short daily television news show (LCI) and is in digital space with its Clarify explainer videos. [See a discussion of Clarify in Part 5, Help the Influencers], but explaining is already all over the print editions. Routine solution elements include defining unfamiliar words and creating complete dossiers that offer background for school topics. Also,  stories that provide solutions often rank among the month’s “top” front pages among readers. For example, two of the favorite stories for teenagers in 2016 covered a village that decided to embrace migrants and gave readers a chance to select among options for change in the educational system without knowing which presidential candidate supported which option.

One of the newest players, Australia’s Crinkling News, aims for solutions as well. “It’s the hardest journalism I’ve ever done, the editor,” Saffron Howden, told a television audience in February. With the help of a staff child psychologist, the goal is to empower children with solutions, even around topics as frightening as terrorism. “For example, we ask them to think about what they could do at their school to encourage tolerance,” she explained. [Video 00:04:36 from Channel 10’s Studio 10 - Australia, 26 February 2017].

Two new new players emerged in 2017 in very different environments, but both with a solutions mentality.

The New York Times produced a one-off insert for a Sunday edition in May with content that focused on solutions ranging from the serious to the silly: how to write a newspaper story, how to win an argument with parents, how to make slime, how to bake a chocolate chip cookie pizza, how to win a spelling bee, how to design a superhero, how to make a modern paper airplane, and how to create a crossword puzzle. (Photo NYTimes)

The response was “tremendous,” according to Caitlin Roper, special projects editor at The New York Times Magazine, who spearheaded the effort. “We've received hundreds of messages and, the best part, amazing photos of young kids poring over the kids section, reading the opinion page, baking the cookie pizza recipe, drawing their own superheroes, making slime, and keeping their parents away, owning the section for themselves, she says.

“Parents are thrilled to see their kid so engaged by the newspaper. We've had an avalanche of requests to make the section a recurring feature in the Sunday paper--there's even a petition to make the kid section weekly!”

Meanwhile, the creators of a print edition for children in refugee and IDP (internally displace person) camps are finding an eager audience that doesn't want the journalists to hold back in describing what they have gone through.

The French non-profit Guilde européenne du raid is creating a news-filled magazine in French, Arabic and probably in kurdish titled “Our Newspaper: Us, Children and Exiles.”

“The idea is to help them reconstruct their lives with the help of a little distraction,” says one of the organizers, Hugues Dewavrin. “It is a very delicate exercise; you have to find just the right tone.”

The content for a test issue emerged from interviews with Iraqi children by Églantine Gabaix-Hialé, the manager of the organization’s radio station in Erbil and features lots of games to help pass the time, testimonials from children about the violence they have endured and about how they are coping, and explorations of different kinds of fear and of what the children saw as scenarios for their future.

The team tested 15 copies of the 20-page edition with Iraqi children of different faiths (notably muslims, christian and yazedis) at three camps around Erbil, Mossoul. “They didn’t want to let it go!,” says editor Sonia Feertchak. “After awhile, they had done all the games, they knew all the pages by heart, they wanted to meet the children we speak about, and they wanted more and more pages.”

A 100,000 copy press run of a 36-page issue is planned for October. The French publisher, Bayard Jeunesse will introduce the young audience of its Astrapi magazine to these young exiles by publishing a 16-page insert with largely the same content.

What they will leave out is some of the violence. “We discovered the young Irakis need to read the violence they really endure, and they feel we understand them by including that,” Feerchak says. “They are interested and amazed to discover what other communities have endured, too. We are going to soothe the stories for French children.”


The new news for children stands out in terms of innovation because journalists use a solutions-oriented approach that features rigorous reporting about how people are responding to problems, which is especially important when dealing with disturbing news.

The process starts with explaining what happened as clearly as possible, and as fully as relevant.

“One thing our news  is NOT is some form of softened, sanitized version of reality,” Dufour says. “No subject is taboo but it has to have an angle that is of interest to kids. In the case of the migrants in Europe, for example, we looked especially at what happened to the children, and we answered children’s own questions. We insist on clear journalism, telling the facts. For example, we wouldn’t say simply that migrants drowning while trying to reach Europe is terrible, but give the facts behind such a statement: how many people have died. And we make sure to explain words they might not understand.”

Germany’s DPA press agency is another leader in daily journalism for children and in this approach. For the past decade, its six-person youth division has provided about 70 news publishers in the country with a wide variety of stories for 6- to 12-year-olds. Head editor of the service,  Ira Kugel, agrees with Dufour about tough news: "There is basically no topic that we do not take up," she says. "Children are also getting bad news and the less they are told, the more they are afraid." It is important, however, to spare details. "The rule is that there must be all the details that are important to the understanding, but without everything else that makes the text too complicated or frightening."

As part of its 10th anniversary, DPA just released a white paper (English version available here) reiterating much of what is happening in youth editions around horrific news of terrorism or disasters. The white paper touches on other evidence of a solutions approach: helping parents talk to children about the news.

It includes a thoughtful explanation by child psychologist Maya Götz about the need for a special approach to news for kids and uses as examples DPA’s own work, along with that of LOGO! — the 25-year-old children’s news service from the ZDF public service broadcaster and from France’s weekly Journal des Enfants (JDE).**

“The mission of Journal des Enfants is the same as [when it was founded] 32 years ago,” writes JDE journalist Caroline Gaertner. “Explain the news in a simple way. Whether news is light-hearted or dramatic, the editorial team aspire to treat it objectively and clearly.”

And in JDE as in the other titles, even in the saddest news, there is usually a description or potential for positive action or a cause for hope, and a solution of some sort.

The coverage of the 2015 murders in Paris of cartoonists working for the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and of several other people offers examples of the combination of real news, hope and solutions.

The Playbac dailes were close to the event as one of the slain cartoonists had also drawn for Playbac’s flagship paper, Mon Quotidien, since its start in 1995. The first editions made clear that it was a very sad time (real news), offered advice to parents starting with suggesting they make sure children wanted to talk about it and free downloads of that day’s editions and several others that followed to help that conversation (solutions) and printed the best of the hundreds of cartoons and posters children made and sent to the newspapers in support of freedom of expression (hope).

Denmark's brand new Kids’ News** weekly took an approach it would continue for other tough stories, according to editor Jonas Stenbæk Christoffersen: Ask children what they want to know, tell them the facts and the details without drama, let them reflect on other children’s thoughts and put the case in the right perspective, showing solutions and helping make children feel as safe as possible.

Kid’s’ News used cartoons for the cover of its edition about the Charlie Hebdo attacks to lighten the tone while reminding its young readers that cartoons are a great way to communicate. Similarly, the cover of JDE showed a child holding one of the “I am Charlie” signs that came to signify the aftermath of the murders with a headline, “Free to write, to draw to laugh…”

When terrorists killed 130 people on Paris later that year, Dufour used the same strategy as evidenced in a video report from the New York Times.[Video 00:03:54, New York Times Video, 17 November 2015]

The Week Junior launched in the United Kingdom that same week. “Children pick up on news and phrases from the mainstream news media so you have to explain. The guideline is to be concise, factual and straightforward,” publisher Kerin O’Connor explains. “We use social media to provide guidance to parents on how to frame discussion of events.” However, he says, they do not cover “drug smugglers or crime, criminal violence and child abuse.”

More here about how these and other children’s newspapers and digital services reported the Paris attacks.

Other awful events get a similar treatment.

When an attacker killed five people outside Westminster Abbey in London in March 2017, the decade-old children’s digital and print news publisher First News** used the same strategy for its reporting that it had used for other tough stores, again offering parents help in talking with their children.

“Children need to understand that there are lots of good and bad things going on around them, editor Nicky Cox had written earlier in the Huffington Post, “but, most cases, they don’t directly impact on the child’s day to day life. This puts the news into perspective and can make some events less frightening.”

Australia’s Crinkling News editor Saffron Howden agrees. “The most important thing for children is to give them an opportunity to process [complex and scary] events,” she says. “And that involves giving them space to ask questions and be involved in the solutions.” For example, when a man drove into lunchtime crowds at a street mall and killed six people, including children, the coverage focused on the people who helped both during and after the incident. “The Red Cross has handmade ‘trauma teddies’ they give to people at times like this and there was a beautiful story in them alone.”

Crinkling News took the approach further to handle violence within the family that featured a matter of fact tone in describing the experience of one child who had received a national award for speaking out and providing clear, realistic suggestions for how its young readers could react if it happened to them. “We worked very closely with our child psychologist on that one,” Howden says. Norway's Supernutt, the national NRK broadcaster's children's news show also believes it is important to cover tough stories . reported that after seeing a Supernutt story about abuse, two children told their teacher they had been abused. "That means we have to do this regularly," NRK chief of staff Frank Silvertsen, told


Australia’s Crinkling News is an example of how hard it is to get the business model right. To launch the weekly, editor Howden and her designer husband, Remi Bianchi, used the money they received when the Sydney Morning Herald cut more than 1000 jobs to support a digital-first strategy.

“We’ve showed there’s a market for this,” Howden told The Guardian. “We’ve showed that it’s worked and it’s wanted. It took [she and her husband] a year of blood, sweat and tears to do it, and we haven’t had a lot of time to sit around having meetings with people...”

After nearly a year of publishing a weekly broadsheet with a 60 percent subscription renewal rate, they found it necessary to launch an all-or-nothing crowd-funding appeal in early May for $AU 200,000 (about €133,000 or $US 148,000). The deadline was just two weeks later. The effort attracted considerable media attention, and Howden reports that during her presentation to a parliamentary hearing on public interest journalism 24 hours before the deadline, ‘the lawmakers were donating during the session.”  The risk paid off with the goal met and exceeded.

Howden says that approach was deliberate to avoid arriving at the same point once again.

“If you’re putting out a weekly paper, that deadline takes priority every week,” Howden told The Guardian.  “What we hadn’t been doing is flying around the country, speaking to every potential investor. We had a number of conversations with a number of people over the past year but we haden’t been able to put a lot energy into that.”

Supporting the original business model -- a mix of paid subscribers and display advertising -- will be a priority. That means hiring expertise in marketing and in approaching schools (of which 10 percent already use Crinkling News) and private interests to follow up on the limited amount of canvassing they managed to do.

“Now we get back to the work of bringing the news to our young readers around the country every week,” Howden says. “And we start immediately on putting the money raised towards bringing new expertise into the business so we can reach sustainability and keep publishing Crinkling News into the future.”

Play Bac Presse has survived more than 20 years with an editorial approach that works well elsewhere and with a business model that would be difficult to transfer beyond France. Today, it relies on its subscriptions (a total of about 120 000 at last count), France’s efficient postal system that delivers for 5 cents per copy, on subsidies to promote press pluralism and on paid supplements to the subscriber base (foreign language versions, archives, etc.). It renews its subscriber base thanks to a massive sampling campaign each fall targeting schools. In the early years, until the economic crisis of 2008, it also had a “club” of partners (including Coca Cola, Nike and the Pasteur Vaccination center, Pilot pens and the Carrefour grocery store group), each getting a half-page advertisement every few issues. (Other parts of PlayBac produce games and sponsored editions.)

For the new weeklies, which have less of a distribution challenge,  a separate subscription scheme that targets the parents and especially grandparents has become the norm. This replaces the old model of an insert in all editions.

From the start in 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,” explains Mariko Horikawa, deputy manager of the Department of Research and Development Operations for Yomiuri Shimbun.

At Aftenposten in Norway, the "Junior" edition begun in 2012 and quickly became the company's second most profitable product. By 2017 it counted nearly 30 000 subscribers. 

At under two years old, The Week Junior is “a little miracle of a publication” for the U.K.’s Dennis Publishing. Single copies cost £ 1.99 and as little as £ 1.33 by subscription. “We have 34 000 weekly subscribers,” publisher O’Connor said in February 2017. “There is an average increase of 539 subscribers each week [2.5 times faster than the best rate of the brand for adults -- The Week], and it has renewal rates “better than anything else we publish here.”

The new model is also producing new partnerships. Competing German news publishers in Stuttgart together created a youth edition at least 7500 people paying between € 6.90 and € 8.90 per month for just that edition.


Some editions rely on sponsored content with a variety of safeguards aimed to protect brand trustworthiness.

The ZeusKids  publication for 9- to 13-year-olds for Funke Mediengruppe in North Rhine-Westphalia has relied on sponsored content for more two-thirds of its revenues (companies for 49 percent of its revenues and foundations for 14 percent).

Any such content has been “written by Zeus journalists or by an expert of the company in agreement with the Zeus- editors,” according to project director Harald Heuer. “The editorial responsibility for all content is in the hands of ZeusMedienwelten. Past sponsored content has come from Unicef, Unesco, a local NGO supporting children, theatres, museums and orchestras. All sponsors and partners have signed a contract to respect the journalistic standards of ZeusMedienwelten.

At Schwäbische Post’s KinderPost, partners suggest topics for the central "panorama" pages (8 and 9) they sponsor. The editorial team checks whether the topics are of interest to children. If not, they are rejected. The Schwäbische KinderPost Kinderpost editorial team takes care of the implementation: Responsibility for content remains with the editorial team. Partners are named at the side (with logo). Examples of topic sponsoring include:

>“On the move – across Europe with Thomas” As a lorry/truck driver, Thomas Bächtle is often on the road for days at a time. The KinderPost asked him what experiences he has on the way. Financial partner: local haulage company.

>“Playing is fun” At the Young Power Day in Aalen, about 700 children tried out several new types of sport. Financial partner: a local health insurance company

>“On the bus to Berlin and Cologne” The team bus makes sure the players get to the kick-off on time. Financial partner: a local bus company

Austria’s Kleine Kinderzeitung** partners with prominent businesses and NGOs to deliver sponsored editions of the newspaper on various topics. Even though these special editions focus on the area of work of the newspaper’s partners, contents are carefully chosen by the paper’s editor in chief and prepared for a young audience, according to editor Petra Prascsiacs. The content is marked with a small, government-required notice.

“We see that kids can tell the difference between the sponsored special editions focusing on one theme only, like the railway for example, and our usual weekly edition, which covers several different topics,” she says. “Still, we would never partner with a fast-food chain, for example. It would be unethical to do that, when our paper reports on healthy nutrition.”

All of these are laudable efforts. However, other evidence indicates that it may not be enough in the effort to truly help children learn to tell the difference between journalism and paid content.

Each year the team coordinating France’s Week of the Press and News Media creates a dossier of background materials for teachers. In 2017, one element showed the evolution of how to better label vender content. Les Inrockuptibles targets teenagers and young adults and specializes in news of rock music plus politics with a somewhat leftist bent. Its digital version journalists review video games. In one case, a game was labeled as “reviewed” by “Service Rock.” The URL for that review mentioned “content partner.” Users complained on Twitter and the publisher modified the labeling, adding both a large tag and byline that said “Content Partner.”

But even that may not be enough.

One part of a recent, albeit limited, study out of Stanford offers some of the why.

In a 2015 study, 203 U.S. “middle school” students (ages about 11-13) were asked to identify different kinds of content on the homepage of the online magazine Slate. They were able to identify a traditional banner advertisement for Gotham Writers that included a coupon code and a news story. However the researchers reported that more than 80 percent of the students believed a native advertisement, labeled as “sponsored content” was a real news story.

And here, I, the author, want to make some modest suggestions:

Thanks to assaults by politicians, news organizations are benefiting from a renewed sense of trust from citizens. For example, one can directly credit U.S. President Donald Trump’s attacks on journalists for the massive uptick in New York TImes readers paying for school subscriptions. In this positive climate, it may be a good time for reliable news organizations to be more clearly honest with their audience about their sponsored content for children.

Instead of the tiny labels, why not simply spell out what is going on: The editors are thanking the organizations and businesses that support the real journalism by letting them speak directly to the audience about what they do, support, etc. Such an approach makes it clear that the publisher or editor is hiding nothing, that it is the publisher or editor who decides about whether this content’s producer merits having such space.

Also, why not not re-invent and introduce real advertising with a campaign to help children understand what it is, what it does and how it is different from journalism. To get some inspiration for a new approach, just search on “design an ad contest” or look at one example from WAN-IFRA: a challenge to do an advertising contest or project around 3 May, Press Freedom day.



This series of reports was commissioned to look only at initiatives from outside the United States. However, as for earlier segments, we are providing an example of excellent practice from within the U.S.

Since February 2016, Clover  has targeted female teenagers who subscribe to receive a daily package via email of both long- and short-format news. Founding editors are Casey Lewis (formerly of Teen Vogue) and Liza Darwin (formerly of Hearst’s Snapchat Discover channel Sweet).

“There’s this renaissance that we’ve been seeing lately with Lenny and theSkimm and all these publications that are bringing people information in a different way than with clickbait headlines,” Lewis told API’s Laurie Beth Harris in a wide-ranging interview soon after Clover’s launch. “Emailed “newsletters combine the best of both worlds. They feel familiar, but they also free fresh in a way that a traditional website doesn’t.”

The service was a hit, with 1000 subscribers on the first day. Since then, it has faced the same challenges as other newsletters, notably difficulties with spam filters and tracking open rates once they added more visuals that made the email heavier. “When emails become laden with a lot of pictures and gifs or [with words that could be misconstrued when taken out of context] the email can get blocked,” Lenny CEO Benjamin Cooley told Adage.

At a year old, Clover, has expanded with a weekend edition, book club, its own, by invitation, community, a new competition for the time of U.S. teenage girls and also new competition for their audience from the Huffington Post.

Kiki Von Glinow, HuffPost director of growth and analytics explained to API’s Katie Kutsko how they expect to grow an audience under age 20 through two initiatives.

Begun in February 2017, “The Tea” newsletter promises “exclusive interviews where your favorite celebs spill the tea [tell all].” Another HuffPost effort is the relaunch of its Campus Editor-at-Large program as a group of university student influencers “in their communities who want to see their voices reflected in our coverage and who want to grow their personal social media accounts -- which we’re going to help them do!,” Von Glinow explains.

“The power of celebrities and influencers with this demographic is pretty unmistakable. The engagement we’re seeing not only with the content but with their anticipation for these exclusive and intimate celebrity interviews to arrive in their inboxes has been pretty amazing. And because of their incredible commitment to these celebrities and influencers they admire, word of mouth has spread from email to other audiences, which has been pretty exciting to see.”

(1) NOTE: The Solutions Journalism Network defines solutions journalism as “rigorous reporting about how people are responding to problems.” The author prefers it to the related concept, “constructive” journalism, in discussions of content for children and teenagers largely because of the nature of the most usual antonyms for each term. The opposite of “constructive” is “destructive,” an extremely negative term, while the opposite of “solution” is simply “problem,” which describes one standard aim of classic journalism: to report about problems in society. Solutions journalism simply takes that standard practice to the next step by also exploring the ways people are responding.



Aralynn McMane's picture

Aralynn McMane


2017-03-13 10:42

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The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) helps newspapers, parents and teachers work together to engage the young to create a literate, civic-minded new generation of readers all over the world. Read more ...