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Front Page » October 19, 2006 » Carbon County Youth Focus » Young and impressionable
Published 3,278 days ago

Young and impressionable

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Sun Advocate reporter

Brady Maynes reads a newspaper in the Carbon High School media center. After brouwsing through the paper, Maynes flipped through a magazine. Teens such as Maynes spend an average of $74 per week, mostly on entertainment and food.

As readership skews older, newspapers seek ways to reach younger audience

It's no secret that the newspaper industry has seen changes in the past two decades. Most experts point to the emergence of the Internet and cable news as two factors which have shaped how readers, particularly younger readers are staying informed.

Those changes have been felt by the newspaper industry. For decades, newspaper circulation in the United States has dropped or remained constant while the total number of households has risen at a nearly constant rate.

In 1940, there were nearly 35 million households in the U.S. and more than 41 million newspapers printed daily, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau and Editor and Publisher Yearbook. By 1970, there were more than 63 million households reading a daily newspaper circulation of just over 62 million.

Since that time, however, the difference between the number of households and the daily circulation has grown. By 1990, the number of households had grown to more than 93 million and the daily circulation had remained constant just above 62 million.

By 2000, daily circulation declined to less than 56 million while the number of households had grown to more than 104 million. In 2004, daily circulation was estimated at less than 54 million, with an estimated 112 million U.S. households.

A report released earlier this year by Scarborough Research demonstrated the declining readership of newspapers since 1999. While newspaper readership stayed strongest among readers above 65, the reports showed that newspaper readership overall has dropped. For readers ages 18 to 24, readership dropped from 42 percent to 37 percent. Readership among a slightly older audience, ages 25 to 34, showed a more dramatic decline from 44 percent to 37 percent.

And while it would appear that as the population grows, readership would increase, the opposite is true. Statistics show that as non-readers age, the number of readers in the older age brackets falls.

Circulation versus households
Comparing census numbers against readership reported by "Editor and Publisher Yearbook" shows newspaper readership has not kept up with population growth.

One factor - education - seems to promote readership. Spanning age groups, ethnicity and all other factors, research shows that the more education readers receive, the more likely they are to read newspapers.

Scarborough Research again reported earlier this year that 49 percent of high school graduates read newspapers in an average week. For those who had some college education but no degree, 54 percent read newspapers weekly, increasing to 58 percent for readers with a college degree. Those numbers continue to climb with post graduate education, where 62 percent of those with post graduate education read a newspapers weekly, increasing to 66 percent for those with a post graduate degree.

The current trend among newspapers is to reach out to younger audiences and turn teenagers and young adults into lifelong readers.

Teenage readers in the U.S. represent a $158 billion market. Because most of these teens live with their parents, much of this money is disposable income. While teenage spending power is much smaller than older groups, teens have much more flexibility in their spending, with a larger percentage going to pleasure than other age groups. As businesses seek to market products to this audience, newspapers and printed publications remain one of the best media available for advertising.

Although more teens are going online to get their news, few online advertising models have been shown to be effective. That is because web users tend to ignore online ads, which often are intrusive as they flash and pop up.

A study commissioned by the Newspaper Association of America last year found that exposure in the classroom leads to lifelong newspaper readership. Without exposure to newspapers in school, an average of 38 percent of those surveyed are lifelong readers. With exposure in school, 62 percent become lifelong readers.

Because the use of newspapers in the classroom promotes lifelong readership, many newspapers participate in the Newspapers in Education initiative. In Carbon and Emery counties, local sponsors provide the financial backing to place hundreds of newspapers each week in each school in both counties. These newspapers generally are consumed in a single classroom and become part of the curriculum for a select group of students.

Daily newspaper readership by age
Results from Scarborough Research show declines in all age groups. Even among older audiences, readership has begun to decline.

Unfortunately, newspapers are not part of the standard curriculum for social studies, reading, math or other academic areas. As a result, the use of newspapers in the classroom is hitting a smaller number of teens.

Those figures are not unique to the Castle Valley. Nationwide, 23 percent of teenage readers say they had formal exposure to newspapers in the classroom. An additional 45 percent say they had some exposure, but that newspapers were not a large part of the curriculum.

Part of the reason for the lack of newspaper use as part of the curriculum is the current trend in education which places its emphasis on preparing students to take assessment tests. In Utah, students prepare to take the Utah Performance Assessment System for Students, or UPASS test each spring. The test determines students' achievement based on state curriculum standards. The results of standardized tests, such as UPASS assessments are part of the basis for determining each school or district's performance under the No Child Left Behind Act which was passed by federal lawmakers in 2002.

Teachers, librarians and school administrators around Carbon County School District agreed that newspaper use in the classroom was limited to a select group of teachers. The general consensus was that because the state-mandated curriculum is so rigid, teachers often have difficulty using newspapers and other outside resources in the classroom.

That isn't to say that newspapers aren't being used at all, however. Students and teachers alike take advantage of newspapers available in each school's media center. At both Carbon High School and Mont Harmon Junior High, media center staff indicated that some newspapers never reach the library because they are intercepted by faculty or students prior to reaching the media center.

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October 19, 2006
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