When will they learn: The young are smart

The problem with old guys on newspapers trying to attract young people is that they pander and insult the people they so desperately want to attract. They create lite products because they think the young have no attention span when, far more likely, the young have no patience for the overlong blatherings of the old.

See this story about a Dutch paper attracting a young audience willing to pay for it with depth, not shallowness:

Instead of the traditional news values of “who, what, where and when”, NRC Next claims to concentrate on background, analysis and opinion. It assumes that readers have already learned the main points of the news from other channels.

It took the old dogs long enough to learn that new trick.

See also this story on the millenials (aka te young) in the Star-Ledger:

They rarely read books for fun and most likely aren’t reading this newspaper. They are the most diverse — and perhaps the smartest — generation in U.S. history. And Richard Sweeney thinks the nation’s colleges and universities need to start making changes to teach them better. . . .

Sweeney, a father of six (including two Millennials), began noticing a change in the learning patterns of students while conducting his annual campus focus groups on how students use [the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s] library.

“About seven years ago, I started noticing some differences in the focus groups,” said Sweeney of Metuchen. “I began to see distinct differences.”

As the Generation X students graduated and left campus, they were replaced by the Millennials. The new students seemed to be studying more in groups in the library. They huddled around their laptops teaching each other. They watched videotaped lectures of other professors when they couldn’t understand their teacher’s lessons. . . .

Many spent thousands of hours of childhood playing video games. As a result, they learn best by doing, with interactive graphics, collaboration and the ability to advance through trial and error. . . .

“They want more choices, not less,” Sweeney said. “They want to do it their way.” . . .

Most confirmed Sweeney’s theories that Millennial students are not reading books for fun, watching television news or reading newspapers. Nearly all said they get their news from Yahoo, Google or other sites.

Only one of the seven students had read a newspaper in the last week — and that was the Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the International Socialist Organization.

Here is Sweeney‘s article and here is a PowerPoint on the millennials.

The real lesson in this is simple: Respect. Sweeney is trying to teach this lesson to academics but also to journalists.

A wise editor who was my partner in the launch of Entertainment Weekly, Joan Feeney, taught me that the worst place to begin the development of a new media product is with the demographic, for this inevitably leads to pandering. What do they want? Let’s give it to them. But a product that starts with a need and the passion to fill it is quite different. If you want to serve young people today, start with respecting them enough to give them something worthy of their time.