By: Mark Fitzgerald
When it comes to getting kids to read a newspaper, U.S. publishers mostly just wallow in self-pity, and rarely take any action.
In fact, they often seem intent on making the paper as unattractive as possible to kids — by tearing out of the funny pages the few comics left that still appeal to children, and by cutting back or cutting out Newspaper In Education (NIE) programs.
Publishers in other nations are awakening to the importance of cultivating the newspaper habit in the next generations of readers — or non-readers. As the upcoming November issue of E&P points out, a daily newspaper for 7- to 11-year-olds out of Bolivia is expanding into Mexico, Panama, and Ecuador.
By far the most successful kids’ papers, though, are published in France by Play Bac Presse, which created dailies for four age segments ranging from five- to six-year-olds, to teenagers 14 and up. The four Quotidien, or Daily, papers have a combined circulation of about 200,000.
Now Play Bac intends to launch an American newspaper for children aged 8 to 10 starting in mid-November, Nancy Wang tells E&P.
Wang is a partner and co-founder with husband Jeff Mignon of 5W Mignon-Media, a New York City media consulting firm that is partnering with Play Bac to create Play Bac Presse USA.
My Daily 10 will be an online e-newspaper for the moment, Wang says.
“We have thought of so many different permutations: Being purely print, being purely online, partly print and online,” she says. Going print now, though, would simply be cost-prohibitive for a paper that is seeking national circulation, Wang says. In France, Play Bac’s Quotidien papers benefit from generous postage subsidies by a postal agency that is also renowned for its very un-French efficiency. The government also subsidizes the subscriptions for some students.
My Daily 10 will be a paid newspaper, relying on subscriptions because Play Bac doesn’t want advertising in it. “Advertising is very a sensitive area for the kid market,” Wang says. “We might consider sponsorships, but that’s also very sensitive in terms of who the sponsor is, and what are they sponsoring.”
Play Bac USA chose the 8- to 10-year-old demographic for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Wang says, it’s an age when kids can read well, and yet are not so old to be jaded by the idea of having their own newspaper. As it happens, she adds, Play Bac’s most popular newspaper is the one that targets that age range.
My Daily 10 had a sort of dry run in the United States last year. In a laudable, if flawed, experiment, The Miami Herald for five months published three Play Bac age-segmented newspapers — Daily 7, Daily 10, and Daily 13 — as sections that were inserted in home delivery subscribers’ newspapers in the Kendall Lakes area.
The 14,000-household community was chosen because it seemed likely to have the most kids. Play Bac and the Herald quickly learned, though, that just 20% of households included anyone in the kid’s demographics. When the five months was over, the Herald dropped the papers.
Parents and teachers, though, loved the product, Wang says, and there’s plenty of evidence that people are looking to somehow introduce kids to current events. “One of the things we found interesting after, and even during, the test when we were looking at Google Trends online was seeing geographically who was actually searching for ‘news for kids,'” she says. One of the heaviest search spots: Miami.
So what kind of news goes in a kid’s newspaper?
Kid’s news, Wang answers. News that involves animals is big, for instance. “It is not adult news, quote, ‘dumbed-down’ for kids, but if there is a very powerful event that happens, it will be covered … but from a kid’s angle,” she says.
It is, though, unabashedly Short Attention Span Journalism, she notes: “It’s a short read: 10-minutes. There’s a cover story with contextual information attached to the story so kids can understand (its background).” There’s a photo of the day and a cartoon of the day as well.
Being daily will be My Daily 10’s competitive advantage, Wang believes. Kids won’t have to wait a week to get the news, and they won’t need to take a half-hour to wade through it.
Play Bac will market the product mostly through e-mail, and Internet ads. It has also started a blog, to “start a conversation” on the importance of news for kids among educators and parents.
“We’re also going to go, and hit the Miami market, and keep in touch with the parents and teachers there,” she says.