Reaching out for Generation X

By: Dorothy Giobbe Boca Raton (Fla.) News produces new
weekly section aimed at the 18- to-29 crowd
by Dorothy Giobbe

AS PART OF a push to grab the so-called "20-something" age group, the Boca Raton (Fla.) News has produced a new section ? "Generation X."
The section, which will be shortened to "Gen X," has appeared weekly in the 25,403-circulation News for the last two months.
The modus operandi, said News features editor Mary Lou Simms, who is running the section, is to write from the youths' perspective, and not to talk down to them.
"I find people in Generation X to be very interesting to interview. They are talkative, and very opinionated," Simms said. "Kids want to read about people like them, and if you write about it in straight language, they love it."
Simms added, "I don't think young people are reading mainstream newspapers ? they're just plain dull, and I think we have to change that."
The editor said she hopes the section also will appeal to older readers, as a way to understand young family members or relatives.
Feature topics for the section so far have included health, jobs, stress, dating, ethics, body-piercing, in-line skating, comic books and young heroes.
"The job market is [young readers'] number-one worry, so we've touched on it, as well as the environment," Simms said. "They want us to cover the issues that affect their lives."
Readers are invited to write, call and fax their responses and feelings about the section. Also, they can join an advisory board that reviews movies and concerts for the section, and suggests story and trend ideas.
Generally, the section includes a commentary by Wayne Lockwood, whom Simms calls "our Generation X columnist," an advice column, horoscope, profiles of people aged 18 to 29, and the "GenX Guide" ? a page of community and school resources.
Simms said she didn't have to conduct any formal market research when planning the section. "You don't have to look for young people here," she said?"they're everywhere. About 45% are under 30."
Feedback has been positive, Simms said. "The 20-somethings like it and bitch about some of the things in it, but I think that's positive. They want profiles of people who are changing the world. I've had a lot of calls, calling it 'cool' or 'hot.'
"The section is still not very old itself, but everybody seems to like it, and they like the local approach we tie to it," she added.
The section has advertisers from the regular paper, and Simms said that as it grows, she expects more advertisers, particularly those wooing younger readers, will appear in the section. "The next step is to tie it into marketing. We're trying to get it into the schools," she said.
Simms said there is potential to expand the section to a twice-weekly. "I think the advertising would have to support the section, and if we could get into the schools and build up the circulation, then the advertising will follow," she noted.


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